With less than a month to go before Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America comes down, we wanted to make sure our visitors had a finale to remember it by. The exhibit was a bold, innovative choice for us and helped change the community’s perception of what SDMoM is. With the help of Ramp It Up, we’ve rebranded ourselves – we’re bringing in fresh, relevant content with the intent of inspiring reflection, both inner and outer, while we preserve our permanent exhibitions that people love.

As we move forward following the conclusion of our intensive strategic planning process, we’re striving to make good on the commitments we made to ourselves and our community. We want to inspire human connections, explore the human experience, and be true to our values: adventurous, passionate, engaging, disciplined, open, and accountable. Ramp It Up epitomizes this for us since it’s the first exhibit we’ve unveiled since concluding the strategic planning process. Honoring those commitments, we constructed the half-pipe, scheduled panels and professional demos, and then (most nerve-wrackingly), opened the ramp to the public for open-skate opportunities.

Although all of our demos were fun to host and exhilarating to watch, one of them was particularly exceptional. On August 8th we held our second-to-last skate demo, which featured the Elemental Awareness international skate team. This remarkable collection of young skaters represents countries all over the world, from the United States to Brazil to Japan and everywhere in between. Skaters are chosen for the team during contests held in a selection of international cities. The best skater from each city wins a weeklong stay at the Elemental Awareness wilderness camp, where they learn outdoor survival skills and develop an appreciation for nature.

I spoke to Todd Larson, Director of the Elemental Awareness Foundation and the man in charge of this talented team and asked him what his favorite part of working with the skaters is. I was dumbstruck by his answer because, candid and unrehearsed, it aligned so well with our own vision: “The best part of working with these kids is watching them go from total strangers to close friends. They’re building friendships and having an amazing time while learning valuable skills, which they then take home to their communities where the positive effects of the whole experience rub off on others.”

Like the coming-together of international skaters and the multicultural friendships that Elemental Awareness facilitates, Ramp It Up has allowed us to make friends and connect with people we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. The combination of the vibrant, dynamic exhibit and the half-pipe allowed us to hold incredible events, including the wildly successful Create-A-Skate workshop, the thought-provoking panels that inspired reflection and appreciation, and the much-photographed pro and public skate sessions. What other museum can say the same?