Even across the crackly remove of a transatlantic phone call, it's clear Pat Milbery -- pro snowboarder, artist, doer and the man behind So-Gnar -- is on a mission to spread the creative gospel of action sports far and wide. And with the skate/snow/art collective's upcoming landing in Germany to bring that message to life on the ground at X Games Munich, the crew's mission moves farther across the globe.
"So-Gnar started unofficially seven years ago," explains Milbery as he's driving across Texas with fellow artist and So-Gnar partner in crime Dave Sheets. "I was looking for an outlet to put my creativity into, somewhere I could house it under one roof. So-Gnar described the period of life we were going through and was a symbol of the art, music and creative side of snow, skate and action-sports culture. It seemed like something that could be an awesome vehicle, that could entertain any form and that we could travel with. And it's just grown from there."
So-Gnar, based in Colorado, is known for encouraging and highlighting the creativity inherent in the shred sphere, from collaborations with industry brands like Von Zipper eyewear and Allian Snowboards to mobile art galleries to film-premiere parties that draw crowds of thousands with big-name music acts like Big Boi from Outkast. The project crew ties it all together by putting on youth-focused snowboard camps all over America each winter, inspiring the younger generation to express themselves not just on the hill, but through whatever medium strikes them.
So-Gnar's latest project -- working with X Games sponsor Ford on the Ford Fiesta Park, a brand-activation project at each of this year's summer X events -- is the perfect example of the way the team works. At X Games Foz do Iguaçu and Barcelona, So-Gnar partnered with local artists (such as Highraff, Zosen and Kenor), ramp builders, skaters and BMXers, inviting them to help create a backyard-style jam area with art, music and riding. The same strategy is to be deployed in Munich later this month.
"It's a way of inviting the local cultures to be part of the X Games that is taking place in their neighborhood," explains Milbery. "Because it's pretty tight at X Games -- it's invite-only with the riding and sponsors -- this is a way of getting locals involved and letting them showcase their own scene."
At Munich's Olympiapark, as in Brazil and Spain, visitors can expect to see demos every day, live music from local DJs, a local host pumping the crowd, a screen-printing lab, prizes and the type of vibe you'd expect at any local park or ramp. Art is always the main focus, as Sheets explains.
"We've had a lot of fun putting up ramps with the locals and custom painting them. It's allowed us to make the ramps vibrant and to figure out the collaborative process and a way of building it together," he says. "We're relating with each other's cultures, and that's such a big part of our scenes, apart from the actual riding. To be able to experience and communicate that is worth its weight in gold."
So which artists can we expect to see in Munich?
"It's not locked down yet, but we'd love to work with Megx," Sheets shares. "He has a larger conceptual style that would work really well. Or there's this other artist, called Flying Fortress, we're into as well. Usually we reach out through social networks, or through knowing the guys through the scene. We're obsessed with street art and graphics, so we come across these guys from knowing the scene. It's pretty cool working with them, coming up with themes and breaking through a lot of the language barriers to create a visual language for the event. We couldn't do it on our own, so it becomes something new and pays homage to the [local] scene."
A line, come to think of it, that describes the So-Gnar ethos perfectly. If you're in Munich June 27-30, be sure to go check it out.