The Great Wave off Anacostia

The company that built the Melrose Skate Park commissioned a mural by a local artist.

Hardcore Skateparks, which built the park near Rhode Island Avenue and Armentrout Drive for the city of Hyattsville, hired Valerie Theberge of Mount Rainier to do a small mural at the southern end.

Like Theberge’s other work, the mural is made of glass and mirror embedded into mortar and then grouted.

The design is a riff on the famous woodblock print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” by the Japanese artist Hokusai.

“I wanted an image that reflected the power and dynamism that skateboarders embody as they curve around ramps,” Theberge told the Hyattsville Wire in an email interview. “I lived in East Asia for 10 years and I think this imagery is strongly embedded in my visual imagination.”

Near the wave are a pair of shad, a native fish that has seen its population dwindle in the nearby Anacostia River. Theberge said she wanted to pay tribute to “the founding fish” and recognize a nearby fish ladder. She also liked the symbolism.

“Shad are athletic — like skateboarders — and they are also heroic,” she said. “They travel hundreds of miles from fresh to saltwater and back to fresh water again to spawn where they were born. … With the dams and other blockages it has been hard for them to swim back upstream.  The ladders such as the one behind the mural are helping them to swim back up the river.”

Like Theberge’s other pieces, the mural is unnamed, though the Hyattsville Wire likes to think of it as “The Great Wave off Anacostia.”

It’s not her only local installation. Previously, she decorated a pair of benches on Hamilton Street in front of Magruder Park and helped a group of Northwestern High students create a decorative bench at a bus stop near Franklin’s restaurant.

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