Rodney Mullen visited the Smithsonian (on invitation) as part of the Lemelson Center’s informal initiative to build relationships with skateboarding’s innovators. Your response may be “What the what?” Or at least, what is the Lemelson Center and why do they care about skateboarding? Technically, it’s the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, and it was established in 1995 under the larger umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution. But why skateboarding? According to deputy director Jeff Brodie:
Most associate invention and innovation with technology and science, but the Center often explores other unexpected places where invention and innovation flourishes—like skateboarding. This wide exploration is critical to fostering an appreciation for the central role invention and innovation play in the history of the United States. It also makes our work extremely interesting, fun, and exciting as we meet, collaborate, and explore the world of invention and innovation with all types of people.
And it doesn’t end with Rodney Mullen’s interview. They are planning an event to coincide with National Go Skateboarding Day called Innoskate, which will be “a major public festival that will celebrate invention and creativity in skate culture.” Watch Rodney’s interview and read a little bit about what happened behind the scenes thanks to our spy in the Smithsonian Betsy Gordon. (Thanks Betsy!)
There’s a funny story behind Rodney’s skating on the roof terrace of the American History museum. Jeff and I took him up there to shoot some B-roll for the interview. We thought that it would be free of people and that the view of the Washington Monument in the background would be killer. What we forgot is that all the senior executive staff offices are on that floor, with their windows directly looking out on the terrace. So Rodney begins to skate around and we are just chatting and chilling when all of a sudden the entire senior staff of American History comes out to see what the heck is going on. Jeff and I look at each other, thinking “we’ll either get totally chewed out for this or…” The director of American History asks what’s going on and then proceeds to tell us that he’s never seen anything so cool in his life. He starts calling other staff and before we know it, there is this huge crowd of American History staff on the roof watching Rodney skate, taking pictures with their phones, asking him questions. It was such a great moment. And Rodney charmed them all. Every guy that was there wanted to be him and every gal wanted to marry him. He’s one charming dude let me tell you that. We also got to take Rodney into storage areas at the museum where he nerded out with the curators about 19th century scientific instrumentation, etc. Just a great great day that I couldn’t tell anyone about for nearly 6 months. So happy I could finally send you something.