The sounds of skateboard wheels on concrete and kids high-fiving one another after landing tricks competed with the drone of traffic and the jingle of an ice cream truck at W. Broadway and Emerson Avenue in north Minneapolis.
"There's a lot of people with black skin," he said.
Foley lives in south Minneapolis, but he and his dad, Tod — who got him into skateboarding — were among those at Juxtaposition Skate-able Art Plaza's grand opening Saturday.
"As soon as the concrete was dry, dozens of skaters, bikers and neighborhood kids and young adults and young men from all over the city have been using the park every single day," said Juxtaposition Arts CEO DeAnna Cummings.
JXTA, as the North Side nonprofit is known, created the plaza with City of Skate, a coalition of skaters, parents and enthusiasts dedicated to developing skate parks in Minnesota.
City of Skate co-founder Witt Siasoco comes to the park as much as possible to give out boards. He sees the North Side as a thriving community.
"It's the largest population of youth in the city on the North Side — it will be a vital place for them to come and play," he said. "Skate parks can happen anywhere, but for me it is about kids having a really safe space to experiment and take risks."
Collaborative community and youth-oriented projects are typical for JXTA, which employs young people on the North Side, training them for future jobs in creative fields. Since its founding 23 years ago, it has taught about 3,000 children and young adults while providing a revitalizing force for the North Side.
Its flagship building had to be torn down 14 months ago after brickwork began falling and the building was deemed unsalvageable. JXTA launched a $14 million capital campaign to build a headquarters facility. But in the meantime, it didn't want to leave this prominent plot of land vacant.
That's how the 4,600-square-foot plaza came to be. A collaboration with City of Skate, the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition and the city of Minneapolis, it was designed by youth in JXTA's environmental lab, with assistance from the University of Minnesota's Department of Landscape Architecture.
It took a little over a year to complete, thanks to $224,000 in funding from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, the National Endowment for the Arts and a Kickstarter campaign.
More than just a skate plaza, it's a neighborhood gathering place. A vibrant mural by famous Bronx-based graffiti artists-turned-muralists Tats Cru adds a custom-made warmth.
Painted during a residency at JXTA this spring, it includes the signature spoon from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden's "Spoonbridge and Cherry," but instead of the cherry there's a big heart with the names of JXTA supporters written inside.
For Tats Cru, which came up in the New York graffiti scene in the 1980s and '90s and has worked with JXTA since 2001, it was "an honor" to create this 840-square-foot mural, said crew member BG183, who is currently working on a commission for the New York Knicks.
"It becomes a conversational piece for the community … the young and the old. It's about community, and the love, and giving back."
'Temporary' plaza may stay
Juxtaposition Arts has raised $2 million toward a new building, led by a $1.3 million grant from the McKnight Foundation. The goal is to hit $4 million by year's end — a benchmark that will trigger donor-promised matching gifts.
"We've got a ways to go," said Cummings. "We won't be able to do it without a lot of people helping us and supporting us to make it happen."
Although the plaza was planned as a temporary park, JXTA may decide to keep it. It's already proving to be an important space for kids on the North Side.
Instead, the organization may demolish its original building — a smaller space next door, at 2007 Emerson Av. N., used as a gallery and office.
Nodding to the Guthrie Theater's cantilevered "endless bridge," JXTA creative director Roger Cummings (Deanna's husband) said: "We would keep the plaza and do a Guthrie-esque [thing] and build over it a little bit so we could have a little bit of shade.
"I think we have the ability to think 21st century on this."