From ski bum to professional artist

July 25, 2017 | GET MORE : Community

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Mark Rivard forged a new career path while laid up in his mom's basement with his leg in a cast.

In 2004, Mark Rivard was enjoying life as a skier and skateboarder in Colorado. But then he got into a skiing accident, blew out his knee and had major surgery. Rivard reluctantly moved back into his mom's Minnesota basement while he recovered from his injury. What seemed like a major setback turned out to be a life-changing opportunity. 

Since his leg was in a cast, Rivard couldn't ski or skateboard anymore. To pass the time, he picked up an old skateboard and a Sharpie marker, and he started sketching. His first creation was a drawing of the Minneapolis skyline. He discovered a new passion for skateboard art. 

"After years of not having picked up a pen, it was kind of a revelation," Rivard says. "I drew on skateboards like crazy. I would create one almost every night."

Rivard's work became popular, and he started hosting art shows. That led to a sponsorship from Sharpie and a starring role in a national advertising campaign. Suddenly, Rivard wasn't a ski bum living in his mom's basement. He was a professional artist. 

Rivard wanted to share his passion for art with students, so he founded Rivard Art Education. He visits schools across the country, encouraging students to use their creativity and create a work of art that's meaningful to them. 

"Most students are generally attracted to skateboards and art; they're cultural, creative and don’t have rules," Rivard says. "This program shows them that there are so many different opportunities through creative fields."

Earlier this month, Rivard teamed up with U.S. Bank and the Harold Mezile North Community YMCA Youth & Teen Enrichment Center in Minneapolis. He spent the day teaching art to middle and high school students, who walked away with their own skateboards. Some lucky winners even got free tickets to the X Games in Minneapolis. 

"Any school or organization I've worked with, when you watch those kids leave with their skateboards under their arms, there’s this huge sense of pride," Rivard says. "They can’t wait to show their skateboard to their family and friends. That’s success to me."

The Minneapolis students enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves creatively.

"This event sparked new interest and further exploration in the area of artistic expression for our young people," says Taronda Richardson, North Mpls YMCA branch director. "The Y is committed to providing opportunities for all youth to experience enrichment activities like art, music, physical activity and more to help them develop new interests and gain confidence.

The event was part of U.S. Bank's Community Possible Month of Play. This summer, U.S. Bank is investing $6.6 million in local nonprofits and mobilizing 73,000 employee volunteers to help make play possible for thousands of Americans.

Kara Eliason Dorsey is a member of U.S. Bank's public affairs and communications team.