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Going with the grain

February 7, 2017
Mechanical engineering major Erik Rosenkranz '18 is pictured with a longboard he designed // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

The Memorial Art Gallery’s “Hidden Passions: Inspiring Conversations about Hyphenated Lives” is in its third season of celebrating the creative lives and private hobbies of Rochesterians.

“Hidden Passions puts our friends and neighbors center-stage so that we can marvel at the extraordinary creative adventures happening all around us … and perhaps find inspiration for our own,” says Jonathan Binstock, the Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director of the Memorial Art Gallery.

Here, we highlight one member of the University community who is being featured this season.

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Erik Rosenkranz is one of four featured speakers at Memorial Art Gallery’s Hidden Passions event at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 9. He’ll be joined by fellow undergraduates Ibrahim Mohammad, Omar Soufan, and Daniel Hargrove, who will share the stories of their passions.


Erik Rosenkranz ’18 has been interested in woodworking since taking shop classes in middle school in Dover Plains, New York. He has built coffee tables and picture frames. He has a particular interest in creating longboards—a larger type of skateboard designed for speed instead of tricks.

It was his hobby that helped him get through the difficult days following his father’s sudden death.

“The first thing and the only thing I did the week after he had passed was I went into school and I built two longboards,” Rosenkranz says. He remembers telling a teacher’s aide that “my dad just passed—this is all I want to do.” Rosenkranz now has one of those two longboards, featuring an intricate inlaid wood pattern, hanging on the wall of his dorm room.

Rosenkranz is a mechanical engineering major who hopes to pursue a career as a civil engineer. He is captivated by bridges, looking at them and analyzing them.

“Some people take art just for the stress relief. I just like building stuff,” he says. “It gives me that time away from classes, from anything personal or social that’s bothering me and it just gets me away, puts me in my own zone, and let’s me start with something and then finish with something else.”

He doesn’t just build longboards—he also rides them.

“I love going over the walking bridge [on campus],” he says. “You push to the top, you give two extra big pushes on your way down, and you go around the turns and just slide down. It’s almost like surfing in a way, where you just get to enjoy the flow of it. It just gives you a good feeling. You’re just flowing through air in front of you. There’s nothing to really worry about.”

Rosenkranz’s next woodworking project is a mahogany and pine chessboard that he plans to make for his fraternity house, which will be inlaid with the Sigma Phi Epsilon letters. He plans to use the 3-D printers in Rettner Hall to fashion the chess pieces.

“Everyone should have that side hobby, because if everyone’s focusing on their schoolwork, if everyone’s focusing on their job, you’re going to get stressed out,” he says. “Everyone has that hidden passion, something that they like, and whatever that is, you should always go in and do the best. Because those times that you’re doing whatever you want to do are when you’re being you—you’re being true to yourself.”

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Category: Student Life