Art department enters Vans Custom Culture contest, chosen out of 3,000 high schools


These are the four pairs of shoes designed and created for the Vans Custom Culture contest, photo provided by Kailee Hargis.

A total of 3,000 schools all across the United States have submitted applications for Vans Custom Culture, a contest where students customize Vans shoes around a specific theme. Out of those, the Vans Custom Culture Team  narrowed it down to 50 high school art programs.

When schools register for Vans Custom Culture, they are working as a team with their fellow classmates. They ideate, collaborate and communicate various ideas around the themes of the competition: Art, Music, Action Sports and Local Flavor. The students are the ones who decide where the vision of the themes will go, how they will accomplish their designs and delegate between themselves,” said the Vans Custom Culture Team.

Art teacher, Mrs. Deborah Lane and technology teacher Mr. Brian Pointer teamed up with their classes to put their entry together for the contest.

“Mr. Pointer’s entrepreneurial class helped with the design and they are helping with marketing. They heard about it [the contest] from Ms. [Sherry] Mauser [Assistant Principal] on the same day that I did. And they were going to design and do the marketing, and then they brought the designs to my kids. They all worked together and made a design that works for everybody,” Lane said.

Kailie Hargis helped painted one of the four pairs of Vans entered in the competition.

“Our thought process took two weeks to kind of solidify a cohesive theme that could work within all four pairs of shoes [art, music, local flavor and sports]. We started off in one direction with the 80s theme but then we thought that was too broad of an idea. So we focused on punk rock and tried to incorporate skeletons within the shoes to tie them into one another,” Hargis said.

Vans is in its eighth year of this competition; they began in 2010 with 326 schools competing for a prize of $10,000. Now the competition has grown to thousands of high school entries and an even bigger cash prize for the winner.

“If we make it through the next level we will be in the Top 5 and the kids will go to Los Angeles. There are three $4,000 runner up prizes and one $50,000 grand prize,” Lane said.

Regan Neely was a part of the brainstorming and design process of the shoes for the Vans competition and voices her opinion on the process.

“It was really cool to see our hard work of planning for weeks and finally getting to paint the shoes. It was definitely stressful but totally worth it in the end because they came out looking even cooler than we expected,” Neely said.

If the school is chosen to be in the top five,  the students are flown to Los Angeles on an all expenses paid trip where Vans will hold the Final Event. After the Final Event, the art program chosen receives a $50,000 prize.

“If we win that money we are going to sound proof our room. The kids can’t hear me, I can’t hear them, and they can’t hear each other. I will also put something on my walls that I can stick student artwork to, because my whole room is sheet rock. And that would be enough money to also make a place on campus where we can display artwork safely, with some kind of a covering over it,” Lane said.

This can all be made possible by the participation and support of the school, family, and friends everywhere, getting on the Vans Custom Culture website and voting for Whitney High School.

“Should the students advance to our Top 50, they then invite their community members to vote for their school online. This gives the students a chance to talk with community members about their artwork, their art program and let’s their community see how important art is in these high schools.  This isn’t just a competition of who wins $50,000, it’s a program meant to uplift, excite and encourage students to pursue their passions in art,” said the Vans Custom Culture Team.

Lane has been impressed by the hard work and dedication her students have put into this project.

“The kids were amazing, I mean the kids were just amazing. My fingerprint is not on this at all. And at this school, all of the artwork, students are only allowed to use red, yellow or blue paint. So all the colors you see on various students art work, they have learned to master making all the colors they need to make by just using those three colors,” Lane said.
Students’ can vote up until May 11 using their RUSD email address.