Vans “Custom Culture” shoe contest empowers artists within schools

“Vans believes everyone should be empowered to express themselves creatively and should be given the tools to do so.” According to the Vans website, Vans’ Custom Culture is a shoe-designing contest in which one school receives four pairs of plain white Vans shoes to design around four themes: music, art, local flavor and action sports.

Vans produce dozens of different products, such as shoes, clothing and backpacks. The company also sponsors a music festival every year called Warped Tour.

The competition gives the winning school $50,000 to use for its arts department. The contest also includes scholarships for the students working on the shoes.

A national arts and design college named Laguna College of Art and Design offers a $25,000 scholarship to each of the top five finalist schools that allows one individual from each school to earn his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) degree in Design and Digital Media, according to

“It’s very generous [for Vans] to donate money towards the arts like this,” junior Emily Witmier said.

The designers of the shoes include juniors Alexa Biddle, Julia and Rachel Conville, Sarah Griffiths, Abbey Kostyal, Maddie Kohutka, Jillian Mullin, Rachel Rubright, Collin Starr, Katie Stover and Witmier. Miss Lindsey Boncore, art teacher, supervises the contest.

“[The contest is] a great way to give back to the community and support the arts department in school,” Rachel Conville said.

The designer’s music theme shoe incorporates staffs, music notes and hearts to emphasize the phrase “Music comes from the heart” on an Authentic Vans shoe.

Their art design features a Chukka Low shoe with bright colors, paint splatters and the human brain to showcase “the creative mind.”

Being in the Coal Region, the group’s local flavor features a slip-on Vans shoe with some coal dust, “fire” and railroad designs.

Action Sports highlights two lesser-known sports on a hightop shoe: skateboarding and snowboarding. The designs are created using paints and different fabrics.

The contest is currently accepting submissions, which are all due April 8. Registration for schools to be enter was between the window of January 4 to February 12. Once all submissions are in, a Vans judging team will vote for the top 50 submissions. The top 10 schools will also be allowed to publicly campaign as well.

From April 27-May 11, the top 10 schools will able to campaign for votes from the public. The top five teams will be determined by internal and public vote and will then be called to a final event within the second week of June.

$50,000 can provide a school arts program with many upgrades.

“A good deal of what the money would be used for would be at the discretion of the school board and Dr. Zwiebel,” Miss Boncore said. “I would also personally like for the money to be used for upgrading my dark room, having no more wood panelling and a new developing table.”

The contest is a creative way to provide schools with more money if they do not have the funds to give more to their art department.

“I enjoy watching the students work on the shoes,” Miss Boncore said. “The self-motivation is great. It has been the kids the entire time. They came up with the ideas and they have taken complete charge of it.”