High Schoolers Are Doing Some Incredible Stuff To Shoes In The Name Of Art Education

If there’s one thing Vans is known for, it’s their crazy designs. A quick peek at the California-based footwear’s online store reveals that you can buy their classic slip-ons printed with everything from cartoon hamburgers to pictures of puppies. (And how cool is their Disney collaboration line?)

Their appreciation for art doesn’t end there, though. The company has been actively involved in supporting arts education in high schools through the Vans Custom Culture competition.
Inaugurated in 2010, the competition gives high-schoolers the chance to do whatever the heck they want to with Vans shoes as their blank canvas — with the goal of earning $50,000 for their school’s arts program.

How it works: High schools sign up to participate at the Vans Custom Culture website. Post-registration, students receive four pairs of blank Vans shoes. Their task, then, is to decorate the shoes however they want, with designs that represent the four themes of the Vans “Off The Wall” lifestyle: action sports, arts, music and local flavor.

From there, 50 schools will be chosen as semi-finalists. Their designs will be posted online at the Vans Custom Culture website for public voting from April 27 – May 11. The top five schools out of that round, then, get to travel to California to showcase their designs in front of a panel of judges to determine the ultimate winner, who will receive $50,000 for arts education at their school and “the potential that the school will see one of its designs produced for sale at select Vans retail locations and” Each of the four runners-up receive $4,000 for their schools. And Vans will also donate $50,000 to the nonprofit Americans for the Arts.

Vans! Why you gotta be so generous? As Vans’ vice president of global consumer marketing Sarah Crockett said, “An arts education inspires creative expression and helps prepare students for what’s next, which is why Vans believes that today’s youth and future generations deserve the Right to Art.” The company also cites improved art’s ability to contribute scholastic performance in high school, higher rates of college attendance, higher GPA’s, and increased ability to maintain steady employment. Very cool.

The competition for the $$$, of course, is stiff: in 2010, 325 schools participated, whereas last year, they saw nearly 3,000 entrants expressing their #RightToArt. And this year, with the sign-up window ending this Friday, they’re expecting even higher numbers.

By the way guys? The kids who participate are freaking talented. Just take a look at some of the top designs from past competitions.