Getting their kicks

NEW PALESTINE — Teenagers are all about wearing the latest custom shoes. They’ll even pay big bucks to purchase the hottest pair, but few in their wildest dreams would imagine they could help design them.

A group of New Palestine High School art students have done just that. Students Matt Braun, Dominic Henry, Cameron Green, Emily Gilmer, Brianna Fortuna, Maddie Corn and Samantha Gilmer designed several pairs of custom Vans shoes. They now have a chance to win $50,000 for the school’s art program and a trip to Los Angeles, thanks to their artwork.

Art teacher Nikki Gardner entered her students’ projects in the Vans Custom Culture contest. Their shoe designs garnered national attention and were selected as one of the top 50 high school entrants.

Now the public can vote to pick the top shoe designs.

According to the company’s website, Vans Custom Culture was created to inspire and empower high school students to embrace their creativity through art and design. The overall hope of the contest is to bring attention to diminishing arts education budgets, the website states.

The seven students painted four pairs of Vans shoes. Gardner oversaw the project and entered the group’s work after seeing how creative the shoes turned out.

“We didn’t hear anything after entering, so we thought we didn’t make it and actually had a little pity party,” Gardner said.

They received word April 25 that the pity party was premature. The students’ work had been selected as a top 50 entrant after all.

“It was just so exciting,” Gardner said.

Gardner said she and her students wear Van shoes and thought designing several pairs was a project they could be proud to try.

“I was a little nervous at first doing this,” Henry said. “It was a total white canvas, and this was our first time painting something like this.”

The students created artwork for four different categories.

Corn made a pair of shoes showcasing Frosty Boy for the local flavor category. The shoes have sprinkles and dripping fudge on the soles. Fortuna painted a pair for the music category, while sisters Samantha and Emily Gilmer along with Green painted cherubs on a pair for the art category. Henry and Braun created a skateboarding theme on a pair of high tops for the action category.

The four pairs will be viewed as one entry representing the school during the top 5 voting.

“We weren’t expecting to be selected,” Braun said. “But with three art classes a day, we put a lot of time into them, and they turned out great.”

Fortuna, who created the music category pair of shoes, said it was painstaking, even tedious work, but well worth it considering she almost didn’t participate.

“I wasn’t going to do this, but I’m glad I did,” Fortuna said. “It’s cool to do something so different that I had never done before.”

As a top entrant the students will now take part in the national voting contest to try and earn a top 5 spot.

“It’s a really cool opportunity for everyone around the world to see our work from little ol’ Indiana,” Green said.

According to the contest website, the work will now go through a voting process to narrow down the top 50 entries. The students are asking classmates and the public to vote and help choose the top 5 high schools who will go on to compete in the final event. Four art students from the top 5 schools will be flown to Los Angeles to celebrate their artwork where judges will vote on the grand prize winner who gets $50,000.

Votes can be submitted once daily per device at vans.com/customculture from now to May 11.

How to vote

Visit vans.com/customculture once a day per device to vote for the shoes designed by New Palestine High School art students Matt Braun, Dominic Henry, Cameron Green, Emily Gilmer, Brianna Fortuna, Maddie Corn, and Samantha Gilmer. The winning entries will receive $50,000 for the school’s art program and a trip to Los Angeles. 

Author photo
Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.