When Avella High School art teacher Jessie Miller told her students in February that they were one of 250 schools nationwide selected to enter the Vans Custom Culture shoe design contest, they were delighted.
The news got even better on April 25, when the students found out they were in the top 50.
Now the public can decide the winner of the $50,000 top prize.
The rest of the top five will also receive cash prizes of $15,000.
In the contest, students were given two pairs of blank Vans shoes to use as canvas.
“The kids were so excited when they found out we had been selected to participate. Immediately they started sketching their ideas,” said Miller, who was unaware of the competition until senior Morgan Ondrick brought it up.
For the contest, a pair of Vans must represent “Hometown Pride”. The second is to reflect the legacy of sport, art, music and street culture that was embraced by Vans Shoe company co-founder Paul Van Doren, who passed away this year.
Art students in grades 9 through 12 contributed ideas, and ultimately 18 students designed and painted the shoes.
“It was great to be able to see all of the kids working collaboratively on this project at all levels,” Miller said.
Avella Area School District is a small, rural school district with about 680 students, a fact the students have embraced.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, and we don’t even have a red light in town,” Miller said. “We wanted to show the pride we have in our little district and our little town.”
A tradition at Avella High School is an annual Tractor Day, where students drive their tractors to school.
To capture this on a lace-up Vans shoe, the students painted the shoe to look like a John Deere tractor.
Freshman Zac Carrell took a toy tractor apart and painted parts – including tractor wheels and tires – then attached them to the shoe.
“The hardest thing was reassembling the wheelbase to fit the shoe,” Carrell said.
The other shoe features an Avella Eagles Homecoming float and attaches to the tractor. The Vans shoe, mounted on wheels, features the blue and yellow Avella Eagle mascot, the Avella flag, parade float fringe and graffiti-style lettering.
In both sneakers, students removed the shoelace and placed working lights in the eyelets.
“Avella holds a Homecoming Parade float every year and loops around part of town. It’s something the community looks up to, and it’s what a lot of people remember, the parade float,” Miller said. “We wanted to make the float to represent the entire school district and all of the activities and celebrations that everyone in the community can enjoy.”
For the pair of slip-on vans, the students represented the fusion of country living and city living.
On the left shoe, a Pittsburgh artist spray paints on the right shoe, and the spray paint turns into water filling Cross Creek Lake. The “Country” shoe features covered bridges, barns, farmland, and trains, while the “City” shoe features a cityscape, subway, and boombox.
“We’re rural, but we’re close to Pittsburgh, and a lot of kids from here move there, but still keep their ties here. The shoes tell the story that no matter where they end up, they have their roots in the country,” Miller explained.
Sophomore Madison Zediker painted the artist and other details on town and country shoes. Zediker and junior Annie Paradise led the design teams.
“The hardest and most fun part was testing my artistic abilities because when I was painting the guy, I had never painted a person in so much detail, shading the jeans and the hat,” he said. she declared.
If Avella wins the contest, which includes a concert by a surprise music star and a barbecue on the school campus, Miller said the school district would renovate the art room and purchase new tables and chairs from the school. ‘art.
Miller would also like to purchase a new sublimation heat press that would allow students to design, make and sell shirts, hats, coffee mugs and other items as a source of income for the art department and its projects and outings on field.
“Due to our rural location and lack of financial means, our students don’t have many opportunities to take advantage of all that the big city arts community has to offer,” Miller said. “No matter what happens, it was a great experience and we are proud of the end result.”
The students, for their part, want to win.
“Our art department desperately needs it,” said senior Sandy Chilzer. “Even though I won’t be around to enjoy it because I’m a senior citizen and leaving, I really hope that future students will have the chance to use the money to develop their artistic abilities, because I know that Miss Miller definitely pushes everyone. She sees the potential in all of us and she pushes us.
Editor’s note: The winners will be announced the week of May 16. Visit https://customculture.vans.com/ vote for Avella High School by May 6.