With efforts to “inspire and empower high school students to embrace their creativity through art and design”, the popular shoe manufacturing company Vans hosted their High School Custom Culture Contest which has run since 2010, though this is the first time AHS students participated. Four students from Avonworth High school competed including Junior Brayden Wisniewski, Senior Will Lucas, Senior Simon Perry, and Junior Hannah Kim. All participants are in first year Graphic Arts teacher Ms. James’ Portfolio class.

Junior Brayden Wisniewski’s shoes with the design of the Pittsburgh Map

This contest was created to bring attention to diminishing arts education budgets, according to the company’s website. ”Vans believes everyone should be empowered to express themselves creatively and should be given the tools to do so.”

It was open only to the public or private high schools (grades 9 – 12) in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. This high school customization competition used blank canvas Vans shoes to customize with themes “Hometown Pride and Head in the Clouds.”

Junior Hannah Kim is no stranger to this kind of creativity. “I’ve been customizing Vans for the past 2 years on and off. It’s not a full commitment of mine, but it’s fun once in a while,” Kim said. She is the only participant from Avonworth that has had experience with customizing Vans.

Ms. James  sent out an anonymous survey in April throughout AHS with pictures of each participant’s shoe design and the students and faculty were able to vote on the one that would move on to the second round.  Kim’s design, along with Simon Perry’s, were voted to go on to the second round.

“The symbols on the shoes represent things people dream about, their future, money. I chose the colors because they looked relaxing,” said Senior Simon Perry

Kim chose the theme “head in the clouds” when designing her shoes. Her design aims to reach everyone and not just herself. “I had to describe what I wanted to do or be in the future. Although mine might come across as straight forward considering they’re clouds, I was aiming for it to be more metaphorical. I wanted it to relate to everyone, so I went with ‘shoot for the stars. It ties in with the theme and it addresses everyone’s aspirations, not just mine.”

“I really like using pastel color palettes for sunsets and the purple added a sort of ‘pop’ to it. Using unnatural palettes makes everything look better,” said Junior Hannah Kim


Although the other students may not have the same experience as Kim does, their designs were equally as impressive and represented their own personality. Senior Will Lucas used a series of traditional tattoo designs to create his shoes. “I want to be a tattoo artist, so that was a natural choice.” Lucas has been creating tattoo designs recently in his free time. “I’ve done some similar contests but none specifically centered around shoe design… this was a first in that department.”

Senior Will Lucas’ design based on traditional tattoo designs

The first-place winner will receive a grand prize of $50,000 that will go towards their school’s art program, and the four runner-ups will receive $15,000 going towards their school’s art program as well. The top 50 will be announced today, April 26th through May 7th.

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