Steppin’ on the competition
May 16, 2014
Downey art students entered the Vans Custom Culture competition, a national high school shoe customization contest, where participants submitted their designs in hopes of their school being chosen as a finalist. Seven students, hand picked by Ms. Nikaj and Ms. Joest, transformed their shoes to fit a specific theme, spent hours to perfect their creation, entered the contest, and led the school into becoming one of the 50 semi-finalists.
Mrs. Joest, beginning Art teacher in the J hall, first heard of this contest through a college friend. Excited that the winners could receive a 50,000 dollar prize for their art program, Joest took on the responsibility of registering Downey as one of the schools along with AP art teacher, Ms. Nikaj. The two flipped through the students’ sketches and picked the ones that most impressed them to be painted onto the 4 white pairs of shoes that Vans mailed to them.
“We had to weed through our individual classes, so we compiled the ones that we thought were the best out of our group,” Joest said. “Then we decided on the best ones that could be chosen.”
All art students were open to participate and bombarded the two teachers with their sketches. After much deliberation, they chose freshmen Giovanni Orozco and Kristina Cruz, juniors Leeanne Mena, Tobith Alonso, and Jennifer Xilo, and seniors Dulce Zelaya and Selena Corral.
Because Vans provided the teachers with four white pairs of shoes, six students decided to collaborate on a pair, one painting the right shoe and the other the left, all with the exception of freshman, Art II student, Giovanni Orozco. He decided to be responsible for both shoes and chose the theme local flavor out of the other three which included: music, art, and action sports. Inspired by California’s famous beaches, Orozco painted the right shoe as a sandy beach during a sunset surrounded by palm trees and surfboards, and the left shoe as a classic wooden car with painted wheels on the bottom, and washed over with an ocean blue color.
“I was excited because I like to design and draw…and you have to accept every opportunity,” Orozco said. “I liked working by myself because you feel more proud.”
After Downey was announced as one of the top 50 semi finalists, tobacco awareness company, Truth, announced an additional contest for only the 50 chosen schools. The rule of the contest was to create an original design about deceptive tobacco companies and paint it on a deck board; the winner would receive 10,000 dollars for their school’s art program. Senior, AP Art student Brandi Kim needed one more project for her portfolio and decided to take on the challenge of painting the deck with the help of Ms. Nikaj. The two collaborated on an idea of a wolf disguised as a sheep, representing tobacco companies and their attempt to disguise the poisons accompanied with their cigarettes. Kim, however, had less than a week to complete the project and had to dedicate her time entirely to finalize her creation.
“I didn’t think it was going to take that long because it looked easy, but painting is hard,” Kim said. “I didn’t do any other homework besides that because there’s so much detail. It’s a big sacrifice.”
On Apr. 25, Vans announced the top 50 semi-finalists and put up the shoe pictures online along with a voting poll. The school who received the highest public vote from their region was chosen on May 12, the last day to vote, determining the five finalists from each region that will be flown out to New York to attend an event with celebrity guests, and choose which school will receive the $50,000 prize for their art department. Carlsbad High School took the win for the finalist in the California region, beating Downey High School.