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Chicago students make semifinals of $50K Vans contest

May 10, 2013|By JoVona Taylor | RedEye

High school students always are sporting the latest shoes on the scene, but three students from The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), the first public arts high school in the city, have taken their interest in shoes to the next level.

Dianne Chavez, Moises Salazar--both age 16-- and Sofia Moran, 17, designed transformed four pairs of Vans shoes into art pieces for the company’s Custom Culture contest.

“This school has given us a lot,” Salazar said. “I never thought I would be studying art in high school, and I think winning [the Vans Custom Culture contest] would help us show our appreciation.”

The appreciation would come in the form of $50,000 if the students’ shoes win.

Vans Custom Culture is a nationwide shoe customization contest for students in high school. Vans provides interested high schools with paper versions of shoe layouts and four pairs of Vans to design with the themes art, music, action sports and local flavor.

Out of the thousands of schools that entered the contest, only 10 from five regions—Northwest, Southwest, California, Northeast and Southeast--were chosen for the semifinals.

ChiArts was one of them.

Now the three students need people to vote for their shoe designs online in order to move on to the final, which could mean $50,000 for their school’s art program.

This prize would be a boon to the school because the Chicago Public School system only supports its academic program, leaving it up to school representatives to find funding for its extensive art program, according to Christopher Smith, special projects and outreach coordinator for ChiArts.

Whitney Bradshaw, the visual arts department head and a photography instructor at ChiArts, said she learned about the competition after Chavez mentioned it to her in class one day.

“I just wanted do this [contest] really bad that’s why I brought it up, so that we could get a team together,” Chavez said.

After hearing about the contest again from other people in the school, Bradshaw said she and other instructors decided to conduct a schoolwide search for the students to join the Custom Culture contest team.

Bradshaw then chose four students from an entry pool of around 50, but after complications with the fourth member, Chavez, Moran and Salazar were left with an extra pair of shoes to design as a group.

“These [referring to the group-designed shoes] were kind of pulling us down,” Moran said.

But the students persevered, and now that the deadline for votes is approaching (11:59 p.m. Monday) the students hope their hard work pays off--literally.

“If we can paint on shoes to get our school all the funds that we need, then I think it’s a win-win for all of us,” Chavez said.

Vote for ChiArts’ shoes here under the Northeast region.

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