Vans Custom Culture Contest Benefits High School Arts

Voting is under way for the sixth edition of the Vans Custom Culture contest, which awards $50,000 to the high school art class with the best customized sneaker designs. Have you made your pick yet? If not, weigh in here now.

For this year’s contest, the Cypress, Calif.-based action-sports brand received more than 2,500 entries — the most ever — and has narrowed the pool to 50 high schools divided among five U.S. regions: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest and California.

Since when is California its own region, you ask? Megan Klempa, brand-activation manager for Vans Custom Culture, told FN that the applications from that state were equal to almost all of the other states combined.

She added that the contest as a whole has come a long way. “When we first started, we had maybe 300 schools participating. Now there are almost 3,000,” said Klempa. “It’s amazing to see how many come back each year and keep trying to win.”

To compete, each high school creates four unique designs on iconic Vans shoes, such as the Authentic, Classic Slip-On, 106 Vulcanized and Sk8-Hi. Their artwork is based on the themes of action sports, art, music and their own local flavor.

The public is allowed to vote on the 50 finalists through May 11, and then the top five contenders will be invited to an awards event in June at Industria Superstudio in New York, where a panel of celebrity guests will pick the Grand Prize winner.

Klempa hinted that a Vans athlete partner will be among the judges. “We always work with them on everything we do,” she said.

Over the past years, winners have used their funds for a range of purposes. Klempa told FN that Lakeridge High School in Oregon (the 2013 champ) used its $50,000 to buy a Mac Lab — and also bean-bag chairs for their class-critique time.

Last year’s victor, Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico, is a three-time winner, so the group opted to share the cash with all the art classes in the their district.

To see Rio Rancho’s 2014 designs, check out the slideshow above. Their “local flavor” colorway, featuring Southwestern scenery on the upper of a Vans Authentic laceup, is available for purchase now for $55 on Vans.com and at select Vans retail locations. Proceeds go to partner organization Americans for the Arts, which works to promote arts education in the U.S.

Vans also is working with other key partners on the Custom Culture contest. Retail chain Journeys will award $15,000 to the school with the best “local flavor” design, and Laguna College of Art & Design will offer partial scholarships to seniors from the top five schools.

View Slideshow

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content