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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Central Valley art students finalists in Vans Custom Culture Contest.

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Voting is underway to decide if a group of Central Valley High School art students will win the top prize in the Vans Custom Culture Contest.

The students have been named National Finalists and are in the top 50 among hundreds of school groups that decorated two pairs of Vans shoes for the competition. Art teacher Kyle Genther said the competition runs every year and hundreds of schools apply each year, but only 250 are accepted into the competition.

“We participated before, but not since 2019,” he said. “We get two pairs of shoes and we can design them however we want.”

Though the designs are up to the students, there is a theme for each pair of shoes. The first theme was Hometown Pride and the second was to be in honor of the co-founder of Vans, Paul Van Doren. The students participating in the competition are Allie Scott, Andrew McCombs, Ashlyn Abramdon, Ava Kalous, Emma Hilbrich, Grace Smith, Jadyn Blake, Jaycee Liu, Katherine Stenfors and May Stevens.

“They brainstormed and developed ideas for it,” he said. “They also had to come up with a unique art style that attracted interest and looked good on a shoe.”

The Hometown Pride shoes include depictions of the Spokane River, the Riverfront Park Clocktower and Mount Spokane in a graffiti street art style, Genther said.

“They were trying to have identifiers for Spokane and the Northwest area,” he said.

The other shoes, designed to depict Southern California, bear palm trees behind a skateboarder and the face of Van Doren.

“That’s where Vans started, in Anaheim,” he said. “It’s supposed to look like a mural on the wall.”

The students began their designs in February and submitted their shoes the first week of April. The students were soon after notified of their status in the top 50. They are the only Washington school on the list.

“The judges look at all the submissions and decide on 50 for the entire U.S.,” Genther said. “This year, it is not divided up by region.”

Each school submitted an impact document detailing what they would do with the prize money if they won, which is $50,000 for the grand prize winner and $15,000 for each of the four runners up. Central Valley’s impact statement mentions the need to replace 20-year-old furniture, purchase art desks and obtain a photography backdrop and lights. The school would also like a few copies of Adobe Photoshop and, if they win the grand prize, take students on field trips to art galleries and art programs at area universities. Creating a permanent gallery space for student art in the school library is also on the wish list.

A win would bring visibility to students who don’t often receive public recognition, Genther said.

“It would spotlight the talent and efforts of local high school students for hundreds of thousands of people while showing how art can bring communities together,” the statement reads.

The grand prize winner also receives a schoolwide concert and barbecue.

Voting ends at 2 p.m. Friday. People are allowed to vote once a day by visiting

“Every day and every vote counts,” Genther said.

The top five schools will be announced the week of May 9, and the grand prize winner will be announced the week of May 16.