Oak Harbor High School art students are using their skills and creativity to elevate awareness and potentially funding for their program.
The high school’s entry into the Vans Custom Culture contest recently placed in the top 50 out of 500 entries. Public voting begins Monday to narrow down finalists to the top five. The grand prize winner will receive $75,000 for its art program.
Places two through four receive $10,000.
“Instead of it being a project just for the art program, now it’s going to be for the whole school and hopefully the whole town,” said junior Allison Jungmann.
The idea of the competition is to “bring attention to diminishing arts education budgets,” according to the website. Thousands of schools applied to participate in the competition and 500 were selected. Vans sent the school two pairs of plain shoes to create sculptures that follow the “Off the Wall” and “Local Flavor” themes.
Students drew inspiration from the Navy, natural landscape and wildlife of the island for the “Local Flavor” pair. The detailed shoes are covered in hand-painted fish scales with trees and sunset details on the bottoms. The students used the packing that the shoes came in for wings and cut the Vans logo tag into two salmon, one of which features a small yet intricate drawing of Deception Pass Bridge. Inside the shoes are tide pools, with sculpted crabs and found seashells. On the bottoms of the shoes are more shells and paintings of orcas. Hand-crafted chains that lead to an anchor serve as laces.
“We really tried to put in every aspect of Whidbey Island and who we are as a community,” said senior Cydney Szypula.
For the “Off the Wall” pair, the students really took the theme to heart. These shoes are not made for walking. One stands on tentacles and comes to a horse’s head. The other has a dragon head, wings and stands on crab legs. Both have engines, barnacles, cut stained glass and working light fixtures.
“We really pushed it,” said art teacher Kit Christopherson. “How off the wall can we be?”
He said he and the classes looked at past submissions and saw no one had successfully bent the shoes. The students used wrought iron bars within the soles to change the shape and set their shoes apart.
“It’s fun because I’ve shown pictures of the ‘off the wall’ ones to people and they had no idea they were shoes,” said Jungmann. “Because we really pushed it to the limit and made it a sculptural piece not a shoe.”
Students from 2D art classes, like drawing and painting, and 3D art classes, like pottery, had to work closely to create the products, Christopherson said.
He said the crossover and collaboration were one of the most valuable aspects of the project.
“I think it was huge,” he said of the students working together across disciplines. “More than the result of the shoe.”
The classes had a month to finish. Students who volunteered to participate came in before school, during lunch, after school and some even took pieces home to work on them. While one item was drying, another was being worked on, Szypula said.
“We really used about every second that we could,” she said.
It would be an understatement to say Christopherson was impressed. He said in his 12 years of teaching, he hadn’t worked with a more dedicated group of students.
“I really couldn’t have asked for more from a group of kids,” he said. “We’re going to scrap for it,” he added. “… They deserve the consideration.”