A team of students from Hixson High School is among 50 teams from across the nation vying to win $75,000 for their school's art program through the Vans Custom Culture Competition. Designed to inspire student creativity through art and design and to support art programs in schools, the competition involves the creation of shoe designs based on this year's themes of "Local Flavor" and "Off the Wall."
The top five contenders will be decided by popular vote, and anyone can vote once a day through May 4 at customculture.vans.com.
The grand prize will go to the school with the most votes. Vans will also hold a cookout at the school and bring along a musical guest. The other top four teams will each receive $10,000 for their art programs.
One student from each finalist school will also have the chance to receive a $25,000 scholarship to Laguna College of Art and Design.
The Hixson team is composed of sophomores, juniors and seniors in various art classes and clubs at the school who wanted to participate, said art teacher Katie Claiborne.
"I don't think you'd meet a more deserving group of students, and it would mean a lot to be able to reap the benefits of having that extra funding," Claiborne said. "[People] can make a difference in the lives of these students by doing something as simple as voting."
For their "local flavor" themed shoes, the Hixson students represented the Scenic City with iconic attractions such as Ruby Falls, Rock City, the Incline Railway, the Chattanooga Choo Choo and Point Park, with the Tennessee River flowing across both shoes.
In their "off the wall" design, the students created a cavern using platforms, then added cast resin crystals lit by fairy lights. A monster defends the treasures among the mushroom-filled scene, with moss encircling the rim of the shoes. Living plants spring up from the insoles, and artificial sprouts pop up near the toe.
Teams must apply to participate in the competition, and applicants are required to describe their school, its demographics, its need for funding, and the impact the funds would create in the community, Claiborne said. Hixson was among 500 schools selected to participate nationwide, and is the only school from Tennessee to reach the top 50, also selected by judges from Vans.
This year the school started a ceramics program, for which it saved for a year to purchase the one working pottery wheel, said Claiborne. The school would use the $75,000 to purchase additional wheels, as well as supplies for the Advanced Placement visual arts class HHS plans to offer next year. Students have a strong desire for a "Mac lab" to explore digital art, and the money would also help to cover the costs of participating in competitions and bringing artists into the school, she said.
"This would allow us to do so much for the students right away," said Claiborne.
She said Hamilton County Schools has worked toward getting more funding for the arts. Because of student interest, HHS was able to hire a second art teacher this year. But with a majority of the school's students below the poverty line, a stronger art program would be especially beneficial. Students living in poverty who have access to an art program are 40 percent more likely to attend college, Claiborne said.