Photo by Chris Rogers
Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School art students (from left to right) Crystal Helmers, James Vance, Cedar McAllen, Trevor Dahl, Haley Scherr, (not pictured) Abbie Kopp, and Lisa Zinki collaborated on four one-of-a-kind shoes that might win them a trip to New York and $50,000 for their school art program. Vote by May 13.
A group of Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau (G-E-T) High School art students are just a few votes away from being the Cinderella story in a national design contest. Pitted against private schools three times their size and with many times larger budgets, including art magnet schools like Chicago High School for the Arts, G-E-T might actually pull ahead to win a national custom shoe design contest. At the time of printing, the students were just one spot away from being one of five schools in the nation that will win an all-expenses-paid trip to New York for the contest and a shot at winning $50,000 for their school's art program.
G-E-T was one of 1,500 schools from around the country to sign up and receive four blank pairs of Vans shoes in the mail. The GETHS students decked out their shoes with paint and fanciful, inventive embellishments. Actual clarinet parts glimmer from the tongues of the students' music-themed shoes while wood pegs and paint caps were transformed to become convincing trumpet keys running up the heels of the shoes. Layers of hot glue covered in shiny paint give the appearance that the students' art-themed shoes are oozing wet paint.
"I thought she was lying," said Haley Scherr of the day her art teacher, Jenny Johnson, announced that Scherr and her classmates had made it into the semifinals. "I didn't believe her," said student Crystal Helmers. "I came into class wearing my headphones and all I could see was everybody smiling," said James Vance.
Johnson pretended to be nonchalant about the announcement. "Oh, it's not big deal, but just thought, you know, you might be interested to know…" Johnson joked at the time.
When she found out that the school was within one spot of the trip to New York, Johnson allowed herself a little more excitement. "I had this gut feeling: 'Oh my gosh, we are going to win this thing,'" she said.
Scherr, Helmers, and Vance collaborated on the design and execution of the four very custom shoes with classmates Cedar McAllen, Trevor Dahl, Abbie Kopp, and Liza Zinki. They said they worked pretty well together and did not argue too much over what to do, except for the "local flavor"-themed shoe.
"That was the hardest one," Helmers sighed.
"[The shoes] were still pure white right down to the last couple days," Johnson explained. The kids had thrown out all kinds of different ideas, but finally the group was able to rally around a plan. The result was a head-turning and very-Wisconsin pair of shoes decked out with a bovine close-up and detailed fields of corn ringing the outsoles. Straw laces up the shoes and is stuffed inside them so that any laying hen might choose the sneakers over her own nest box.
G-E-T is one of 50 semifinalist schools from around the country. The California shoe company divided the semifinalists into the country's five great regions, according to their point of view: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest, and California. G-E-T is categorized as in the Northeast! The winner of each region goes to New York to be judged in the finals. All of the finalists will receive $4,000 for their school's art program and the winner gets $50,000.
The prize of $50,000 would make an incredible difference for G-E-T, Johnson said, sighing at the thought of all it would mean for the art program. Chairs and tables would be first on the list. Then, a kiln for ceramics, ventilation for paint fumes, and new paints and supplies. "There's a lot of stuff that we can't afford," she said.
"To make it this far is crazy," said Scherr. All the leading schools around the country have well-funded Advanced Placement (AP) art programs, she pointed out. The G-E-T students know they are the underdogs, but as Scherr puts it, "If the shoe fits…"
More pictures of the G-E-T students shoes as well their competitors' are available at www.vans.com/customculture/vote/. You can vote for your favorites at that site as well. Be sure to vote before the deadline, May 13! Don't forget, G-E-T is under the Northeast region.