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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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G-E-T shoe designs are works of art (04/14/2014)
By Amelia Wedemeyer

     photo provided by

Jennifer Johnson

. Just one of four pairs of shoes designed by G-E-T students for a nationwide art contest.

There are pink udders used as heels on one pair, while another has guitar necks that shoot straight up from the back, like a rock-and-roll modified hightop. Yet another pair has lifelike butterflies floating above a painted garden; and not to be outdone by the others, the last pair of shoes has people kitesurfing in two different dimensions. It is clear that to look at the shoes designed by students of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School (G-E-T) in Galesville, Wis., for the 2014 Vans Custom Culture Shoe Design Contest, is to view some of the best and most creative artwork done by high school students in the nation.

“Schools from all over the USA compete,” G-E-T junior Abbey Kopp explained. “They give out four themes and we design the shoes to fit each theme.”

The contest, which takes the first 2,000 high schools nationwide to submit a contest entry application, sends out four pairs of plain white Vans sneakers and asks the students to transform the shoes into personal works of art, each with a different theme — music, art, action sports, and “local flavor.” The udders and bees represent the team’s hometown and state, the kitesurfing represents action sports, the heavy metal skull and guitar design represents music, and the butterflies and flowers stand for art.

“I think my favorite is the local flavor shoe,” Kopp said. “It portrays what Galesville and Wisconsin are all about. We have bees and dairy cow spots on the side [of the shoe] to kind of portray the land of milk and honey, and we have shrinky-dink bees and a cow udder [for the heel]. I’d say it is the most popular one. Everyone was just drawn to the local one.”

The team at G-E-T created each pair from paint, hot glue, wire, colored pencils and sharpies, fabric, and, as Kopp put it, “lots of shrinky-dinks,” which refers to the shrinkable plastic paper that allows the students to draw full-size art that shrinks down after it is put in the oven.

There are butterflies, bees, kites and guitar necks that extend from the shoes, creating a whimsical element on each pair. Along with the 3D effects found in each shoe, the team also reused the blue and yellow throughout the process, and had a flying element in each pair. Overall, the project took about four weeks and involved students from various backgrounds.

“We had about 12 kids, and a core group of eight students,” Jennifer Johnson, the team’s supervisor and the visual and graphic arts teacher at G-E-T, explained. “It was amazing to watch. They worked hard together — they came in on our day off and worked; they worked late, sometimes until nine at night.”

Last year the G-E-T shoe design team was one of 50 schools to make it into the online voting rounds, and they finished second in their region, only one spot away from making the finals in New York City. “We definitely want to go all the way,” Kopp said of the team’s goal for this year. “Hopefully we will make it to NYC — just going there would be quite the experience.”

While the team won’t find out until April 25 if it has made the next round, which is the online voting contest, the experience of coming together to create something artistic that represents G-E-T and its student body is a reward in itself, according to the students and Johnson.

“There’s no guarantee they will make top 50,” she said. “They do it just because they enjoy doing it.”

If the G-E-T shoe design team makes it into the top 50, you can vote for them online at http://sites.vans.com/customculture/.



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