Vans Custom Culture 2016: That’s a Wrap!

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen, Jun 10, 2016 0 comments

This week, we've been featuring stories from high schools around the country that were awarded arts education grants from Americans for the Arts and our partner Vans. The grant program is funded through a larger partnership with Vans called Custom Culture, which has several components. The main component is a design competition for high school students, where teams of students from schools customize blank canvas shoes. The winning designs were selected at an event in Los Angeles this week, and below are the remarks I gave at the event. It was an incredible culmination of a series of events that prove that when businesses partner with the arts, everyone wins.

John P. Stevens High School of Edison, N.J., won the 2016 Custom Culture shoe design contest with a diner-inspired theme.Hi everybody, my name is Kristen, and I work at Americans for the Arts. My job is to help keep the arts in public schools. We've partnered with Vans since 2012 on Custom Culture, as both of our companies want to inspire students to reach their creative potential. Standing here tonight, I'm amazed at how lucky I am that part of my job is to ensure that students like you can participate in amazing programs like this.

Quick show of hands: how many of you think that Vans is a pretty great company? I agree! So I want to brag a little about the incredible work they do. Just last week, the Custom Culture program received an award as the "Best Education Campaign of 2015" from a national business association called the Cause Marketing Forum.

Since the program began, Custom Culture has served more than 7,600 schools, more than 142,000 students, and has contributed more than $600,000 to support arts programs in schools nationwide. Any company could be proud of those accomplishments, but Vans didn't stop there. Each year, Vans has added new aspects to Custom Culture to create an even bigger impact.

Last year, Vans added a partnership with Laguna College of Art and Design, which announced tonight that they're expanding their scholarship program so that everyone in this room can continue their creative pursuits in college. Not only is this a win for you students, but it is also a win for the business world. Did you know that 72% of business leaders agree that creativity is the number one skill set that they're looking for when hiring? And yet among those same business leaders surveyed, 85% of them say they cannot find the creative candidates they seek.

But thanks to Custom Culture, perhaps some of you will go on to become the creative employees the business world needs—artists, fashion designers, graphic designers. Or maybe your creative skills will be put to use in another way, like dreaming up inventive new product designs. Or using out-of-the-box thinking that overhauls a brand. Or creating incredible data visualization that earns you the nickname “the Picasso of your accounting department.” Hey, it could happen! The point is, even if you don't end up becoming a professional artist, the skills you have learned from your art classes will serve you well in school, work, and life. Students who study the arts are twice as likely to graduate from college, more likely to have gainful employment, and also have higher rates of volunteering and voting as adults.

Through this program, Vans continues to inspire another generation of creative students, workers, and, if you'll indulge a quick personal note, even moms. I'm proud to say that my seven year old daughter and I were inspired by your winning designs and tonight I'm wearing my own Custom Culture sneaks that I created with my daughter.

I want to thank Vans for being such an amazing partner and for creating a program that is truly worthy of the title "Best Education Campaign"!

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