Art students place top 50 in Vans Culture Contest

Designs by sophomore Nicolette Ogne and junior Sathvika Sitaraman are recognized


Ylin Zhu

Students were asked to make two Vans designs that reflected their hometown. “Hometown Pride” featured drawings, and “VanD(IY)oren Legacy” involved more sculpting and 3D art.

Imagine having your flashy design grace a pair of Vans worn by skaters pulling off kickflips at the San Ramon Skate Park.

This could have happened for Cal High students Nicolette Ogne and Sathvika Sitaraman, whose designs for the annual Vans Culture Contest were among the top 50 entries of 250 schools nationwide.

The competition lets students create designs for Vans shoes that reflect the culture of the areas in which they live for a chance of winning up to $50,000 for their school’s art department. Students designed two pairs of shoes, one with the theme “HomeTown Pride”, which involved drawings on the shoes, and the other with the theme “VanD(IY)oren Legacy”, which incorporated sculpting and abstract art.

High schools submitted applications starting Jan. 10 and included the needs for their art department in order to have a chance to be chosen as one of the 250 schools. 

Art teacher Erin Parsons said that she applied for Cal to participate in the contest, and once the school was chosen she had her Art 2 students create designs for the “HomeTown Pride” shoes. Her AP Art students helped create designs for the “VanD(IY)oren Legacy” shoes.

“Everyone created a sketch and then the winning pair was voted on,” said Ogne, a sophomore in Parson’s Art 2 class. 

Students then created the designs on actual shoes. Ogne designed the final “HomeTown Pride” Vans shoes, incorporating the Golden Gate Bridge, street art, the Bay Bridge, and  other Bay Area landmarks.

“[I was] hoping that I would be able to come up with a design that could bring us to the finals,” Ogne said.

Sitaraman, a junior who is one of Parson’s Art 3 students, designed the final “VanD(IY)oren Legacy” shoes. 

“I wanted to include the vibe of the Bay Area in two shoes,” Sitaraman said. “I added [clay] hands to represent unity, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, and graffiti and street art.” 

Sitaraman and other Art 3 students helped sculpt various parts of the shoes, such as the bridges and a grizzly bear.

Junior Callie Bailey, an Art 3 student, said the competition was also based on the amount of people that voted for Cal’s pair of Vans over the other schools’ designs. The last day to vote was May 6 before the winners were announced.

Even though Cal didn’t make the top five, Cal’s success inspired students who look forward to participating in the contest next year. 

This was the first time Cal participated in the contest. Parson’s students were happy to participate and are glad they made it to the top 50 in the nation.

“I think our kids did a really great job and worked very hard,” Parsons said.