Sunday, April 10, 2016

Vans & Americans for the Arts: Supporting Arts Education

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For four years, the iconic shoe brand Vans and the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts have collaborated annually to raise funds and resources for public high school art programs. Through an assortment of events including the Vans Custom Culture art competition and grant initiative, this campaign encourages and rewards self-expression through art and design while drawing attention to the importance of arts education in high school.

As Vans' target audience is teenagers and young adults with a creative streak, its effort to inspire and empower high school students through art is not only an act that betters the world at largeit is a worthwhile business endeavor that is relevant to its brand culture and message. As it said in 2014, "Nike stands for athletic performance; we stand for creative expression." It also sponsors music and art-related events and institutions including the Vans Warped Tour annual traveling rock music festival, which has been selling out since 1995, and the Laguna College of Art and Design, which has a Vans Honor Lab for art and digital media students. In order to cement its image as an arts-focused brand, Vans began its campaign alongside Americans for the Arts in 2012 in order to ensure that every American high-schooler has access to high-quality arts programs.

The Custom Culture competition encourages creativity and expression; the first 1,500 U.S.-based schools to register receive four pairs of blank canvas Vans shoes to decorate based on four designated themes of Action Sports, Music, Art, and Local Flavor. Once they have finished all four pairs, they upload photographs to the Vans website for public voting. Five finalists are selected to attend the final event, and one school is selected to receive a $50,000 grant and have its students' designs produced and sold.

Beyond the contest, ten schools across the country are selected for a need-based $2,000 grant to support their arts-related endeavors. Uses of the raised funds have varied over the years from covering transportation costs for field trips and guest speakers to purchasing state-of-the-art production facilities and dance studios.

Vans' strategic partnership with Americans for the Arts and its unique annual campaign to raise awareness and funds for public art education is an ideal fit in that it both strengthens its brand culture and allows it to achieve its stated vision of ensuring that kids across the nation are able to learn about the vast and vital world of art.

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