Abel and Daffner create ‘off the wall’ shoe designs


Just beyond the entrance to the library, a group of students crowd around AP art’s most recent exhibition, four pairs of shoes, each one pulled apart, painted, and transformed. From a distance, some of the pairs hardly look like shoes, but a closer look reveals the clever, camouflage placement of each shoe to give the art its shape.

Earlier this month, the PHS art class entered these four pairs of Vans shoes into the Vans Custom Culture art contest with a chance to win $50,000 for PHS’s art program.IMG_1302

Vans started the competition in 2010, and this is the fourth year PHS has participated in it, art teacher Gillian Bailey said.

From April 26 through May 10, the public will get a chance to vote five of the top 50 art submissions from across the country into the finals. The five selected high schools’ art classes will be flown into Los Angeles where a panel of celebrity judges will select a winner, whose art programs will be given the $50,000 grand prize.

According to Vans, the shoes are supposed to capture different aspects of Vans’ “off the wall” lifestyle: action sports, arts, music and local flavor. Within these guidelines, the students can express their creativity however they want.

The class is making one shoe for each theme while tying the general theme of Oakland into each shoe, said junior Kai Daffner, who is leading the project.

“I think the hardest part was actualizing our ideas and finalizing what we wanted to do, because we had so many ideas about what we wanted to do with the shoes,” Daffner said.

The shoe representing action sports features a tiny bamboo skateboard ramp, while the shoe representing music has a miniature stage outfitted with LED lights, said AP art student senior Kate Abel.

A live oak tree sapling grows inside the pair of shoes representing Oakland’s local flavor, Daffner said.

“We were like, ‘What’s super common in Oakland? There are so many trees, what if we just planted an oak tree,’” Daffner said.

The last of pair of shoes will remember the victims of the Ghost Ship fire, which killed 36 people last December. Initially, some of the art class was against the idea out of fear of disrespecting the victims by putting them on a shoe, Daffner said. The class has since decided that it would be alright to use one shoe to commemorate the victims.

“We realized we’re really doing it in memory, just to keep [the spirit of the victims] alive,” Daffner said. “The Ghost Ship was filled with art and artists from the Bay Area.”

Daffner and Abel said they think have a good chance at advancing in the competition.

“Most people just paint on the shoes,” Abel said. “We’re trying to go out of the box; doing something 3-D gives us a huge advantage.”

Daffner and Abel got involved in the project after Bailey announced the project to the AP art class. Daffner, who is a TA for the class, said Bailey chose her to lead the project because she was not working on anything else at the time. Abel is also working on it because she is ahead of most students on her AP art concentration.

“A lot of people were really interested in it the first day, everyone was trying to plan it,” Abel said. “As it went on it was just kind of me and Kai that were working on it.”

Daffner said she enjoys the project because of the hands on experience it presents.

“I like using my hands in art especially,” Daffner said. “The fact that it’s a multimedia project is cool because we get to paint, do collaging. I get to do a lot of stuff with my hands, and that’s fun.”