Student artists seek support for their designs in Vans-sponsored shoe contest

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Seven students at St. Stephen's Academy participated in a Vans-sponsored shoe design contest with the hopes of winning $50,000 for art programs at their school. Pictured are; sophomore Maddy Mier, sophomore Hannah Breckenridge, freshman Hayden Hupfer, sophomore Jessica Hayward and junior Austin Mier.The spring of 2013 may be one of the driest in recent years, but a group of art students at St. Stephen's Academy is focused on water.

That's the common theme seven students hit upon as they collaborated on designs for Vans shoes in the Southern California-based shoe company's Van's Custom Culture design contest. The seven ninth- through 11th-grade students in Kathy Mier's art class hope their designs will attract enough votes by Sunday to move St. Stephen's — now ranked among the top 10 semifinalists for the contest's Northwest region — to No. 1.

If that happens, the school enters the finals, qualifying it for a $50,000 grant from Vans for art programs and sending the shoe designs to national production and store presentation. With enough votes right now to rank St. Stephen's, a 175-student kindergarten through 12th-grade school at 7275 S.W. Hall Blvd., in the regional top five, Mier and her students are asking for help in the voting TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Seven students at St. Stephen's Academy participated in a Vans-sponsored shoe design contest with the hopes of winning $50,000 for art programs at their school.

“The top school in each region gets to move on to the New York phase, a three-day event,” she says. “They'll take the shoes with them and (Vans) will choose the winners for the five regions. Vans pays us to go. It's a really big prize.”

In addition to the $50,000 winning prize, the four runners-up will each receive $4,000 prizes for their school's programs. Vans partner, Journeys, will also award $10,000 to the school with the best local flavor-themed shoe.

Vans asked participants to base their designs on four themes: Art, music, action sports and local flavor. As the St. Stephen's students started brainstorming for ideas on the four blank pairs of shoes Vans sent them before spring break, they hit upon an aquatic sub-theme.

“We wanted to have an underlying theme,” says sophomore Maddy Mier, Kathy Mier's daughter. “We started to see a matching theme there. When we decided on water, it all clicked, and these ideas started flowing — like water.”

The students' dynamic, brilliantly colored designs touch on surfing, a bear and a salmon galavanting through streams, a three-piece rock band awash in waves and a neo-psychedelic collage of swirls, patterns and shapes.

Hannah Breckenridge, a sophomore, says she and her fellow artists took turns augmenting the drawings on different shoes.

“We sort of mapped out the designs with pencil. Once we figured out what to do, it was pretty straightforward,” she says, noting the collaboration went smoothly. “No one thought that Multnomah Falls should be purple.”

The St. Stephen's student designs are posted on the contest website among the current top 50 vote-getting schools.

“Ours stack up nicely against everyone else's,” says Kathy Mier, who credits St. Stephen's graduate Cameron Coupe of Tigard with getting the school involved with the contest three years ago. “He's now in college studying shoe design.”

The students have tapped into every conceivable connection to generate votes and offset the underdog status from being such a small school.

“I've reached out to cousins in California, relatives in Florida,” Breckenridge says. “People all over the country are voting for us, and we've never met them.”

Maddy Mier agrees she and her fellow students have gone all-out with the voter awareness campaign.

“We've gone to friends, families and cousins twice removed,” she says. “We're trying to get everyone in the community to support us. So far, everyone has.”

Her mother, who has taught for 11 years at St. Stephen's, admits winning would be great, but the creative experience is worth the effort even if they don't.

“They're up for the challenge,” she says. “They've got a great product no matter what the outcome.”

Cast your vote!

What: Vans Custom Culture national shoe-design contest

Local participant: St. Stephen's Academy in Beaverton

Art student designers: Maddy Mier, Hannah Breckenridge, Hayden Hupfer, Jessica Hayward, Austin Mier, Amy Roluffs and Megan Roluffs

To vote for St. Stephen's: Visit

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