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MHS art class shoes make them dance for joy

Mitchell High School sculpture students submitted a pair of entries into the Vans Custom Culture contest, with "Corn Palace" (left) in the Off the Wall category and "Fire and Ice" (right) in the Local Flavor category entries shown here. (Photo by MHS student Lucas Bindert)

Mitchell High School sculpture students did a collective happy dance to celebrate their unique art submission being chosen in the top 50 for a national contest.

Two groups worked on designs for two pairs of Vans shoes to enter the Vans Custom Culture competition. The school that wins the top prize will take home $75,000 for its art department.

Now, it’s up to the public to start voting on Monday and boost the students toward the top 5.

“Most of the designs we’ve seen in the past have been airbrushed or painted,” said Marica Shannon, Mitchell High School sculpture teacher. “We chose to go avant-garde and create a wearable sculpture.”

This is the fourth year Shannon’s students have participated in the contest. She received the news Wednesday evening and did a small happy dance of her own. She said, should the school win the $75,000, the money would go toward developing the school’s Innovation Lab, which is currently “a hodgepodge of donated, purchased, and grant equipment, and chairs that are who-knows-how-old.”

The two themes schools followed were “Off the Wall” and “Local Flavor.” Each student submitted designs for the shoes and then voted on the best design for each category.

Isaac Kitchens led a team of five -- including Lindsay Voeltz, Taylor Hart, Isabel Schley and Kelsi Hart -- to create a pair of shoes inspired by the Corn Palace for the “Local Flavor” category. He obtained corn seeds used to decorate the city’s famous landmark from Troy Magnuson, said Shannon. He and his team used those seeds to create miniature murals on the shoes, and then trimmed the shoes with jute cord to mimic the mural borders.

“Vans sends two basic white pairs of shoes of a certain size and style to work with,” Shannon said.

Amy Uher led a three-person team that included Indeo Olson and Madeline Hegg to create her design called Fire and Ice for the “Off the Wall” category. The shoes are inspired by extreme weather. The blue shoe features a border of snow along the bottom made of modeling paste and blue sea glass secured on top to create ice crystals.

The red shoe has a border made with lava rock while the red sea glass on top mimics flames.

“It’s been a good process — going through the design, learning how to create models, to see them collaborate and how they came up with the final pieces in the contest. It was really neat to see them have that experience,” Shannon said.

Last year, South Dakota brought home the award with shoes designed by students in Parker. The winning students said getting people to vote is everything, Shannon said.

She is working to set up a Facebook page to spread the word about voting. Anyone can vote once per day throughout the voting period, which runs from April 23 to May 4. Finalists will be notified on Monday, May 7.

She and her students have already agreed that sharing the voting link on any social media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook will be beneficial, and others are working to create posters to hang up around town.

“We would love for anyone to vote,” Shannon said.

To vote for Mitchell High School starting on Monday, you can visit