Editors Note: Americans for the Arts has partnered with VANS for the past two years on their Custom Culture program. Last night in New York City was the final event, where the winning shoe design was picked. Below are remarks that our Arts Education Program Manager made during the event:
Hello, my name is Kristen, and I’m the Arts Education Program Manager at Americans for the Arts. Whether you like to sing in the shower, dance like no one is watching, or design the next great VANS shoe, we want to support that. Our motto is “All the Arts for All the People.”
We firmly believe that the arts have the power to transform lives. In fact, last year we had the privilege of featuring an artist at our annual convention named Inocente. Her story is nothing short of incredible. As a teenager, Inocente was homeless, the victim of abuse, and the daughter to undocumented immigrants. Her life had hit rock bottom until one day she walked into an arts center in San Diego called A Reason to Survive. She began painting, and indeed, it gave her a reason to survive. She graduated from high school and selling her art kept her from living on the streets. Her powerful transformation was featured in the Oscar winning documentary, Inocente.
Americans for the Arts knows that learning in the arts enables every individual to develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to not only survive but thrive in today’s ever-changing world. And so when VANS approached us a few years ago about partnering on Custom Culture, we could see that they too value the arts as an integral part of all students’ education. Together we hope to encourage high school students to embrace their creativity and inspire a new generation of youth culture.
Not only do we do that through this Custom Culture event, but also through two key programs that I want to briefly mention:
VANS has sponsored our production of several e-books about the importance of arts in schools. The books help equip parents, students, and
advocates with the knowledge, statistics, and case-making techniques needed to effectively communicate the value of the arts to education leaders. For instance, did you know that only 3% of elementary schools nationwide offer dance? Or that students who take more arts classes have a higher graduation rate than those that don’t? You can check out these facts and more at artsusa.org/navigator.
But to me, the most exciting aspect of our partnership is what happens after tonight’s winner is picked. As you know, the winning shoe design is manufactured by VANS and sold in retail stores. What you might not know is that VANS donates a portion of those shoe sales to Americans for the Arts and together we administer a grant program to schools across the country that need money for art and music classes. This investment and reinvestment of time, resources, and money by VANS into arts education is what I like to call a virtuous cycle of giving.
I want to thank VANS for recognizing the need for creativity in our education system and for being such an excellent partner. I want to thank both the team from VANS and my colleagues from AFTA that are here with me tonight. Together, we have produced the e-books, administer the VANS grants, and of course, spread the word about Custom Culture!
Not everyone here who designed a shoe will go on to be an artist, like Inocente. But every single person here will be a better student, employee, or citizen if they indeed embrace their creativity. And Americans for the Arts is honored to be a part of an event that is celebrating that fact tonight. Thank you!