For more than 45 years, Vans has evolved beyond a surf-and-skate shop to draw influence from Southern California youth culture as diverse as it is progressive. Incorporating elements from art, music, and street culture, with deep roots in our action sports heritage, Vans today offers a full range of footwear, timeless apparel, and accessories around the world.

In 2010, youth brand Vans developed the Vans Custom Culture Art Competition to encourage high school students across the United States to embrace their creativity and inspire a new generation of youth culture. Vans Custom Culture is committed to investing in the arts as an integral part of all students’ education.

In 2012, Vans Custom Culture approached Americans for the Arts to be its official national charity partner to draw attention to the importance of arts education nationwide through the following initiatives:



Through generous support from Vans Custom Culture, Americans for the Arts has designed the Arts Education Navigator, a series of e-books designed to equip arts education supporters with the knowledge, statistics, and case-making skills to effectively communicate with decision-makers. Check out the entire series!





The Vans Custom Culture competition offers students a fresh perspective on art and an outlet for self expression through the synthesizing of design, fashion, and function during this unique contest and multimedia exhibit.

Each January the Vans Custom Culture art competition opens for registration. This opportunity is open to the first 1,500 U.S.-based public or private high schools that register to compete.

Each art class receives four pairs of blank canvas Vans shoes to design their own creations around four themes: Action Sports, Music, Art, and Local Flavor.

Teachers then upload photos of their students' finished shoes via the Vans Custom Culture website, then an internal selection and external public vote to whittle the entries down to a group of five finalists who travel to either New York City or Los Angeles for the Vans Custom Culture final event in June.

The top school receives $50,000 for its visual arts program and the chance to have its design produced and sold in Vans stores.

For more information, check out the Vans Custom Culture website!



Americans for the Arts administers the Vans Custom Culture Grant Program, which is supported by funds from the sales of the winning shoe design in the Custom Culture Art Competition mentioned above.

This program seeks to increase both visibility and resources for schools across the country. Vans Custom Culture Grants are available to public high schools (grades 9–12) that include the arts as an integral component of an excellent education, and to support activities that are consistent with local and national learning standards for arts education.

Ten 10 schools across the country are selected to each receive a $2,000 grant to support their work in providing high-quality music and/or visual arts instruction for students, as demonstrated through their competitive application.

Learn more about the winning schools.