By John Burton
MIDDLETOWN – A group of art students at Middletown High School South have demonstrated their love for the Jersey Shore and the impact Super Storm Sandy had on their lives – and that could mean $50,000 to the school.
Art teacher Christen Tummillo’s students have entered a contest, sponsored by the Vans sneaker company, using the shore and the destruction Sandy wrought as their theme. Now the students are among the semifinalists in the contest and the public can cast ballots online though May 13 for their favorite designs.
Taylor Franzreb, a student in Tummillo’s Advanced Placement art class, said she and the other students wanted to convey on a pair of sneakers how they felt about the storm’s impact. “It was like a part of our broken youth and how it could be fixed,” she said.
Ultimately, Tummillo and students in her advanced placement class and Art I student Jesse Price created a design depicting images of the damaged Seaside Park rollercoaster and a wrecked boardwalk with its stark image juxtaposed with an idyllic summer’s day.
“We tried to capture bold elements of New Jersey,” Franzreb said.
“That was the first (design) we decided on,” Tummillo said of the Sandy-related artwork. “The hardest part was narrowing down with what we wanted to put on to it.”
The storm, “especially for high school kids,” had a real affect on them, the teacher said.
The contest is Vans’ Custom Culture shoe customization art contest, now in its fourth year. Students from schools around the country participated by designing shoes for four themed areas.
The Middletown High School students’ designs have been selected as one of 50 semifinalists from 1,500 submissions.
The public now can cast votes for the entries until May 13 by going online to www.vans.com/customculture/vote/.
The vote will help Vans whittle down the selection to the five top vote-winning schools. The student finalists will be invited to New York City June 10-12 for various activities and for the final decision by a yet-unnamed panel of celebrity judges, according to the company’s website.
The semifinalists are competing for the top prize for their art department. Tummillo acknowledged the $50,000 would go a long way to helping the department. Runners-up could win $4,000 “which would be great because we’re out of blue paint,” Franzreb said.
The Sandy-themed sneaker was submitted for the local flavor category that requires participants to offer their take on their surrounding community, city or state.
The other categories are art, music and action sports that Vans has determined to be sports without bats or balls.
For music the students chose jazz; for action sports they selected paddle boarding; and for art, Price lobbied and won for his idea of zombies. “Zombies are very in,” Tummillo said.
The winner will see their design used and marketed on a Vans brand sneaker, according to the company.
The money would be great and getting their shoe design sold in a mall would be awesome, the students said.
But they said there is something else a win would do. “It sort of validates what we do,” especially since the high school is competing against some prestigious art schools, student Meghan Heidelberg said.
“There is extreme talent in our school here that is sometimes overlooked,” student Nina Mitarotondo said.
Tummillo is obviously proud of her students and the work they have done. “I couldn’t be involved with better students for this,” she said.