Detroit students participate in 'Art of Sneaker' invitational

The first year Dom Porter was named a finalist at a sneaker design contest in Detroit, he said he pre-designed some things. They were ideas in his head, based on the theme of last year's Martk'D "Art of Sneaker" invitational.

It worked well last year, but this time, "honestly, I didn't know what the theme was for the contest."

Even without the advantage, his artistry still carried him into the finals for the second year in a row. He was one of 40 Detroit high school students between the age 15 to 19 who had the opportunity to design sneakers for a real-time competition.

Porter is a finalist for the second year in a row. 

The competition, created and hosted by Pensole Lewis in downtown Detroit, is the brainchild of Dion Walcott. After a successful first challenge last year, he said talent submissions for the invitational doubled this year. 

"So how it all came to life was just connecting art with footwear and putting the two together, then bringing in the community for them to have awareness," Walcott said.

The competition started in early March when contestants were given a white sneaker and were tasked with transforming it in 45 minutes. Finalists are chosen to then advance to the one-day art and color design workshop. 

And on Saturday, the top-three finalists will present their final designs in front of a crowd and judges. The top three will be selected to have their art produced on sneakers, compliments of the invitational's sponsor Reebok. 

Microsoft, Stackwell, and the Detroit Pistons are also included as hosts.

"It was an opportunity for us to give back to the community," said Tamar Davis, who runs marketing at the Detroit Pistons. "I’m most definitely looking for the story-telling aspect, kind of what Dion had said, but I’m also looking at how the shoe looks."

Last year, a 15-year-old girl incorporated her dyslexia into her illustrations, encapsulating the focus on narrative. 

Seeing the competition in the flesh, it's a sign of belief for both Walcott and Davis.

"As Black and Brown people, we drive culture forward from a consumer side - but, unfortunately behind the board there’s not a lot of us represented," said Walcott.

Find more information here