ArtCenter College of Design will provide free Sneaker Science workshops to kids ages 11 through 18 to encourage them to pursue higher education and, ultimately careers in the creative economy. Leveraging the tremendous popularity of the sneaker culture, the College hopes to raise awareness among middle and high school students about degree programs and professional opportunities in the footwear field.

“Our goal is to help kids discover the educational and career pathways available to transform their passion for sneakers into a solid vision for their future and a reality that is absolutely attainable,” said Roosevelt Brown, an associate professor in ArtCenter’s Product Design department’s wearables and soft-goods track and a 25-year veteran footwear designer.

An ArtCenter alumnus, Brown is leading the initiative with Aaron Bruce, vice president and chief diversity officer at ArtCenter. Together, the team is working with the South Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Crusade, a youth development, nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life and meeting the unmet needs of youth, to enroll students in the workshop series.

“We’ve all heard the starving artist stereotype,” said Brown whose mother would tell him ‘you can’t just draw your way to a living.’ “It’s time to move beyond that myth and enlighten the world about economically viable careers in art and design. We know that when a seed is planted for youth to develop a clear vision and they decide to pursue a creative career, parents become energized to support that dream and find the resources and mentors to make that dream come true for their children.”

“Brotherhood Crusade is pleased to partner with The Art Center to provide our youth with a tremendous opportunity to be introduced to The Science of Sneaker Design,” stated Curtis R. Silvers, Jr., Executive Vice President of the Brotherhood Crusade. “We’re always exploring new ways to engage our youth and offer them ways to explore different ways of learning, that are relevant to them, and what can be more relevant than, learning how to design sneakers.’’

The first of two sessions took place virtually, Monday, June 15 for middle schoolers, with over 30 students in attendance and Thursday, June 18 for high schoolers and above.

“This is a great opportunity for our youth to not only be introduced to the Science of Sneaker Design, but to be exposed to Art Center,  one of the most prominent art schools in the world,  learn from a leader in product design the soft-goods, Roosevelt Brown, and explore the world of innovation,” said Leonardo Cablayan, Brotherhood Crusade Program Manager. Cablayan has been working with Aaron Bruce, VP, Chief Diversity Officer, in looking for ways to partner and when the opportunity became available to begin the partnership with the Sneaker Design Workshop.

According to Silvers, “The response to this workshop has been so tremendous that we’re already discussing holding additional workshops in the summer and beyond, offering classes in fashion design, animation, toy design, video game design and more. Our youth are going to be challenged this summer with finding activities to participate in, given the COVID-19 pandemic and this could be a great solution to keeping them engaged.”

Roosevelt Brown, an associate professor in ArtCenter’s Product Design department’s wearables and soft-goods track, will teach the free Sneaker Science workshops online. (Courtesy Photo)

The events are being organized by ArtCenter’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department. For information on how to enroll, questions or accommodations, please email [email protected].

The workshop is designed to help attendees understand how many viable employment opportunities are available to them along the sneaker supply chain. The curriculum includes sneaker history, the design process of shaping an idea into a product for sale in a retail store, research, ideation, concept and prototype development, packaging, marketing, photography, advertising and more.

“Trust me, if someone had told me in middle school that design was a practical career option, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have continued on that trajectory after high school,” said Brown who loved to draw from an early age. Instead, he pursued a degree in engineering because he excelled in math. It wasn’t until he learned about ArtCenter from a professor at California State University Los Angeles that he discovered degree programs in industrial design.

The sneaker culture has long been a destination for ArtCenter grads. Throughout the years, some of the biggest players in the footwear industry have benefited from having ArtCenter alumni leading and contributing to shoe design, including Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Vans, Skechers and Under Armor. Currently, Martin Lotti (BS 97 Product) is Nike’s vice president of design Jordan, and Al Van Noy (BS 87 Product) is Adidas’ senior vice president in charge of its Future Team. And, before co-founding athletic shoe think tank Speedhack, Product Design alumni Dave Dombrow (BS 00) and Kevin Fallon (BS 96) served as Under Armor’s chief design officer and vice president of footwear innovation, respectively.

Curtis Silvers