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‘Shoe Club’ is teaching kids how to customize footwear


Peoria-based artist Justin Fenwick has painted shoes for celebrities like Kanye West and Floyd Mayweather and now he is using his talents to give back to his community.

Fenwick is volunteering at Franklin Elementary for the school’s new Shoe Club, an after school activity created by a teacher who wanted to give students a new way to express themselves.

“I noticed that kids love their shoes, especially coming back to school they have brand new shoes, when they get new shoes they’re so proud of them excited to have new shoes. They are shoes that they buy from the store but I thought it would be a great idea to give kids a chance to personalize their own shoes,” Program Coordinator and ELL Teacher Cesar Vargas said.

Vargas knew Fenwick was customized shoes and asked Fenwick to get involved with the project.

“I love sneakers, I love the whole culture of this whole thing and to see young people get into it. Hopefully the next big shoe artist is in the room in there,” Fenwick said.

The students did not think twice about joining the club.

“I would like to make shoes so my mom doesn’t have to buy me more shoes,” club member Daniel Nathan said.

Some even hope to be able to take their new skills into adulthood.

“When I play in the NBA I can have my own team colored shoe and I make can the shoes,” club member Armarion Smith said.

Fenwick said he hopes to help cultivate this desire within the students.

“I hope that one of those kids, or a couple of those kids go out and do even more than I did or maybe take it somewhere else. Maybe this is just a platform for them to get into another form of art. I am big advocate of art and I think it builds character,” he said.

The students are will work on and old pair of shoes and their finished products will be displayed at a local art gallery later this year. Vargas and Fenwick are hoping to give students brand new shoes to work with and keep and are accepting monetary donations to buy them.

If you are interested in donating you can contact Cesar Vargas at (309) 682-2693 ext. 39215.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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