CLEVELAND, Ohio - An artist's canvas came to life at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this week.
The canvases came in the form of sneakers that were turned into art as more than two dozen budding artists stretched their creative, colorful imagery on the sides, tongues, laces, eyelets and heels before them.
It was first-ever MARTK'D: Art On Sneakers competition, held Tuesday in the atrium of the Cleveland Cliffs entrance near the Cavaliers Wall of Honor. The event, which drew 300 people, was free for both artists and spectators. It also was the first to be held in an NBA arena.
MARTK'D is a movement that fosters a creative platform using art and sneakers as an engagement tool while embracing contemporary culture. The name itself meshes 'market' and 'art.'
It was a team effort to put on what amounted to a creative fair: Dion Walcott, vice president of brand partnerships of Yellowbrick.co, is a supporter of non-traditional "passionate careers," said Corey James, the Cavs' director of diversity and inclusion, engagement and foundation development. Alexander John, a Cleveland native and celebrity sneaker designer, lent his expertise, as did Archie Green of Culture Junkie. Green is a Cleveland rapper and mental-health advocate.
What it's all about is finding collaborative ground for artists to learn about opportunities, James said. In a way, it amounted to an artistic networking event.
"It's a creative scene," he said.
"It's about creating perspective through experience," James added. "All we're doing is creating a platform."
That platform was in a perfect place with assorted art like New York-based Kaws' works positioned in the atrium all around the sneaker designers. It also was about integrating sports with art, James said.
"There's not one person here who can't tell you who Kaws is," he said as artists hurriedly picked up pen after pen to draw on the Puma-donated shoes. Artists had a 20-minute period to finish their work, with the theme being diversity and inclusion.
That importance of those themes wasn't just left on sneakers. The Cavs are one of very few professional sports franchises to have a dedicated person in charge of diversity and inclusion.
"This," Kevin Clayton said, "is all part of our strategy to reach out to the community." Clayton is the Cavs' vice president in charge of diversity, inclusion and community engagement.
As Clayton strolled through the event, the artists - armed with Sharpies and Tulip Fabric pens - did their thing. They concentrated, scribbled, colored. They curved lines and wrote messages, following their own sketches on paper or phones.
The competition also offered an opportunity for young artists to compare their work and learn.
"I've always loved to draw. I would love the opportunity to design a shirt. This is great experience. It's very nerve-wracking. Once I got in, though, I didn't think about being nervous," said Amanda Miles, a 21-year-old Bowling Green State University student from Sandusky.
"For creative folks, you don't have jobs fairs. There's nothing like it," said Zack Yohman, the Cavs' director of business and strategic communications. "Being able to put it on their resume is huge."
Yohman added the event is "something we hope to grow year after year." When the arena renovation was completed at the start of this Cavs season, the team made it clear it was reaching out to more than just sports fans by being able to hold an array of events. Spaces like the atrium near the Cleveland Cliffs entrance are a venue for initiatives like the recent "A Taste of Black Cleveland: The Food Showcase 3.0," which offers a platform for minority chefs to compete for a potential spot in the arena.
The competition was judged, with artists vying for a chance to have a four-hour working session with the Cavs' creative graphics team and to design a limited-edition t-shirt for the Massachusetts-based sports-lifestyle brand, 47.
The winners of the inaugural MARTK'D: Art On Sneakers competition and their Instagram handles:
1. September Shy - @tember611
2. Cook Chris - @neadlepoke
3. Troy Daugherty - @traw_
4. Jordan Evans - @eztaughtme
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