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February 19, 2009 12:00 AM

Wheel cover painting contest makes art class a hub of creativity for teens


High school students in Racine, Wis., were challenged to decorate Scion wheel covers by Gentile Automotive Group. The artwork was displayed at the dealership. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg / Associated Press)

RACINE, Wis. -- It's not unusual to see paper, wood or glass used for painting.

But wheel covers?

Employees at Gentile Automotive Group dropped off 30 Scion hubcaps in early November to the art departments at six high schools in Racine. Students were asked to decorate the covers for a contest sponsored by Gentile and Scion.

The results included an airbrushed green-and-yellow skull, a clock, a landscape of Racine with a lighthouse, an African safari, and a picture of Earth with the words "In our hands."

Elizabeth Castaneda, a junior art student at Park High School, painted an Aztec warrior on her wheel cover, along with a Mexican eagle and the words "Latin pride." The theme is, in part, a nod to her fellow students, as well as her parents, who came to the U.S. more than a decade ago from Mexico.

Castaneda said it took about an hour to draw the figures on the cover and two hours to do the painting. "I'm Mexican, and I thought it would be something nice to put on there. The people (I worked with) on the project are Hispanic, too," she said.


Tristan Peterson won first prize and $250 in the Scion contest for his airbrushed skull. He said the project took him 33 hours. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg / Associated Press)

Samantha LaVassor, another junior art student at Park, used the wheel cover to feed her obsession with spiders. She didn't know what to do with the cover at first, but she thought the Scion logo looked like a spider. So she took the logo off and used it to create the body of a spider. She decorated the wheel cover with white string and plastic ants to make it look like a spider web. It was a weekend project.

Once the wheel covers were finished, they were picked up and put on display at Gentile.

The covers not only gave students a chance to be creative, but also gave Scion some marketing exposure with students here, said David Paulson, Gentile's Internet manager.

"It's a Generation Y vehicle (brand), and they want dealerships to do some grass-roots marketing. It's just a way to get out to the community," Paulson said.