Rainbow Cats and Fueling the Future: Student’s Design Chosen for Merge4 Sock Art Competition

Recently, Mount Madonna School (MMS) senior Liana Kitchel learned that one of her original designs – depicting vibrant rainbow cats – was the top vote-getter in Santa Cruz-based sock company Merge4’s national Fuel the Future High School Art Contest and will be featured on a pair of their eye-catching socks.

“We received 52 entries for our inaugural Fuel the Future Contest this year,” said Haley (Turner) Wilson, Merge4 marketing manager. Wilson is a 2010 MMS alumna. “Our design team chose eight finalist designs from the entries we received, based on suitability for sock production – designs that were not too finely detailed, followed the contest guidelines, and that were clear enough to work on a sock. From there, we let the public decide and held two rounds of voting through our Instagram stories. It was a tight race, but ultimately Liana’s design won over our Instagram followers – who doesn’t love rainbow cats?! Liana’s cat design will be featured in our 2022 Back-to-School Line, which will be released in mid-August 2022.”

Kitchel, a prolific artist, said all of the designs she entered were drawn specifically for the competition, and included skateboarding frogs and tree-climbing newts.

“One of my dreams since I was young was to design a sock; it’s random I know, but when I heard about the competition, I knew I wanted to enter,” said Kitchel. “I loved each of the designs I submitted, although the frogs were my favorite, along with newts. I’m glad that a percentage of the money earned from the socks will go to Mount Madonna’s visual arts program. Performing arts receives a lot of attention at MMS, and while I appreciate performing arts, I feel we also need more opportunities for visual arts, and would love new classes such as ceramics. I also very much appreciate Angela Willetts as an art teacher, and think she deserves more to work with. I am hoping that money donated from the sock sales might help her with future art classes.”

Merge4 Founder and CEO Cindi Busenhart described her company’s commitment to community.

“As a B Corporation, we strive to incorporate a ‘give back’ element whenever possible – from our collaborative sock designs with nonprofits, to hosting events that support causes we care about, to donating socks during times of need like the CZU Lightning Complex fires,” commented Busenhart.  “We titled our contest Fuel the Future, because we wanted it to do just that – fuel the next generation of artists, both in giving young artists a platform for their passions, as well as providing monetary support to high school visual arts through the finished product.”

The power of the vote doesn’t hurt, either.

“We are super excited,” added Busenhart, “about Liana getting the winning votes from our 37.4K Instagram followers!”


Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.