Arts & Entertainment

Somerville Artist Translates Passion for Sports and Sneakers into Smartphone Treasure Hunt

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A Stukes original from his personal collection, trimmed in camouflage and topped off with an American Flag. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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A Stukes original, a take-off on the nose of an WWII fighter plane. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Sneaker artist Jerome Stukes. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Jerome Stukes places the sneakers in plain view outside of the Somerville Library. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Jerome Stukes puts out a message online with clues to the whereabouts of the sneakers.
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Message instructs the person who finds the sneaker to contact Stukes for the matching sneaker. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Artist Jerome Stukes completes the winning pair of sneakers for Julian Gonzalez. He was a perfect match for the size 10 1/2 customized sneakers. Credits: Courtesy Jerome Stukes
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SOMERVILLE, NJ - A local artist has launched a truncated Smartphone version of “Pokemon Go” with a few pages added from “Where’s Waldo.”

It’s his online challenge to borough youngsters with clues to the whereabouts of a customized pair of sneakers.

The latest game comes on the heels of his first foray into “buried treasure.”

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Last week, he put one of his customized sneakers in the crotch of a tree in Mercer Park and sent out clues online.

These games require some sleuthing, street smarts and footwork.

 Artist Jerome Stukes posted these clues on Tuesday to help treasure hunters:

“Located at a place for kids where there is no playground,” and “it may ring a bell if you read into it.”

The sneaker was placed in plain view alongside the steps into the Somerville Public Library on West End Avenue. On the front lawn adjacent to borough hall next to the library is a firemen’s monument that includes a large cast bell.

Less than an hour later, Julian Gonzalez showed up on his bicycle to claim his prize. The size 10 ½ sneakers were a perfect fit.

Accompanied by his father, Jerome Gonzalez, they had first stopped at the Yestercades video arcade on Division Street and cycled throughout town before they narrowed down the location.

The winners of the online treasure hunt are instructed by a card inside the sneaker to contact Stukes so that they can receive the second sneaker.

Stukes, 38, a borough resident and 1997 graduate of Somerville High School, had some formal art training, but is mostly self-taught; his medium is a reflection of several passions, he explains.

“I’m a sports fanatic myself; an arts fanatic, a sneakers fanatic and now I have the ability to combine all three,” he explained.

He promises more games and more sneakers hidden around town at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

He likes the idea of giving back to the community, especially kids whose families may not be able to afford the high-priced sneakers.

“I want to be charitable with it, do what I can for the kids,” he said.

He’s also thinking about offering apprenticeships to young, aspiring sneaker artists which would enable him to increase production and expand his product line.

Stukes started out creating customized, abstract footwear for himself, and began to market his specialty sneakers online about two years ago.

His handiwork is featured online at www.instagram.com/sbdkustoms/ where he has over 1,500 followers and hundreds of satisfied customers.

He’s created two pairs of custom-designed sneakers for a member of the Hip Hop group Naughty by Nature, and a pair of spikes for Shamarko Thomas, a special team player for the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I’m not an athlete, but I can make them look good,” he said.

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