Aquinas alumna brings ArtPrize winning “String Project” to the AMC


Story by Zach Avery, Reporter
Photos courtesy of Zach Avery

The Art and Music Center has seen some truly impressive works in its gallery over the years, but none have had an impact quite like “The String Project”. This collection of unique travel photos first appeared in the ArtPrize competition of 2018, where it was voted by the public to claim the $200,000 grand prize. Since its victory last year, “The String Project” has continued on and traveled to many different galleries. Most recently, “The String Project” collaborated with the Battle Creek Community Foundation, as well as a special presentation at Kennesaw State University in Kentucky. 

Chelsea Nix, the creator of “The String Project,” alongside her husband Mariano Cortez, is a graduate of Aquinas College, and she couldn’t be happier with getting to show her work back on the campus where she first started. Nix specializes in travel photography, and her work has been published by National Geographic. She was even named the International Travel Photographer of the Year in 2017. 

1-1.jpgEvery photograph that is a part of “The String Project” collection shows an individual or small group holding onto a piece of a long string that continues through every picture. The string is described as a “visible representation symbolizing an invisible connection”. It shows many parts of the world that people from around here might normally never see, and the string explains that there is a tether between us and everyone else who shares our planet. 

1-2.jpgGallery Director Dana Freeman is incredibly proud that her gallery at the Art and Music Center is able to showcase “The String Project.” Through her twenty years as the acting director, Freeman has seen a lot of impressive exhibits, but “The String Project” sticks out. With Chelsea Nix being an Aquinas graduate, the presence of her work on campus has been very special. The exhibit has been in preparation since its reveal at last year’s ArtPrize. Freeman had talked with Nix about getting the photo collection to the AMC for an exhibit even before it was named the grand prize winner of ArtPrize 2018.

Freeman explained her interest in the collection by articulating that the pictures show how connected we all really are. While some say “The String Project” is idealistic, she points out that Nix and her group have done some really good work alongside their artwork, most notably being the establishment of a soup kitchen for underfed citizens in Guatemala.

The community response to The String Project has been immensely positive. Many people who have come to see the exhibit even knew Nix from school, with most of them exploring the collection during Homecoming. Over sixty-five people came to a lecture given by Chelsea Nix, explaining her work process and the details of her collection.

Looking ahead towards the rest of the year, Freeman is very excited about the upcoming exhibits that Aquinas students will get to experience. Up next are the student works done in Freeman’s “New Forms” class. For this exhibit, students have begun their work focusing on a central idea or theme, and for every subsequent piece, they have further expanded upon that same central topic. However, none of the pieces they’ve created have been done through the drawing or painting medium. This has allowed for some truly creative and unique entries that will surely surprise visitors to the New Forms exhibit, which will be presented November 18 through December 6.

If you’d like to stay up to date on what the AMC Gallery has to offer throughout this school year, then you can check out their Facebook page (@AQArtandMusicCenter) and their Instagram page (@ArtAtAQ). The String Project exhibit will be open in the AMC until October 25.

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