ArtPrize 2018 voters pick
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — ArtPrize 10 voters chose “The STRING PROJECT” by Chelsea Nix and Mariano Cortez, a married couple who splits their time between world travel and wedding photography, as the winner of the international art competition’s $200,000 grand prize.
The entry, located at DeVos Place Convention Center, features a series of photos of people throughout the world, all of whom are holding the same piece of string. That string, Nix and Cortez say, is “a visible representation symbolizing an invisible connection,” and is designed to show humanity’s shared connection.
“To see people’s reaction was the best part,” Cortez said, describing his experience at ArtPrize. “To see people crying, to see people smiling, to see people asking for a hug, people dropping us breakfast, coffee, people we didn’t even know … it was a beautiful experience.”
The couple wrote on the ArtPrize website that the string represents a connection that cannot be seen with the naked eye. They took photos of people at five continents, in locations as remote as Nepal, where they took a 10 hour bus ride to photograph their subject.
“The project is a reminder that highlights some of the most valuable things in life: respect, hope, peace, compassion, love, empathy, integrity…authentic and genuine interactions that humans crave,” the couple, who began working on the entry in January in Guatemala, said in their online description of the project.
Jori Bennett, ArtPrize’s executive director, called “THE STRING PROJECT” a “visual representation of hope, empathy and connection.”
See the ArtPrize Final 20 public vote finalists
“The string that runs through each portrait underscores that our similarities are greater than our differences, and what unites us is stronger than what divides us,” she said.
Nix, a native of Indiana, met her husband, Cortez, who is 33 and originally from Argentina, while volunteering in India in 2014. The couple has no fixed address, and splits their time between traveling and working as wedding photographers. Their work has been published in National Geographic, and received “the International Travel Photographer of the Year 2017.”
“We don’t have a home, we don’t own a car or anything, even these clothes today are borrowed,” said Nix, 31. “We have a couple bags, we have our camera, and we have a string.”
The couple also runs Project Simple, a nonprofit in Guatemala that provides free meals and water to those in need. They previously entered ArtPrize in 2017 and 2012.
THE STRING PROJECT was up against more than 1,200 entries created by artists from the United States and abroad. A total of 32,613 visitors signed up to vote in ArtPrize, now in its 10th year, casting a total of 253,161 votes during two rounds of voting.
The final round of voting closed at midnight Thursday.
Moving forward, the couple says they will take the project to other locations, with plans to photograph people in Cuba and South America.
“We hope to keep sharing and showing and talking,” Nix said. Later, she added: “Now we are able to sustain our dreams that we have only wrote in our journals.”