I'm so honored to receive the Pitch's Mastermind Award this year! The full article is here.
Here's an excerpt:
For the sixth time, we're singling out four of Kc's cultural leaders. we think they look like classics.
Since the first MasterMinds, in 2006, The Pitch has given $20,000 to local artists. On April 2, four new MasterMind Award winners join a roll that includes some of Kansas City's most fascinating and dedicated cultural forces. Each new recipient picks up a check for $1,000 — no strings attached. If past winners are any indication, the talented people we've chosen this year will only get more interesting.
Each year, we ask our readers to nominate artists, innovators and entrepreneurs who are shaping the community through fashion and design, literature, visual art and performance. This isn't a popularity contest or a lifetime-achievement award; in fact, several of our MasterMind grants have gone to people who know what it's like to work with little recognition and less financial reward. With the MasterMinds, we set out to recognize deserving individuals or groups whose contributions have influenced the metro's cultural and creative landscape. It's our way of saying thanks — and encouraging the winners to keep surprising us.
When young designers, drunk on dreams of winning Project Runway, come to Sarah Nelsen for advice, she encourages them. But she also warns them against tunnel vision. "I tell them to continue their art classes — not just fashion or just design — because all of those other things feed into what you're going to do," she says.
She would know. Nelsen makes dresses and outfits that incorporate high-tech methods and sensual fabrics, but she also builds websites and marketing strategies. Cross-pollination is at the heart of her artistic process.
For last year's West 18th Street Fashion Show, Nelsen fused futurism and nature, accessorizing subtle animal-print and digitally printed fabrics with jewelry made from an old chandelier. Her illustrations for a Kansas City hotel's ad campaign blend muted earth tones, leafy patterns and tall buildings to suggest an urban Eden.
"I like patterns," she says. "And I like to try to translate 2-D to 3-D."
The striking, willowy Nelsen favors a starker look for herself. After a day of working on assignments for local ad agency Barkley, she shows up for an interview at a Crossroads restaurant wearing skintight, reptilian, black leggings beneath an oversized black-and-white shirtdress. With her close-cropped, black-dyed hair, the impossibly tall young woman resembles a prettier Karen O. "I traditionally dress in a lot of black," she says.
Attention to style comes naturally. Both Nelsen's mother and older sister work in the fashion field as retail-merchandise buyers. That's why Nelsen, who grew up in St. Louis, insisted on studying graphic design at the University of Kansas, even though she started modeling at 14. "I wanted to steer away from the family plan," she says.
Nevertheless, after moving from Lawrence to Kansas City in 2006 to work full time in graphic design, Nelsen found herself seeking a noncommercial outlet for her creativity. She started taking sewing and textile classes, and she swooned when she first saw fliers for the West 18th Street Fashion Show. Getting into the show led to costume work for popular local performance group Quixotic.
"That opened up my world of connections, just knowing other creatives out there," Nelsen says.
Because of her efforts and easy personality, she's getting a well-deserved reputation for being an ambitious and cooperative member of the artistic community. And her professional credibility matches her creative vision.