Notre Dame Crucifix Initiative announces winners of inaugural student art competition

Through a campus-wide contest, the University of Notre Dame’s Crucifix Initiative has selected two original pieces by student artists to add to its permanent collection. The winning artworks by seniors K. Mae Harkins and Elijah Mustillo will be displayed in classrooms in O’Shaughnessy Hall, where they will inspire Notre Dame students for years to come.

Launched in 2019, the Crucifix Initiative seeks to reinforce the universalism of Catholicism and the internationalism of Notre Dame through an expanding collection of crucifixes from artists around the world, including unique pieces from Australia, Japan, Peru, Ukraine, Angola, Ireland, Germany, and more.

"From its beginning, the Notre Dame Crucifix Initiative has had three goals,” said founding director Mark Roche, Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Professor of German Language and Literature. “First, to underscore the deep connections between Catholicism and the arts; second, to accentuate the internationalism and diversity of the Catholic Church, thereby enhancing the welcoming environment of Notre Dame, and third, to reinforce the links between Catholicism and student research, which in the arts involve creative work. We are delighted that as a result of this competition we have begun to fulfill this third goal."

Rev. Austin Collins, C.S.C., vice president for mission engagement and church affairs and a professor of studio art, said the selection committee was impressed with the artistry and diversity of the contest entries from undergraduate and graduate students across the University.

“All of the submissions were of high quality, and the artist statements were thoughtful and engaging,” Collins said. “I think we are off to a great start in this annual competition. I want to thank all who contributed and submitted artwork. I also want to thank the jurors for their careful consideration.”

Among many outstanding submissions, a ceramic piece by Harkins, a studio art and Spanish major, was selected as the inaugural winner for its creativity, skill, and attention to detail. “We appreciated the creative moments, including the African colors and the gesture to the Harlem Renaissance; the integration of a contemporary moment; and the subtle references to the Irish, with the green and orange and the nod to a shamrock,” the selection committee wrote.

Mustillo, a Program of Liberal Studies major, was selected as runner-up for his linocut block print accented with gold and the phrase “Jesus wept” in red lettering. The judges called the artwork “deeply thoughtful and very well crafted,” noting that they were particularly impressed by the work’s emphasis on grief and its portrayal of the dialectical nature of Christ.

Both students will receive a monetary prize and their crucifixes will be installed in classrooms in O’Shaughnessy Hall and added to the Crucifix Initiative’s website,

The Initiative plans to hold a similar competition in the coming academic year. “I encourage any students who are interested to submit artwork next year," Collins said. Click here to sign up for reminders about the 2025 contest.


Originally published by Kate Garry at on April 02, 2024.