Nicollet Lanterns by Blessing Hancock to Grace Nicollet Mall

Illuminated mock-up of stainless steel lantern by Blessing Hancock

Rendering (left) by James Corner Field Operations showed a series of lighted globes. Illuminated mock-up of stainless steel lantern form by Blessing Hancock (right) features cut-out text of original poems by Minneapolis writers.

It’s as if James Corner Field Operations was channeling artist Blessing Hancock’s work when the landscape architecture firm produced a conceptual illustration for the west side of Nicollet Mall between 6th and 8th Streets. The firm’s rendering showed a series of textured, lighted globes lining the street, peeking out among the tree foliage. The globes signaled an opportunity for public art that could parallel the Light Walk they had designed for the street’s east side.

Hancock’s work is well-known and may have provided the inspiration, but what makes her Nicollet Lanterns personal and unique to the Mall are the powerful contemporary poems by local poets that will activate their surfaces.

Hancock was chosen by the Artist Selection Committee after a nationwide open call. Engaging the community is frequently part of her working process and in her application and interview, Hancock emphasized her enthusiasm for working with local writers to develop text especially for the lanterns.

Through Coffee House Press and the Loft Literary Center who assisted with the project, she invited local emerging poets and prose writers to create original works of writing.

Applications were encouraged from writers:

  • who take risks and embrace challenges
  • whose developing voices reveal significant potential
  • who are rigorous in their approach to creation and production
  • who have some evidence of professional achievement but not a substantial record of accomplishment; writers who had not been previously published were also eligible to apply.

Writers responded to the theme “Nicollet Illumination” which Hancock conceived to include four concepts: Spark, Glimmer, Shine; Speed, Momentum, Change; Knowledge, Insight, Expertise; and Culture, Enrichment, Distinction.

Photo of artist Blessing Hancock (on right) with writers Junauda Petrus, Moheb Soliman, Sagirah Shahid and Vincent Moniz Jr.

Artist Blessing Hancock (on right) with writers Junauda Petrus, Moheb Soliman, Sagirah Shahid and R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta).  Photo: Regina Flanagan.

Junauda Petrus, Moheb Soliman, Sagirah Shahid and R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta), all of Minneapolis, were selected from a pool of 83 applicants based upon the quality of samples of past work and their potential ability to develop written works for the lanterns. They were among eight writers who participated in interviews with Hancock to determine their compatibility with the artist, and potential for working on this collaborative project.

The writers were challenged to create three approximately 100-word poems or micro-prose pieces to incorporate into the lantern forms. The final text is being cut into a multi-faceted spherical shape like a sectioned-orange four-feet in diameter. The words are readable in short phrases or fragments, and the form itself sets up interesting juxtapositions of text and meaning.

Hancock says, “Nicollet Lanterns speaks to the city’s diversity and is a true collaboration between interdisciplinary fields. Giving local poets a voice in the artwork helps celebrate new perspectives and viewpoints within the downtown Minneapolis environment.”

To read about the design of the lanterns and learn more about the young writers and the poems, click here.

Ned Kahn is Creating Prairie Tree: Iconic Work for Nicollet Mall

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Blog posts over the next six weeks will feature design proposals by three artists who are creating new works especially for Nicollet Mall: Ned Kahn, Blessing Hancock and Tristan Al-Haddad. The designs will be introduced here in the blog and then you may follow them on the Artist’s Process pages where I’ll be posting updates including studio visits, conversations with the artists, photographs and videos as they work through the details of fabricating and installing their works.
– Regina Flanagan

Ned Kahn Creating Prairie Tree Iconic Work Nicollet Mall

I call these artworks “registers” for they reveal the effects of the invisible. –Ned Kahn

Ned Kahn has designed an iconic artwork, Prairie Tree, to be installed before the end of the year on Nicollet Mall between 10th and 11th Streets on the east side of Nicollet in front of WCCO.

Ned describes Prairie Tree:

For the past 20 years, I have created large-scale public artworks that increase people’s awareness of natural phenomena. Using materials such as water, wind, fog and light, I create contemplative oases in urban environments – places where people can reconnect with the larger forces of nature. Blurring the boundaries between art, science, architecture and nature fascinates me.

In recent years, I completed a series of artworks that reveal invisible forces in their sites by converting natural flow patterns such as wind into the pixelated motion of many small parts. I call these artworks “registers” for they reveal the effects of the invisible. The normally unseen patterns of the wind are complex and entrancing. The psychological effect is similar to watching a fire, waves on a lake, or tall grasses swaying in the wind.

Most of my previous installations have been integrated into the vertical facades of buildings. For Nicollet Mall, I am inspired by the idea of a horizontal plane that would reveal the invisible air. Prairie Tree is intended to suggest a hybrid between a tree and a field of prairie grasses. The upper surface of the artwork will be covered with a dense array of anodized aluminum vanes to register the changing conditions of the wind and sky. The thousands of wind-animated elements will reflect light and sky in a manner similar to the surface of a lake, or a field of tall grasses. Sunlight passing through the reflective array will cast intricate patterns of moving light and shadow onto the ground, filling the immediate environment with a relaxing undulating light.

The movement of the vanes will be similar to a tensioned-cable artwork I created for a rooftop garden at a school in Santa Monica. See video.

Read more about Prairie Tree’s technical and structural details and the considerations that go into creating public art on Ned’s Artist’s Process page.