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.

Introducing the Nicollet Mall
Public Artists

Photo of Ned Kahn's piece, The Wave, installed at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis

The Wave, Target Field, Minneapolis. Ned Kahn

NED KAHN

The mystery of this strange world we live in—we get used to it. We stop realizing how amazing it is, because it becomes commonplace. What can I do as an artist that can gently pop people out of that state of mind and get them to see differently or clearly, even just for an instant? – interview with Arlene Goldbard, 2011.

If you’ve taken in a Twins game at Target Field, chances are you’ve seen and experienced one of Ned’s works. The Wave effectively disguises a parking garage, and forms an animated backdrop for the entry plaza to the ballpark. Comprised of thousands of counter-weighted stainless steel flaps or vanes that undulate and shimmer with the slightest breeze, reflect the sky during the day and programmed colored lighting at night, the work needs no explanation – rather, we perceive it with our senses and appreciate the quietly festive ambiance it lends to the space.

Ned holds a degree in environmental science and began his career as an artist when he apprenticed to scientist Frank Oppenheimer at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco. He went on to serve 17 years in the Exploratorium’s famous artist-in-residence program; one of the nation’s earliest, started in 1974. He created interactive sculptures inspired by atmospheric physics, geology, astronomy and fluid motion that enabled visitors to observe and interact with these phenomena.

Many recent artworks reveal the way patterns emerge when things flow while activated by the forces of wind, water or light. Ned views these works as crude scientific “sensors” which reveal some invisible or unnoticed phenomena – capturing the mysteriousness of the world around us. He is fascinated with the idea of an artwork becoming a scientific instrument, a register of phenomena, and with blurring the boundaries between art, architecture, science and nature.[1]

Ned presents his work both in scientific settings and in art contexts. His work may be interpreted as educational, as scientific demonstrations, or as aesthetic objects. Asked whether his work is more science or art, he says, “…they’re definitely not scientific experiments, because they’re often much more uncontrolled and complicated… On the other hand, they’re not really artworks in the traditional sense… In the things that I make, even though I’ve created the physical structure, it’s really not me that’s doing the sculpting.”[2]

He maintains a studio with five other artists in Santa Rosa, California and is in the process of designing a large scale, iconic art piece especially for Nicollet Mall. Check Artist’s Process for periodic updates to see Ned’s drawings and models, as they evolve.

To learn more about Ned’s past work and its influences, inspirations and intentions read here

<em>Stealth,</em> Atlanta, Georgia. Tristan Al-Haddad

Stealth, Atlanta, Georgia. Tristan Al-Haddad

TRISTAN AL-HADDAD

Tristan is an architect and visual artist who creates monolithic sculptural forms whose function is not so much to be the centerpiece of a space, but to create a place – their physical scale invites people to pass through them, sit on them, interact with them. The geometric forms shape-shift when viewed from different angles, and from close-up and farther away. He says that his work is, “really about an experiential condition. It’s about the body’s existence in space, and how it makes you feel.”[3]

Finding the right materials to create sculptural forms preoccupies Tristan. To create a sinuous cantilevered portal sculpture for downtown Atlanta, Georgia, he worked with chemists for two years to devise a special mix that was both high-strength and able to flow and compact well, enabling a reinforced concrete structure without a steel skeleton – a very daring and innovative structure.

Tristan’s attention to materials impressed contractor Jason Adams who built the artwork. He has collaborated with architects on many large-scale commercial construction projects and says that most architects will draw something really great, then just throw it in the contractor’s lap – ‘Okay… now build it.’ Tristan is the only architect Jason had ever met who wanted to be a part of every process and he found Tristan’s deep understanding of materials and construction really exceptional.[4]

Formations Studio, Tristan’s creative practice in Atlanta, Georgia, features collaborators across many art and design disciplines, and from a diversity of cultural backgrounds. The studio’s work is focused on projects from the intimate scale of furniture and small objects, to large-scale sculptural environments and architecture. Tristan is an Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Architecture where he is a research faculty member in the Digital Building Laboratory and the Digital Fabrication Laboratory.

Tristan is designing an engaging monumental form, a key feature on the Mall, to animate the entrance to Central Library. Visit here for periodic updates including models, drawings and animations by the artist.

To learn more about Tristan’s past work and his experiments with new materials read here

<em>Ballroom Luminoso,</em> San Antonio, Texas. Blessing Hancock

Ballroom Luminoso, San Antonio, Texas. Blessing Hancock

BLESSING HANCOCK

Blessing’s work invites you to enter into a relationship. She creates site- and place-specific sculptures that may change color in response to your touch, a sound, or even your heartbeat. You may be able to sit within it, joined by your friends. It glows at night, pulsing with color, or its luminous, translucent forms read against the sky and clouds during the day. Light is the connective thread that runs through her work, and she believes in its ability to enliven a space.

Participation begins during design and continues through the completed artwork; community engagement is an essential part of her working process. Whether supplying sparks during conceptual design that help the artist define the overall direction for the piece, or animating the work once installed through interaction with it – the public plays a key role.

Blessing is creating twelve lighting elements as part of Nicollet Mall’s “light walk” between Sixth and Eighth Streets. Four local emerging writers are working with her: R. Vincent Moniz; Junauda Petrus; Moheb Soliman; and Sagirah Shahid, all of Minneapolis. They will create unique short poems inspired by the Mall and reflecting present-day life in Minneapolis for text to be cut out of the spherical lighting forms.

Inspiration for the Nicollet Mall work comes from Blessing’s Ballroom Luminoso created for an underpass in San Antonio, Texas. A series of six brilliantly lit, color-changing chandeliers constructed of recycled bicycle parts, each sculpture contains a custom-designed LED light fixture which casts sharply detailed overlapping shadows. The piece transforms a forgotten space into one that connects the community and in 2013, won SXSW Eco’s Place by Design “Transformative Design Award”.

This will be Blessing’s second work in Minnesota – her first, commissioned through the State’s Art in Public Places program, is at North Hennepin Community College’s Bioscience and Health Careers Center in Brooklyn Park. Affinities incorporates patterns of science and new technology into contemporary art. The interactive wall sculpture has a surface pattern generated by computational geometries found in both biological and chemical processes. Moveable translucent resin panels enable the public to construct their own connections between educational disciplines within a network of associations; the artwork establishes a formal learning environment that changes with its users.

To learn more about Blessing’s background and studio read here

 

[1] Anna Makulska, University of Derby, UK. Unpublished interview.
[2] Greenwald, Jeff. “Forces of Nature”, New Scientist, 16 October 1999 (No. 2208).
[3] O’Neil, Gail. “Tristan Al-Haddad’s shape-shifting sculpture “Stealth” enlivens Midtown stretch.” ArtsATL online at:  http://www.artsatl.com/2015/10/stealth/  Visited October 6, 2015.
[4] Ibid., O’Neil. Quote from Jason Adams, Sinclair Construction Group.