Nicollet Lanterns Alight!

Nicollet Lanterns, a series of magical illuminated sculptures by Blessing Hancock, was suspended between 6th and 8th Streets last week. Twelve spherical forms measuring four-feet in diameter, each has a unique design featuring the text of a poem by a Minneapolis writer. Moheb Soliman, Junauda Petrus, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta) and Sagirah Shahid have each created three approximately 100-word poems especially for the lanterns. The poems celebrate each poet’s perspective, viewpoint and voice and speak to the city’s diversity.

Nicollet Mall Lantern unwrapped

Like an unwrapped gift, one of the Nicollet Lanterns awaits assembly and installation on the Mall.

Lines of poetry run horizontally around the globes and present an ever-changing visual experience. When viewed from different angles, new associations are created between words, and new meanings revealed.

Here are four original poems, in full; one by each artist, shown with the corresponding lantern.

Moheb Soliman

Nicollet Lanterns


Spring & trees
are X’ed in neon green
leaf tips luminescent with growing pains
budding in vain
in acute blight
Making do
Winter & trees
hang by their feet
in colored light
We all do
We’re going through a perennial time
dark & white
but we don’t wanna lie down
& make angels no more
what we do’s endure
Till summer trees
it’ll be a green light
jammed & bright
monotonous leaves
Can’t help but see the world in a colored light eh
when you want it all see-through
and you wanna be seen through
like when I say my skin is light
I mean you can read by me
I’m saying turn me on at night
Saying stop holding me in your prism
I mean I bruise easy blush easy love easy burn easy turn easy pass easy
Life the fall of trees
I’m the brown fluorescence

– Moheb Soliman     © 2016


Junauda Petrus

Nicollet Lanterns

Ancestorsong for the Brokenhearted Warriors

Baby. Love. Child
Luminous in your blood is hurricane survivals
Moonlit childbirths with shackled feet. Back. whip. lash. in you.
Men who know bush magic
Women who summon souls to this realm
And release souls from it
Your soul knows other rivers
This experiment
Obscure your soul in this machine
They will
Whisper you ghost in your own face
You as
Where they do dat at?
You see
We transcended the science. Long time.
They no know we
In us
Sweetness is here
Kissing all things. Broken or confused
You are safe. Universal. Limitless. Sacred.
Sensual. Divine. Free.

– Junauda Petrus        © 2016


R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta)

Nicollet Lanterns

As They Hurl Themselves Downtown To Shine Bold Beautiful Lights

Can you hear our youth?

They yell and chant while their voices
and hearts echo off the concrete veins
and this very mall. These young and bright
visionaries unite with hands up, arms
outstretched against newest tide of orange
flavored hate.

As we saw them clearing the streets
on The Ave, a wave of pride washes
over me for my high school and its current excellence as they hurl themselves
downtown to shine bold beautiful lights
at tyranny and deceit while their just birthed
fires boil ten thousand lakes.

Now is your time to stand as a beacon
of solidarity for our future’s present.

Will you?

– R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta)       © 2016


Sagirah Shahid

Nicollet Lanterns

Peace be upon you

As-Salamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah

Body, be a peephole
into where I live
how I live.

Surveillance is only
an answer to questions you wanted to find   people you refuse to see.

My skin is this nation’s consciousness
reminding on some level
we never wanted to be here   fattening up blood-soaked
pocketbooks –

But what’s the plight of a slave if not to make due? Dua for the unborn and bulletless.

What’s the difference between a bird’s nest
and potted roots yanked free?

In this nice climate
I can’t wait for you to notice

my life is fear and muffled survivals.

– Sagirah Shahid        © 2016


Eight other poems may be read here along with profiles of writers Junauda Petrus, Sagirah Shahid and Moheb Soliman. A profile of R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta) is coming soon.

Nicollet Lanterns Installation

November 6 – 9, 2017

Nicollet Lanterns installation

Nicollet Lanterns installation

Blessing Hancock watching Nicollet Lanterns installation

Artist Blessing Hancock oversees installation by skilled fabricators and installers from Gizmo Art Production.

Nicollet Lanterns installation

Lantern’s interior contains LEDs that provide programmable multi-colored illumination.

Nicollet Lanterns Fabrication

September – October, 2017

Nicollet Lanterns installation

Nicollet Lanterns at the studio of Gizmo Art Production in San Francisco, CA during the final stages of fabrication, assembly and testing.

Nicollet Lanterns installation

Blessing Hancock’s Nicollet Lanterns detail

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.