"Inclusiva" by Blessing Hancock, day view (Submitted photo)

Coming to Evanston in June – a large, new abstract piece of public art, called “Inclusiva,” will be installed on the east side of the new Robert Crown Center, just north of the main entrance. Commissioned by the City and managed by Woodhouse Tinucci Architects, the building’s designers, the stainless steel sculpture will stand some 12 feet high and reach 25 feet in diameter with a large, open center.

“Inclusivia” at night (Submitted rendering)

Words laser-cut into the satin-finished surface will describe Evanston to all who visit Crown. At night, the free-flowing, organic shape will be illuminated from within with lights of changing color. The sculpture will be big enough for several people to gather in or to walk through, allowing for group selfies as well as close inspection of the words and phrases – all chosen from submissions by Evanstonians themselves.

The sculpture is the work of artist Blessing Hancock, from Maui, Hi.

The Process

The City of Evanston states on its website that Evanston believes “public art connects us emotionally and socially to our neighborhoods and each other. We encourage art that adds to the aesthetics of our community and that embodies inclusion, engagement and interaction.”  

A City ordinance, modeled after one in Chicago, allows up to 1% of the cost of any public building estimated at more than $1,000,000 to be spent on public art. The City issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Qualifications (RFQ) – often through CaFÉ (CallForEntry.org) – and interested artists from all over the country are invited to submit their résumés, ideas, and proposals. All submissions must meet the budgetary and environmental strictures of the project described.

The process of commissioning a piece does not guarantee the selection of a local artist. For example, “Stitch,” the sculpture at the junction of Green Bay Road, Ridge Avenue and Emerson Street, is the creation of an Australian artist.

For the Crown commission, the City received 261 such submissions.

The Selection Committee

A committee of six, composed of the Woodhouse Tinucci architect, the City Engineer, the City’s Robert Crown Project Manager, two members of the Arts Council, and a representative from Friends of Robert Crown (the last three appointed by Evanston’s former Cultural Arts Coordinator) narrowed the field to five finalists. Each finalist received a $2000 honorarium to prepare and submit a detailed proposal. 

Each finalist then gave a presentation to the committee via web conference or in person. The selection committee followed with a recommendation to the Evanston Arts Council, the Arts Council concurred with the choice, and negotiations began with the chosen artist.

Community Involvement

Community input or collaboration is often a requirement of a public commission. An artist must submit a written proposal of how he or she will incorporate community input.

The principle behind community involvement is that it not only makes the art particularto the community, but it also speaks to transparency and equity, which are major goals in Evanston. The process also lets community members enjoy their own participation, taking some pride of ownership in the finished artwork. The title of the sculpture embraces that concept.

Ms. Hancock appeared before the Arts Council several times by video conferencing to discuss her proposal.

After her work was chosen, she made several trips to Evanston, appearing at the Public Library and the former Crown Center to show her plans, encourage support, and “gather words” from the invited public. She requested words people felt described Evanston that might be incorporated into the sculpture. Hundreds of words and phrases were submitted, most coming from seasoned residents, some from children who could barely see her tabletop display, and a few from newcomers to the area.

Beth Adler, who was Chair of the Evanston Arts Council (2018-2020) and also on the selection committee, said, “The selection committee and the Arts Council worked to ensure that the artwork chosen would reflect the values of our community. The sculpture, sitting prominently next to the main entrance of the new recreation center, will draw people in and provide a focal point to welcome all those who enter.”


Although the RFP indicated the budget for the artwork would be $400,000, it neglected to specify that $75,000 of that would go for other costs – $10,000 for the five honoraria and $65,000 to WTA as project manager.

Because of this, the committee lost its first choice of an artist who was willing to negotiate his price downward, but not down to $325,000. The next two finalists were then considered, one whose proposal called for art inset into the poured terrazzo flooring.

In making the ultimate choice for Ms. Hancock, the Arts Council felt that her piece, which is not dissimilar to the very first, would be strong, appropriate on all counts, and much enjoyed by the public.

Fabrication of “Inclusiva” is taking place at Art Research Enterprises in Lancaster, Pa. Sending plans out for fabrication, even to different countries, is fairly common practice for artists who create large-scale works these days.

COVID-19-related delays pushed the installation date from last fall to June 29, Ms. Hancock said. In addition to delays in receiving materials and tooling, the company experienced the continued quarantine of its own employees and subcontractors’ employees. Pennsylvania experienced state-wide mandatory shutdowns, and pandemic restrictions affected the work on many levels.

And, at one point, Ms. Hancock said, the fabricators made some error in dimensions, which created the need to tear down and completely rebuild the sculpture’s central structure.

The Artist

Blessing Hancock in her studio (Submitted photo)

Blessing Hancock is a soft-spoken, unassuming woman whose age belies her experience in the field of public art. With a BFA in Sculpture and an MLA in Landscape Architecture, she is the owner of Skyrim Studio, formerly in Tucson, Ariz., now in Maui, Hi., where she focuses on site-specific sculpture.

Gay Riseborough is an artist, born and raised in Evanston. In May, she retired from the Evanston Arts Council, where she was Chair of Public Art.


Gay Riseborough

Gay Riseborough is an artist, has served the City of Evanston for 11 years on arts committees, and is now an arts writer at the Evanston RoundTable.

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