Courthouse Square Public Art
"Unum" by Blessing Hancock
"Unum" by Blessing Hancock was installed in Courthouse Square in January 2023 and dedicated at a community celebration with the artist, City of Santa Rosa officials and staff on January 26.
"Unum", Latin for 'oneness or together' places emphasis on innovation, diversity, and engagement as leading values of Santa Rosa and was approved by the Art in Public Places Committee in December 2020 after an extensive selection process. Inspired by the unified Old Courthouse Square, "Unum" is an illuminated, volumetric enclosure of light and language that serves as an icon for the Square, a community hub within the city. Blessing's artistic design created a signature, multi-sensory (light, shadow, color) artwork with different daytime and dusk-to-dark experiences. The sculpture highlights the area's unique location and ties to the local ecosystem and culture. The surface pattern represents the community's aspirations, through text collected during public outreach opportunities.
About Blessing Hancock
Blessing Hancock is a Tucson, Ariz., artist who focuses on site specific sculpture, using light to invigorate and enliven spaces and providing opportunities for people to engage through sight, touch and movement. She has years of experience installing and creating innovate public spaces in Calgary, Denver, Portland, San Antonio, Orland, and Palo Alto, among others, and has extensive experience working with city agencies. Community engagement is an essential component of Blessing's work, and often works with community groups.
Photo Credit: AJ Reilly
|Photo Credit: AJ Reilly
UNUM PROJECT DETAILS
Selection of Words
Beginning in late Spring and through Summer 2021, a community engagement campaign was launched to solicit words to be included on the artwork. Informed and guided by a Community Advisory Group representing diverse community organizations, the engagement opportunity was presented through a survey available online and in-person. A youth engagement activity was also facilitated through summer camp programs. The survey questions were drawn from the original project goals of providing the community with a prominent artistic symbol that reflects the Santa Rosa values of innovation and cultural inclusivity, and that is forward-thinking and expresses the innovation, diversity, and engagement of the community. Approximately 400 total responses were collected, and the words appearing most often in the responses were selected:
Selection of Languages
The Community Advisory Group considered the most common languages spoken in Santa Rosa today for the recommended translation of the selected words. The following list of current languages spoken in Santa Rosa was identified through data from the US Census Bureau. A data-driven process was used to equitably represent Santa Rosa’s current residents, though it is acknowledged that the list is not inclusive of all languages found in Santa Rosa. They are, however, as indicated by the data, the 30 most common and therefore selected for the project:
|Chinese (incl. Mandarin, Cantonese)
|Tagalog (incl. Filipino)
|Ilocano, Samoan, Hawaiian
|Persian (incl. Farsi, Dari)
In addition, the Community Advisory group recommended including Southern Pomo and Coast Miwok to acknowledge and respect the Southern Pomo and Miwok land and existing communities in Santa Rosa.
Blessing Hancock's Proposal "Unum" Approved
After an extensive selection process that narrowed down over 140 submission to five finalists, one artist has been approved by the Art in Public Places Committee. Blessing Hancock’s design “Unum” was identified by the project Selection Panel as the top proposal and best satisfied the goals of the project.
The Public Art Program received an unprecedented number of submissions from artists across the country for the permanent Courthouse Square public art project. Five finalists were identified through a competitive selection process and invited to submit designs. The goal of this completed project is to provide the entire Santa Rosa community with a prominent artistic symbol that reflects the uniquely Santa Rosa values of innovation and cultural inclusivity. This art installation should inspire people living in, and visiting, our city to reflect on what is special about our community and encourage them to gather downtown to experience it first-hand. The development of the project included community engagement with stakeholders and surveys for general public input to help shape project goals and selection criteria.
REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS- FINALISTS
The City of Santa Rosa Public Art Program issued a Request for Qualifications seeking an artist or team of artists to design, fabricate and install site-specific public art at the north end of Old Courthouse Square which is the terminus of Mendocino Avenue in Downtown Santa Rosa, CA. The deadline to submit qualifications was January 13, 2020. The Public Art Program received over 140 submissions from artists across the country. A selection panel was formed representing arts professionals, downtown business and property owners, downtown residents, and the Art in Public Places Committee. The selection process ultimately identified these five finalists who were invited to submit project proposals:
This public art opportunity is for an artist or team of artists to design, fabricate and install site-specific public art at the terminus of Mendocino Avenue at the north end of Old Courthouse Square in Downtown Santa Rosa, CA.
The goal of this completed project is to provide the entire Santa Rosa community with a prominent artistic symbol that reflects the uniquely Santa Rosa values of innovation and cultural inclusivity. This art installation should inspire people living in, and visiting, our city to reflect on what is special about our community and encourage them to gather downtown to experience it first-hand.
The artist or artist team selected for this project will create a dynamic public art installation that contributes to a vital, thriving space to connect with each other and with the space. The public art should be forward-thinking and express the innovation, diversity, and engagement of the community. The public art should help create a sense of place for Old Courthouse Square. To read the Request for Qualifications, click HERE.
Old Courthouse Square is a central public plaza in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. The approved Old Courthouse Square Master Plan identifies an area along 4th Street, at the terminus of Mendocino Avenue, to be dedicated to public art. The square is seen by many as the heart of the downtown and even of the city and is regularly used for a variety of special events and community gatherings. The public art installation should take into account the existing and proposed future amenities at the square, including landscaping, hardscape, lighting and public art.
This commission is open to practicing, professional artists residing in the United States.
The total available funding for the project is $280,000 (all inclusive – design and construction) and comes from the City of Santa Rosa Public Art Fund.
ESTIMATED TIMELINE - UPDATED 10/20/22 (subject to change)
|Through October 2022
|October - December 2022
|Dec 2022 - January 2023
|January 26, 2023 5-6pm
ARTIST SELECTION PROCESS
Applications will be prescreened by the Arts Coordinator and then presented to the selection panel. The selection panel will identify and recommend three finalist artists based on the project selection criteria. The finalists will be invited to submit a specific proposal for which they will be paid an honorarium. All finalists will be expected to attend an orientation to learn more about the project site and materials prior to developing a specific proposal for the project. Using the project criteria, one artist will be selected to complete the project. The APPC will approve the final artist recommended by the Selection Panel, as well as the final artwork design.
The approved Old Courthouse Square master plan identifies an area along 4th Street dedicated to public art. During the design process for the reunified square, the public expressed a strong interest in two art projects for the square: restoring the Ruth Asawa panels AND the installation of a new public art project. The Ruth Asawa panels are being stored until a new fountain structure can be built. The Downtown Action Organization is working on moving this project forward. Funding for the new public art project is a combination of the required 1% of the construction budget for the square, and in-lieu fees from private development required to meet the City’s public art in private development ordinance. These sources of funding can only be used for public art.
HISTORY & CONTEXT
Old Courthouse Square gets its name from the first courthouse on the site, dedicated by General Vallejo in 1884. The 1906 earthquake destroyed that building and much of Santa Rosa. Another courthouse was built on the site in 1908 and served as the county courthouse for another 58 years before being demolished in 1966. From 1967 to 2016, the square was bisected by a major thoroughfare connecting Santa Rosa Avenue and Mendocino Avenue.
Old Courthouse Square was reunified in 2017. Granite slabs that served as the steps of the 1908 courthouse were saved and incorporated to form the frame around the lawn which is representative of the footprint of the original courthouse on the square. Reclaiming this public square in the center of downtown Santa Rosa was a statement by the community of its value on the importance of a communal, public gathering space. It also offers a chance to make a statement about how art plays a specific role in reflecting a community’s identity and in inspiring its aspirations for the future.
Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County with an estimated population of 177,586. The city operates as the county seat and serves a wider county population of 500,000.Artist: