When a new sculpture commissioned by Artisphere is installed in the Village of West Greenville next spring, it will be unlike any of the three other sculptures commissioned by one of the country’s top-ranked fine arts festivals.
Arizona artist Blessing Hancock’s “Spindle,” a stainless steel piece that will be internally illuminated and draws inspiration from the area’s textile heritage, will be the first Artisphere-commissioned sculpture outside of the festival’s downtown footprint. It will be installed in the Village’s plaza near the Community Journals office.
Artisphere aims to commission an original piece of public art every five years, said Executive Director Kerry Murphy.
A 10-sided, 18-foot-tall sculpture in the form of a faceted cotton spindle, the piece features words cut from the stainless steel sheets. Hancock attended the 2018 Artisphere to get suggestions for the words. When the sculpture is installed and illuminated, the words will project shadow patterns onto the surrounding area.
Ed Zeigler, the incoming Artisphere board president and a former city of Greenville Arts in Public Places Commission member, said Hancock has long been on his radar.
“For years, people have been talking about doing something under the Main Street bridge, so I started Googling ‘under-bridge sculptures’ and found these incredible chandeliers of large globes she made of bicycle parts that were inner lit and threw shadows on the underside of the bridge,” he said. “For years, I’ve been saying I’m going to get Blessing Hancock to Greenville someday.”
But Hancock wasn’t a shoo-in for the piece. Three artists submitted proposals to Artisphere. Murphy said Hancock’s Skyrim studio was the unanimous choice of the selection committee.
“My feeling was that this was a sculptural form that both referenced the past and the connection with the neighborhood and place, and related the idea that Greenville is very much a contemporary city and we’re moving ahead with the times,” said Joe Thompson, a member of the selection committee and the chairman of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. “It has meaning on different levels.”
Murphy said Artisphere has raised $87,500 out of the $125,000 it needs for the piece. The city will do the landscaping, she said.
Who is Blessing Hancock?
Tucson, Ariz.-based Blessing Hancock believes in light’s ability to enliven a space.
She specializes in creating large-scale, interactive, illuminated, site-specific sculptures that are “born of place” and speak of the surrounding people and culture.
Her installations can be found around the world, including in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Alberta, Canada; Chengdu, China; and in 13 states.
She has degrees in sculpture and landscape architecture, training that gives her a unique perspective for public art.
Previous Artisphere public art installations
“Nexus of Light”
This sculpture by Wisconsin-based artist Dennis Heimbach marked the first Artisphere festival in 2005. The sculpture is installed in the traffic triangle at the intersection of South Main and Augusta streets.
South Carolina artist Stephen Kishel’s sculpture honors the late Buck A. Mickel’s love of the arts, not the man himself. The multi-plate contemporary sculpture is made of aluminum and painted the colors that make up the Artisphere logo. Installed in 2012, it is located at the back of the Peace Center on the Reedy River near the bridge.
Pendleton artist John Acorn was commissioned to do a sculpture for Artisphere’s 10th anniversary in 2014. “Ten Artispheres” anchors the southwest corner of the Main Street bridge near RiverPlace. It contrasts his smoother “Orbital Trio” piece at NOMA Square.