Nicollet Avenue Artists Chosen

Marjorie Pitz and Ben Janssens have a big project on their hands.

The wait is over and the question of who will be designing and fabricating the has been answered. 

The Nicollet Avenue Public Art Selection Panel chose the team of Marjorie Pitz and Ben Janssens for the project. Pitz, an artist and landscape architect, and Janssens, an artist and fabricator, are excited to have been selected, but they have no illusions about the size and scope of what is now ahead of them.

“We definitely have a challenge on our hands,” Pitz said. 

It’s a challenge 10 blocks long, involving both sides of the street, and with a $140,000 budget. Coincidentally, it’s a budget almost exactly the same size as that of the pair’s previous public art venture: the Blossoms of Hope bus shelter at Penn and Broadway in North Minneapolis, which featured larger than life elements like eight-foot aluminum flowers but was confined to a singular location.

With the Nicollet Avenue project, Pitz and Janssens face the challenges of addressing a long, narrow landscape with considerations like snow removal, lawn maintenance and longevity.

“We already know that the materials have to be really rugged and durable,” Janssens said. “They would like everything to last 20 to 30 years, so that really brings it down to steel, aluminum, concrete...Really rugged materials are kind of our only option.”

A preference for functional art has also been expressed, so Pitz and Janssens are thinking up creative ways to approach things like bike racks and benches. 

“I think there’s a huge potential for streetscape art making things like benches and bike racks be much more exciting and interesting than what you can find in a catalog,” Pitz said. 

Sarah Linnes-Robinson of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association said she is excited about the pairing of Pitz and Janssens for the project. 

“They bring a ying /yang to their work that mimics the avenue...that I think is really exciting. Plus, they have experience in a number of different mediums and a good grasp of place-making,” Linnes-Robinson said.  

Julene Lind, owner of at 38th and Nicollet, was on the Nicollet Avenue Public Art Selection Panel and the Pitz/Janssens team was her top choice. 

“They have a whole bunch of knowledge between the two of them,” Lind said. “I think it’s really going to be exciting.” 

A committee of locals will give input on the direction of the project. The committee has not yet been formed, but Pitz and Janssens said they’re looking forward to hearing ideas. 

“We’re going to welcome the community with open arms and we’ll see how many people want to be involved and have time to be involved–and hopefully it’s significant. It’s a really highly artist-concentrated area, so we’re hoping that comes through,” Janssens said.

The artists don’t want to divulge their initial ideas until they’ve had a chance to meet with the community, but they did express their excitement for the project’s potential.

“It’s a big blank canvas at this point,” Janssens said. 

“We do have a lot of ideas cooking,” Pitz added, “so it’s a fun challenge.”


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