Call Detail
Public Art for the Cass Avenue Bridge, Detroit, Michigan
Entry Deadline: 2/28/22
Application Closed
Work Sample Requirements
Images | Minimum:Min. 6, Maximum:Max. 10
Video | Minimum:Min. 0, Maximum:Max. 1
Total Samples | Minimum:Min. 6, Maximum:Max. 10
Call Type: Public Art
Eligibility: National
State: Michigan
Budget: 200,000

Public Art for the Cass Avenue Bridge is a project of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) administered by Regina M Flanagan, Art • Landscape • Design LLC and advisor Seitu Kenneth Jones through HNTB Corporation. The project draws upon MDOT’s previous experience commissioning public art by Detroit artist Hubert Massey to grace the Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge in Southwest Detroit. 

This call was originally issued in early 2020, but suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now it is re-opened for applications. 

Please note this is not a call for proposals (Request for Proposals or RFP) but rather for qualifications (Request for Qualifications or RFQ) that includes a statement, resume, and slides of 6-10 past works. The statement, in particular, is your opportunity to make a connection between your past work and this project.

The Cass Avenue bridge, part of the I-94 Modernization Project, is in Midtown, one of Detroit’s most dynamic and evolving districts. Midtown includes the Cass Corridor and Woodward Avenue, home to cultural and educational institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the College for Creative Studies, the C.H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and Wayne State University. New Center north of I-94, a medical research and technology district, includes Tech Town and the Henry Ford Medical Center as well as Wayne State University facilities.

The I-94 Modernization Project includes 67 bridges, multiple interchanges including M-10 (Lodge) and I-75 (Chrysler) freeways. The freeway runs east-west and Cass Avenue crosses over it and connects downtown and the Midtown cultural and educational district to the south with the New Center research and technology district to the north. 

The I-94 Rehabilitation Project Corridor Design Guidelines (2010) govern design for the I-94 Modernization Project. Produced with extensive public involvement, they express the community’s hope that the freeway re-design reflects community identity and Detroit’s rich cultural heritage, signaling that Detroit has embarked upon a new era of optimism and rebuilding. The Design Guidelines recognize that public art has the unique potential to meet this goal by contributing to placemaking, elevating aesthetic quality and revealing history and culture.

According to the Design Guidelines, the Cass Avenue Bridge is designated a “Community Connector” bridge because it connects commercial and cultural corridors where civic/neighborhood zones are present adjacent to the bridge. Community Connector bridges may have more intensive landscaping and feature public art that highlights the community in order to soften the transition between the freeway and residential and commercial areas.

MDOT’s community engagement efforts revealed that improving local connectivity and walkability were a priority of neighborhood residents and stakeholders. Complete Streets concepts are incorporated into the Cass Avenue bridge design to accommodate all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders within the roadway space.

$200,000 in funding from State of Michigan has been committed for artwork. The project must meet both Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state design guidelines. This budget must cover all the artist(s) fees, costs, and expenses, including engineering fees, associated with designing, fabricating and installing the artwork.

The Cass Avenue bridge has been designed and the project awarded to a contractor. Demolition of the existing bridge is expected to begin in late 2022 with construction of the new bridge beginning in 2023. Public artist(s) will be selected in mid-May 2022 and begin their design phase in mid-June culminating in a design proposal presented to decision-makers including the Public Art Committee (PAC) and MDOT in August. Artist(s) will have approximately one year to fabricate the artwork. Artist(s) will coordinate with HNTB Detroit during the design and construction phases, through installation of artwork.

Bridge Description
The Cass Avenue Bridge is an “advanced bridge” – designed and constructed before mainline corridor construction begins (see Site Details PDF).

The cross-section for the bridge has driving lanes for a two-way local street (Cass Avenue) and wide sidewalks and bike lanes. The design meets both stakeholder and community expectations and the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department’s requirements to be pedestrian-friendly, provide a node of activity, and minimize the freeway’s interruption into the neighborhood.

After the Cass Avenue Bridge is completed, the mainline below the bridge will be reconstructed and widened.

Comerica style light fixtures unique to the City of Detroit and the fence design were preferred by the community and Midtown stakeholders, along with the aesthetics of the piers and retaining walls. The fence design, featuring finials inspired by Comerica light fixture details, is constructed of plate steel and channel material, and includes one-inch powder-coated black wire mesh.


Land approaching the bridge. The southwest corner presents potential for placemaking and public art (see Site Details PDF.) This site is near Wayne State University’s parking ramp and a mix of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Walls and fencing are necessary on two sides to enclose the site for public safety. A 20-foot long retaining wall bounds the site on the freeway (north) side and a 50-foot at-grade wall at the western edge is at the top of the slope down to the mainline. 

The flat area available for placemaking measures approximately 20-feet by 90-feet (see Site Details PDF). Cast concrete walls inset with reliefs, mosaics, or ceramic murals are an option, or a cast-in-place sculptural wall. Landscaping and fencing will be provided for an adjoining triangular area. Artists have the opportunity to affect the entire space, integrating the design into the bridge and influencing landscaping.

Considerations include maintaining safe sight-lines and setbacks at the parking ramp driveway. Placemaking involving artwork must comply with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) law and maintenance must be reasonable.

Opportunities on the bridge. Barrier walls along the 9-foot wide pedestrian sidewalk feature inset panels 1’-9” (H) x one-inch deep that run the length of the bridge on both sides. Sculptural formliners, reliefs, mosaics, ceramic murals or artwork in other permanent materials could be created for the insets. There is approximately 398-linear-feet total, or 696 square feet for artwork. (See Site Details PDF.)

Considerations include not adding weight to the bridge. Fine, intricate details on concrete should be avoided because of potential salt erosion and damage. Maintenance must be reasonable.

Community Forums
After the Artist(s) selection, MDOT, the administrator, PAC and project team will host two Community Forums during the project. Artist(s) will help devise the forum format to suit their working process. Forum #1 will kick-off the design phase and provide an opportunity for artist(s) to meet the community and gain inspiration. We anticipate a highly interactive first forum event occurring in the district during the summer. Later, in the fall artist(s) will present their proposed design to the community during Forum #2 after it has been reviewed and approved by the PAC and MDOT.

Project Goals

  • Artwork should invite and encourage pedestrian movement across the bridge.
  • Design should activate the space and draw people to it, creating a memorable destination.
  • Artist(s) and/or teams are open to gaining inspiration through innovative community engagement.

Evaluation Criteria


  • Quality and ideas shown in past work.
  • Evidence of completing projects of similar scope and complexity, or progressively greater scale.
  • Past work constructed of materials durable in the outdoors.
  • Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with government agencies, design and construction professions, and community groups in the creation of a project.
  • Examples of gaining inspiration through structuring and conducting community engagement.
  • Familiarity with the city of Detroit, its people and culture.


  • Proximity to Detroit, and the Cass Bridge site.
  • Potential to involve students and youth in the process especially during the summer design phase.
  • Experience creating public art for a transportation project.

Statement (300 words maximum)

The statement is your opportunity to make a connection between your past work and this project. Applications with a general artistic statement not addressing this project will be disqualified. Rather, address the specifics of this opportunity and talk about how you will approach the project; how you will find inspiration for your work; your ideas for community engagement; highlight your familiarity with the city of Detroit and the site, etc. If you are applying to integrate art in both locations, please talk about potential materials that will be within budget. Note that we are not requesting a proposal at this time.

Artist(s) will be selected by a Public Art Committee (PAC) reflecting diverse viewpoints who will make recommendations to MDOT. The PAC has representatives from MDOT, Detroit Institute of Arts, the College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University Art Department, Midtown Detroit Inc., and Detroit Collaborative Design Center, along with community residents.


Artists learned more about the project and asked questions during two live virtual Zoom sessions on January 22, 2022 and February 7, 2022. The sessions were recorded and are available at:

Anticipated Schedule

January 7, 2022                                   Open Call issued through Call for Entry (CaFÉ)
January – February                              Artist Information virtual Zoom sessions
February 28, 2022                               Deadline to apply for this open call
March – April 2022                               Public Art Committee Selection Process
May 23, 2022                                       Artists notified of outcome
Mid-June 2022                                     Design Period kicks off with Community Forum #1
Early August 2022                                Design Presentation to Public Art Committee
August 2022                                         Community Forum #2 introduces design to public
November 2022 – November 2023      Fabrication and installation of artwork

Application Requirements

Work Samples

Submit 6-10 images of previous work and up to one video that demonstrates your ability as an artist and your potential to successfully create work for this project.

Checklist (indicate choice):

• Placemaking and public art for the southwest bridge approach
• Barrier walls on bridge
• Integrating southwest bridge approach and barrier walls on bridge

Eligibility Criteria

This project is open to artists nationwide.

Entrants must be eighteen years or older and capable of entering into a legal agreement.

Artists may apply individually or in teams. If you apply as a team, small teams are recommended; sized to ensure simplicity in management and communications. Please identify a lead contact in the application.