Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (June 8, 2010): With some members expressing frustration at the lack of response from German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, the city’s public art commission set a deadline for him to provide information about two interior art installations proposed for the city’s new police/courts facility. AAPAC first asked for the information, including a revised budget estimate, in October 2009.
Also at their Tuesday meeting, commissioners voted on the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, recognizing contributions to art in public places. Winners this year are Abracadabra Jewelry on East Liberty, the University of Michigan Health System, and Tamara Real, president of the Arts Alliance.
The group also discussed how to publicize a public open house set for Wednesday, June 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The event will include a talk by Chrisstina Hamilton, director of visitors’ programs for the UM School of Art & Design who also runs the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speakers Series.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Lee Doyle, who might be joining the commission. She’s chief of staff for the University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Communications and a member of the UM President’s Advisory Committee for Public Art. Doyle is also a founder of the university’s Arts on Earth program, and oversees the UM Film Office. To serve on AAPAC, she would need to be nominated by mayor John Hieftje and confirmed by the city council.
Herbert Dreiseitl Update
At Tuesday’s AAPAC meeting, Katherine Talcott, the city’s public art administrator, reported that the German sculptor Herbert Dreiseitl had been in town for a couple of days in mid-April, working with Quinn Evans Architects and the Conservation Design Forum to finalize some elements of the water sculpture commissioned by the city for the exterior of the new police/courts building at Fifth and Huron, also known as the municipal center. A request for a statement of qualifications (SOQ) is posted on the city’s Bid-Net website, to solicit responses from potential fabricators for the project. The deadline for submission of an SOQ is June 16. Up to three fabricators will be selected and asked to make proposals, which will be due July 14. A final selection of a fabricator is expected by July 23. [.pdf of SOQ request]
Talcott also provided commissioners with a detailed schedule for construction of the exterior water sculpture. According to the schedule, Dreiseitl is set to provide “firm pricing” for the piece in mid- to late August, with final city review and approval of the project in early September. Fabrication would begin soon after that, with installation to start as soon as December and continue through the spring of 2011.
Dreiseitl had originally been asked to do three pieces – the exterior water sculpture, and two interior pieces for the municipal center. The city paid $77,000 for those three designs – a price that included $5,000 for Dreiseitl’s travel expenses – but so far AAPAC and the city council have approved only the exterior piece, at a cost of $737,820.
Last year, AAPAC members had questions about the two interior designs, and at their October 2009 meeting they tabled action on one interior piece and approved the other, with certain conditions. They were also concerned about the cost. Although they had originally set a cap of $750,000 on the entire project, Dreiseitl in October proposed a budget of $841,541 for the three pieces, including the design fees.
Since that October meeting, they’ve been waiting for Dreiseitl to respond to questions about the interior pieces and to provide a new budget for those installations – etchings to be hung on the walls of the building’s lobby and atrium. At Tuesday’s AAPAC meeting, Talcott passed out copies of a revised design for one of the wall pieces – an image evocative of the Huron River watershed, to be etched on blue glass panels. In response to a query from commissioner Connie Brown, Talcott clarified that the drawing had been put together by Ken Clein of Quinn Evans and the staff of the Conservation Design Forum – not Dreiseitl. Nor has Dreiseitl provided a revised budget for the interior pieces.
Brown asked whether there was any kind of deadline for Dreiseitl to deliver designs and a budget – Talcott said no deadline had been set. She said that the exterior piece was on budget and on time, but that if they moved forward with the interior pieces, additional costs would likely be incurred because of change-orders that would need to be made on the building to accommodate the pieces.
Cheryl Zuellig expressed concern about how long it’s been since they’ve asked Dreiseitl to respond to questions about the design and budget. “I’m concerned about the artist’s engagement in this process,” she said.
Talcott responded by saying that they were dealing with an artist who had many projects underway. She and Clein have been pushing, but perhaps it’s time for the commission to decide what they’d like to do, she said – whether they want to move ahead with this project, or redirect those dollars to other places.
Margaret Parker pointed out that they do have a budget for the interior pieces – it just hasn’t been revised. [The original budget submitted by Dreiseitl last year included $53,843 for the installation in the lobby and $47,491 for the atrium wall piece.]
Later in the meeting, during a discussion of AAPAC’s annual public art plan, the topic of Dreiseitl came up again. The draft of the annual plan, which is to be submitted to the city council , includes seven items – the first three relating to public art at the municipal center: 1) complete Dreiseitl’s exterior art installation; 2) make recommendations for the two interior pieces during the first quarter of FY 2011; and 3) based on the decisions made regarding the two interior pieces, decide how to proceed with two additional exterior projects – which do not involve Dreiseitl.
Parker reported that the municipal center task force for public art had reviewed proposals for two pieces in the center’s north courtyard, next to Ann Street. But they hadn’t moved forward with those because they were waiting for AAPAC’s decision on Dreiseitl’s two interior pieces. The task force hasn’t met since last year, she said.
Talcott suggested that AAPAC set a deadline for a decision regarding Dreiseitl’s interior installations. Zuellig proposed getting information regarding the two pieces – including answers to their design questions and a new cost estimate – in time to make a decision at AAPAC’s July 13 meeting. The plan is to ask Dreiseitl to submit information by the end of June. At that point, the commission can then provide direction to the task force regarding how to move forward. Options would include approving the Dreiseitl pieces, allocating funds to work by other artists for the municipal center, or shifting dollars to projects that aren’t located at the municipal center.
Talcott pointed out that the task force had approved Dreiseitl’s two interior pieces – even though AAPAC had subsequently had issues with that work – and that one suggestion from the task force had been to seek funding from other sources to help pay for the pieces. That might be something that task force members would still be willing to do, she said, adding that it was important to respect the work of the task force.
Members of the task force who approved the Dreiseitl installation last year included: Ray Detter of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council; Bob Grese, director of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum; AAPAC chair Margaret Parker; Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council; Ann Arbor city councilmember Margie Teall; and Spring Tremaine, a lieutenant with the Ann Arbor Police Department. Sue McCormick, the city’s director of public services, is also a task force member.
Marsha Chamberlin used a familiar colloquialism to indicate it was time to either make a decision, or “get off the pot.” There was agreement on this fundamental approach.
Saying she wasn’t speaking for all commissioners, Zuellig said she was frustrated by the time it’s taken to get a response from Dreiseitl. “I question that,” she said. She also questioned whether they should commit resources to having five pieces of public art at the municipal center.
Parker suggested having McCormick come to the next AAPAC meeting to talk about funding sources, saying that McCormick had explained to the task force that there were various different funding streams that could be used for public art at the municipal center. “There are various ways you can work that,” Parker said, adding that it’s “amazingly complex.”
Zuellig responded that it wasn’t an issue of the budget. The question was whether they wanted to spend the money on those particular pieces, or at that location.
Cathy Gendron commented that the economic situation has changed significantly since they started this project, and that public perception has changed as well. Zuellig noted that Dreiseitl’s exterior piece cost more than they originally expected, and the designs of the two interior pieces “aren’t necessarily home runs.”
Talcott planned to convey AAPAC’s deadline request to Dreiseitl via Ken Clein of Quinn Evans, the municipal center’s project manager.
Golden Paintbrush Awards
Commissioners unanimously approved three Golden Paintbrush awards:
- University of Michigan Health System, for contributions to public art, specifically in commissioning the “Rotations” sculpture as a memorial to the UM Medical Center transplant team, who died when their plane crashed into Lake Michigan in June 2007. [See Chronicle coverage: "New Sculpture Honors UM Transplant Team"]
- Abracadabra Jewelry & Gem Gallery on East Liberty, for contributing to the streetscape with their storefront design. [See Chronicle feature: "Behind the Counter of a Local Jeweler"]
- Tamara Real, for being a champion for the arts and artists in this region. Real is president of the Arts Alliance, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that advocates for the arts community throughout Washtenaw County.
The annual awards honor individuals, businesses or organizations that support art in public places in Ann Arbor. AAPAC chair Margaret Parker will formally present the awards to recipients at an upcoming city council meeting.
Public Relations: Open House, Survey Results
Marsha Chamberlin gave an update from the public relations committee, and reviewed the agenda for a public open house set for Wednesday, June 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The event will include a talk by Chrisstina Hamilton, director of visitors’ programs for the UM School of Art & Design who also runs the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speakers Series. In addition to providing updates on public art projects in the works, commissioners will be on hand to get input and feedback about the city’s public art program.
Chamberlin asked for help in publicizing the event, saying she hoped for better attendance than last year’s open house, which drew about 30 people. Commissioners discussed various ways to get the word out, in addition to a press release that went out last week and the group’s Facebook page. Cheryl Zuellig suggested getting the art commission on the city’s email distribution system – people can sign up to receive email alerts about a variety of topics.
Noting that the company she works for, JJR, has been hired to help with several projects that include a public engagement component, Zuellig said they’ve started going back to the sign-in-a-window approach, to reach people who might not be in the loop for online notices. She suggested emailing a sign to commissioners so they can print out copies and post them throughout the community.
Also at the open house, Chamberlin said they’ll report details of a recent online survey of public art, which yielded 263 responses. She reviewed some of the results, noting that respondents included a disproportionate number of people in the arts community, compared to the general public. A goal for next year is to broaden the input, she said. She described the open-ended responses as “all over the board,” including a number that were very supportive of the commission’s work. About 15%, she estimated, commented that they didn’t think the city should be spending money on public art during these tough economic times. That’s something to keep in mind as they determine the next steps for the municipal center building, she said. And two people characterized the “Art” bike hoops as the worst public art they’ve ever seen – Chamberlin noted that those were a Downtown Development Authority project.
Project Updates: West Park, DDA
Giving a report from the projects committee, Connie Brown said the artist selected for a West Park public art installation – Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes – is expected to submit his final design concept by June 30. [Pelletier was introduced to the city's park advisory commission by parks planner Amy Kuras at PAC's May 18 meeting, but has not yet attended an AAPAC meeting. .pdf of Pelletier's conceptual design] His work will be incorporated into new seat walls being installed in a hill facing the West Park bandshell.
Brown said there’s been no action over the past month on a potential project in Hanover Square, at the northwest corner of Packard and Division. AAPAC has been talking with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority about a possible public art installation there, paid for as part of the DDA’s Fifth and Division street improvement project.
And a task force is still being formed for a possible public art project at the Fuller Road Station, Brown said.
Planning Updates: Annual Plan, Project Steps
Cheryl Zuellig gave a report for AAPAC’s planning committee, discussing the group’s annual public art plan as well as a document outlining the steps to be taken on city-owned public art projects.
Public Art Annual Plan
In addition to the Dreiseitl project reported above, AAPAC’s annual public art plan includes four other items, which the commissioners discussed briefly. They are:
- Develop a public art project at the Fuller Road Station.
- Identify a gateway project and set up a task force for it. Efforts will be coordinated with other potential enhancement projects. Planning is anticipated to occur over several years, with potential installation in FY 2014-15.
- Pilot a mural program.
- Assist the Downtown Development Authority in developing a public art project for Hanover Square.
Katherine Talcott asked about the funding source for the mural program, which had been proposed by Jeff Meyers. She pointed out that the Percent for Art program has some constraints, and reminded commissioners that certain things – for example, temporary art projects like FestiFools – don’t qualify.
Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the annual plan, which will be forwarded to city council.
Project Steps: There Are Many
Zuellig presented the latest version of a document outlining the steps to be taken on city-owned public art projects, from intake form to completion. She noted that this draft represented the third set of revisions, based on feedback from commissioners and Sue McCormick.
On Tuesday, commissioners spent considerable time making additional changes to some of the 21 steps, in particular discussing the definition of and difference between a selection committee, task force, peer review and jury. The group also talked about the meaning of conceptual design versus proposal, as it related to the stages of approval.
Noting that the document could get complicated if they tried to account for every type of project, Zuellig proposed adding a preamble indicating these steps are intended as a general guide. Margaret Parker said she was hoping for a simplified list that could be distributed to the city’s department heads and others, to help them understand the process. She pointed out that AAPAC also has detailed guidelines about the process, and that they can address it at an upcoming organizational planning session, to be facilitated by Connie Pulcipher of the city’s systems planning unit.
Commissioners unanimously approved the project steps document, as revised.
Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Katherine Talcott, Lee Doyle
Absent: Jim Curtis, Jeff Meyers
Next regular meeting: Tuesday, July 13 at 4:30 p.m., 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St. [confirm date]