Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (Oct. 12, 2010): In a meeting notable for its brevity – lasting one hour, or about a third as long as typical AAPAC monthly meetings – commissioners got updates on several projects, including the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture at the municipal center and a new public art installation at West Park.
The West Park project is expected to be installed later this month, as part of a major overhaul of the park that’s still in progress. The artwork by Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes includes two metal trees that will bookend one of the seat walls facing the park’s bandshell. According to a budget summary distributed at Tuesday’s meeting, the project cost $12,375.
As for Dreiseitl’s piece, the bids from fabricators who’ll actually build the sculpture came in over budget, so to cut costs it will now be made of bronze rather than weathering steel. Quinn Evans Architects, the Ann Arbor firm that’s overseeing the project on contract with the city, also has suggested creating a $12,180 contingency – above the $737,820 budget that city council has approved – to cover potential, additional unbudgeted costs.
At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Cathy Gendron announced plans to revamp AAPAC’s page on the city’s website, and said that the public relations committee decided not to renew the URL for its external website – annarborpublicart.org – which had been maintained by a volunteer. That site is now defunct. Commissioner Elaine Sims noted that the University of Michigan recently launched a website for its public art efforts, and wondered if AAPAC’s page could contain similar elements. “It’s a wonderful site, but we just can’t do that,” Gendron said, adding that they’re constrained by the template used by the city. They can be more flexible on AAPAC’s Facebook page, she added.
There was some discussion about recruiting new commissioners, and it was noted that mayor John Hieftje recently made a nomination to fill an AAPAC vacancy – not all commissioners had been aware of this action. Though he wasn’t mentioned by name during Tuesday’s meeting, that nominee is Malverne Winborne, director of Eastern Michigan University’s Charter Schools Office, with a background in organizational development. The city council is expected to vote on his appointment at their Oct. 18 meeting. AAPAC will have an additional vacancy when Jim Curtis resigns – he announced his intent to step down in July and has stopped attending meetings, but hasn’t yet officially resigned.
Dreiseitl Sculpture, Other Municipal Center Art
Connie Brown reviewed a written report on the Dreiseitl project that had been submitted by Katherine Talcott, the city’s former public art administrator who’s now working on special public art projects for the city, including Dreiseitl’s project. The report notes that bids for fabrication of the water sculpture, to be located in front of the new municipal center – also known as the police/courts building – came in over budget. To cut costs, the material has been changed from weathering steel to bronze.
Quinn Evans Architects, the Ann Arbor firm that’s overseeing the project on contract with the city, is recommending the city retain Future Fence/Future Fab Co., a Warren-based business, to handle the sculpture’s fabrication. That company intends to subcontract with three other Michigan businesses as part of the project: Leprecon Inc. of Hamburg, Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, and Fine Arts Sculpture Center in Clarkston.
The total cost for design, fabrication and installation of the piece is $553,320 – part of the project’s overall $737,820 budget. Quinn Evans also has suggested creating a $12,180 contingency – above the $737,820 budget that the city council has approved – to cover potential, additional unbudgeted costs. The city council will need to approve these expenditures, as well as the selection of Future Fence/Future Fab.
Venita Harrison – a management assistant who works for Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator – said they are working on a resolution for the city council about this project. Her understanding is that AAPAC did not need to vote on it, she told them.
Brown asked whether Dreiseitl had signed off on the change in materials, and Harrison indicated that he had. The German artist is currently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Elaine Sims mentioned that every time she runs into Ray Detter at Treasure Mart or the farmers market, he asks about the status of public art projects at the municipal center. Detter is on a task force that makes recommendations on public art at the center, though the group has been dormant since 2009. Sims said Detter wondered when the task force would be reconvened. “They’re anxious to know,” she said.
Cathy Gendron said she remembered talking about this issue at AAPAC’s August meeting, but it wasn’t clear who would convey that information to the task force. Margaret Parker, who chairs both AAPAC and the municipal center task force, didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting.
None of the commissioners present knew all the members of the task force, and there was some discussion about the need to archive that information in an accessible location online. [Members of the task force include: 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 asked what the status is for the large mosaic by Gerome Kamrowski, which previously was located near the entrance to city hall and is now in storage. She noted that it’s one of the more valuable pieces that the city owns. Connie Brown said she didn’t feel it needed to be installed at the municipal center, but that it should certainly be reinstalled somewhere – although she hoped the task force could find a place for it at the municipal center.
Harrison then referenced the August meeting minutes, which commissioners had approved earlier in the meeting. She noted that AAPAC had addressed the Kamrowski issue at the August meeting, as part of its directive to the task force regarding additional public art at the center. [Neither Brown or Chamberlin attended that meeting.]
From The Chronicle report of the Aug. 10 meeting:
The commissioners then moved on to the topic of other public art for the municipal center. Parker said that the funding amount doesn’t have to be definite. “It’s not like we’re writing down our shopping list at home,” she said. “I don’t think it behooves us to come with a hard and firm number. It seems like we want the best art for the building.”
Zuellig said there’s an understanding that with a budget, they might end up spending more or less. For her, the question was whether they wanted to spend more money at the municipal center, or on other projects elsewhere.
There was discussion of the 9-panel mosaic by Gerome Kamrowski, which previously was located near at the entrance to city hall and is now in storage. Parker said the task force hadn’t been able to identify a spot for it. They felt the atrium area was too large, and would dwarf the work.
Noting that Parker was a member of the task force, Zuellig asked her what kind of direction would be helpful from AAPAC. Parker responded by saying that they’d started out thinking they’d spend about $1 million in total on art for the municipal center. Since Dreiseitl’s water sculpture was about $700,000, she said, it seemed reasonable to allocate $300,000 to other artwork there.
Gendron said they’d also talked about scaling back because of the economy. Zuellig noted that they had already spent close to $1 million, if they included the design, consulting and administrative fees. With just four commissioners at the meeting, she said, it was tricky making a decision. She added that she was undecided about whether or not to seek additional art for that location.
Sims liked the idea of a hanging piece in the police/courts lobby, possibly made of art glass, plus perhaps one or two other pieces elsewhere in the complex. But she was concerned about the cost. “We’ve spent a lot,” she said.
When Parker noted that there was money available, Zuellig said that’s not the point. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean they have to spend it, she said.
Doyle asked about the budget – was it $1 million for the municipal center? “It’s complicated,” Parker replied.
Commissioners then explained that $250,000 for the Percent for Art program came out of the budget for the municipal center project, and had to be spent there. Beyond that, Percent for Art funds had accrued from other capital projects – projects for water and sewer, for example. Those funds could be pooled and used as well, as long as the public art had a thematic link to the funds. That’s why, for example, the stormwater Percent for Art funds could be used to pay for Dreiseitl’s water sculpture.
After some further discussion, commissioners arrived at a consensus to allocate $250,000 for two additional art pieces and the possible installation of Kamrowski’s mural.
Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved giving direction to the municipal center’s public art task force to consider two additional pieces of art, plus the possible placement of a large 9-panel mosaic by Gerome Kamrowski. They set a budget of $250,000.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Sims offered to contact Parker, and to ask Parker to convey AAPAC’s directive to the task force.
Projects: Fuller Road, West Park, Hanover Square
Connie Brown of the projects committee updated her fellow commissioners on three projects that are in various stages: Fuller Road Station, West Park and Hanover Square.
Fuller Road Station
There seems to be a lack of communication regarding AAPAC’s involvement in Fuller Road Station, Brown said. The city of Ann Arbor/University of Michigan project is a five-level, 977-space parking structure on city-owned property that’s part of Fuller Park, on the south side of Fuller Road and east of East Medical Center Drive. Officials hope eventually that a train station for commuter rail will be added to the site.
AAPAC’s first in-depth discussion on the project occurred at their July 2010 meeting. Since then, Brown said they’ve made several queries of Dave Dykman, the project manager for Fuller Road Station, but haven’t gotten a response. They’re trying to be proactive and would like to move ahead with setting up the public art task force for the project, she said, but so far, there’s been no action.
Cheryl Zuellig asked whether the project had been funded – if not, perhaps that’s why Dykman isn’t responding. Brown said she didn’t know the status of the funding, but AAPAC has been told that there’s an earmark for public art. She noted that some design decisions about the public art component have already been made by the architects – the idea is to create large fritted glass panels – and that for the past few months “we’ve been attempting to insert ourselves into the process.”
By way of background, the site plan for the Fuller Road Station project received approval from the Ann Arbor planning commission at its Sept. 21, 2010 meeting. Funding for the parking structure will be split between the city and UM, with the university paying for 78% of the estimated $32 million cost. The city is pursuing federal funding for the project, but has not yet specified how it would otherwise fund its portion of the cost.
Council is expected to consider the Fuller Road Station project at one of its upcoming meetings, likely in November.
The public art piece for West Park is near completion, Brown reported. The West Park task force met with artist Traven Pelletier last week, when he presented color samples – he’s planning to paint the metal tree sculptures in subtle shades of copper and red. The sculptures will be placed at the east and west ends of one of the seat walls that’s built into the hill facing the park’s bandshell. Installation will likely occur later this month.
They’d like to do some sort of unveiling, Brown said, but the park won’t be open to the public until after the artwork is installed. It’s more likely they’ll plan some sort of event in the spring, as part of the park’s grand opening.
The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority plans to include a public art installation at Hanover Square, at the northwest corner of Packard and Division. It would be paid for as part of the DDA’s Fifth and Division street improvement project. For more than a year, the DDA and AAPAC have been slowly trying to figure out a process for working together – at AAPAC’s Sept. 14 meeting, Brown had described a draft of guidelines that AAPAC could use for assisting in DDA-funded public art projects.
On Tuesday, Brown reported that Sue McCormick had signed off on the draft guidelines. The next step will be to identify someone to be a liaison with the DDA. Jim Curtis, who also serves on the projects committee, had been playing that role, but Brown was unsure whether he planned to remain active on the committee after resigning from AAPAC. Curtis announced his intent to resign in July, citing the need to devote more time as a board member for the startup Ann Arbor Main Street Business Improvement Zone (BIZ).
Filling AAPAC Vacancies
There was some discussion about recruiting new commissioners, and it was noted that mayor John Hieftje made a nomination to fill an AAPAC vacancy at city council’s Oct. 4 meeting – not all commissioners had been aware of this action. The nominee wasn’t mentioned by name during Tuesday’s meeting – he is Malverne Winborne, director of Eastern Michigan University’s Charter Schools Office, with a background in organizational development. City council is expected to vote on his appointment at their Oct. 18 meeting.
AAPAC will have an additional vacancy when Jim Curtis resigns – he announced his intent to step down in July, but hasn’t yet officially resigned.
Commissioners had hoped to recommend someone with close ties to the University of Michigan. Lee Doyle, a member of the UM President’s Advisory Committee for Public Art who also oversees the UM Film Office, was interested in joining AAPAC. But Hieftje, who makes nominations to the commission, conveyed that he wanted to appoint someone who resides in Ann Arbor, and Doyle lives outside the city.
This situation led commissioners to discuss their role in the recruitment and nomination process. From The Chronicle’s report of AAPAC’s Sept. 14 meeting:
[Jeff] Meyers pointed out that the appointments are made at the pleasure of the mayor, and said it opened up another conversation: What is AAPAC’s role in making recommendations for appointments?
Zuellig said they had two choices: Stay out of the process, or get feedback from Hieftje before making recommendations. Several commissioners commented on the awkwardness of having conversations in public regarding specific individuals, only to have them later rejected by the mayor – one commissioner used the term “blackballed.”
Zuellig noted that getting new commissioners on board is more of a priority for AAPAC than it is for the mayor. That’s why they’ve been proactive, she said. She noted that the city’s online Legistar system theoretically indicates which boards and commissions have vacancies, but that it’s not up-to-date – the listing for AAPAC doesn’t indicate that there are vacancies. [Also outdated is Legistar's list of current AAPAC members, which still includes commissioners whose terms expired at the end of 2008 and 2009.]
After further discussion, commissioners reached a consensus to pursue a more informal process, publicizing AAPAC vacancies more broadly, via their Facebook page and websites for AAPAC and the Arts Alliance. Individual commissioners could contact the mayor to ask him to consider specific individuals, but AAPAC itself would make no formal recommendations.
Commissioner Cathy Gendron gave a report from the public relations committee, with an update on plans to revamp AAPAC’s page on the city’s website. She said they’ve decided not to renew the URL for AAPAC’s external website – annarborpublicart.org – which had been maintained by a volunteer. They thought it would be confusing to have two websites, she said, and the external site is now defunct.
Commissioner Elaine Sims noted that the University of Michigan had recently launched a website for its public art efforts, and wondered if AAPAC’s page could contain similar elements. “It’s a wonderful site, but we just can’t do that,” Gendron replied, adding that they’re constrained by the template used by the city. She added that they’ll be able to do more with AAPAC’s Facebook page, which allows them to be more flexible in what they can post.
Gendron said that she and Marsha Chamberlin are starting to craft an annual PR plan for the commission. They’re also planning to develop a manual on how to promote installations, like the upcoming West Park project.
Report of the Acting Chair
Cheryl Zuellig, chair of AAPAC’s planning committee, also chaired Tuesday’s meeting in the absence of AAPAC chair Margaret Parker, who has been focused for the last two months on her entry in the Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize competition.
Zuellig gave a report about a recent meeting that she and Elaine Sims had with Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator. They’d talked about the hiring of a new public art administrator to replace Katherine Talcott, who has stepped out of that role to take on special public art projects on an ad hoc basis for the city. Zuellig characterized the discussion with McCormick as useful, and said that McCormick was going to write a job description for the position that would clarify its role and scope. The job wouldn’t change, Zuellig said, but the role would be more clearly defined. For example, it won’t be a project management role.
McCormick will rely on AAPAC to distribute the job posting, Zuellig said. Marsha Chamberlin volunteered to take on that task, and suggested posting it on various venues, including the Arts Alliance website, ArtServe, offices of college career services, and Americans for the Arts, among others.
Zuellig said they hope to hire someone by the beginning of next year. It’s a part-time position.
In their meeting with McCormick, they also discussed the issue of working with the DDA, Sims said. McCormick clarified that working with the DDA would be like working with any other entity – the DDA had no special status regarding the Percent for Art program. Previously, there was some confusion about whether the relationship differed because the DDA managed city-owned parking structures.
Zuellig noted that this was part of a broader discussion regarding the role of AAPAC – what the commission was obligated to do under the Percent for Art ordinance, and what they could choose to do beyond that. The Percent for Art program captures 1% from the budget of all city capital projects, to be set aside for public art. AAPAC serves as an advisory body to the city council, making recommendations on specific projects funded through the program. [link to the Ann Arbor city code – click on Chapter 24: Public Art, which lays out the responsibilities of AAPAC.]
AAPAC isn’t obligated to handle the DDA’s public art projects, Zuellig said, though they might choose to do so. It fits into previous discussions that commissioners have had about not taking on more than they can handle, she said. Knowing what their obligations are can help them prioritize.
Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Venita Harrison, city management assistant.
Absent: Jim Curtis, Jeff Meyers, Margaret Parker.
Next regular meeting: Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m., 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St. [confirm date]