Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Aug. 24, 2011): Briefly discussed at AAPAC’s August meeting was the possibility of increasing the number of members on the city’s public art commission – a move that would require amending Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art ordinance. Though commissioners expressed support for the idea, they ultimately tabled it in light of a possible upcoming city council working session on the public art program.
The working session has been discussed as potentially taking place on Sept. 12. But Tony Derezinski – a city councilmember who is AAPAC’s newest commissioner and who attended his first meeting on Wednesday – said he hoped to push back the commission’s presentation to the city council until a later date. [As of late Aug. 29, no city council working session has been scheduled on the city's Legistar system.]
Derezinski characterized it as an extremely important opportunity for AAPAC to convince the council of the value of the Percent for Art program, noting that he has defended it twice when other councilmembers previously proposed cutting it.
Margaret Parker, a local artist who’s served on AAPAC since its inception, suggested making the working session presentation after the formal dedication of Herbert Dreiseitl’s water sculpture in front of city hall – so councilmembers will first have the chance to “bask in some glory” of the program’s efforts, she said. The dedication is being planned for early October, to coincide with Dreiseitl’s next trip to Ann Arbor to oversee the sculpture’s installation.
The Dreiseitl work, costing more than $750,000, will be the second completed piece under the Percent for Art program, which was created in 2007. During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners also discussed the possibility of using public art funds to buy existing artwork, rather than only commissioning pieces, as they’ve done to date. Although Parker expressed some concerns, they agreed to explore this approach as a way to quicken the pace of public art acquisition.
Commissioners also discussed several projects that are in the formative stages, including artwork for the proposed Fuller Road Station, a mural for Allmendinger Park, and a possible artwalk along the Huron River. A previous recommendation for a mural along the Huron Parkway, near Huron Hills Golf Course, has been postponed, based on negative feedback from residents.
Future of AAPAC, Percent for Art
The city’s Percent for Art ordinance creates a mechanism for funding public art by allocating 1% of all capital improvement projects – with a cap of $250,000 per project – to be spent on public art. The ordinance stipulates that a nine-member public art commission oversees the program. Cheryl Zuellig, who chairs AAPAC’s planning committee, noted that AAPAC has previously discussed the possibility of adding more commissioners, motivated by having more manpower to do the commission’s work. She said that Sue McCormick – the city’s public services administrator – brought up the idea again at a recent meeting with the planning committee, and that McCormick asked AAPAC to consider it.
When commissioners discussed the idea in the past, commissioner Elaine Sims said, they were reluctant to pursue it, because they feared that if they drew attention to the program, it might result in attempts to curtail it instead. But McCormick had indicated that shouldn’t be a concern, Sims said.
Marsha Chamberlin, AAPAC’s chair, suggested that it could be an item to bring up at the possible Sept. 12 city council working session. AAPAC has been asked to give an overview of the Percent for Art budget and current projects, she said, and to answer questions or make suggestions for improvement.
Tony Derezinski told commissioners that as part of his efforts to get up to speed on AAPAC’s work, he’d talked with McCormick and Connie Pulcipher, a member of the city’s systems planning staff who has facilitated planning meetings for the commission. When he learned about the working session, he strongly suggested that AAPAC’s presentation be rescheduled, in part because he didn’t feel like he’d be ready to contribute to the discussion by Sept. 12.
In addition, he felt like ”things need to simmer down a little bit, to be very blunt.” This was likely an allusion to comments made by mayor John Hieftje at the Aug. 4, 2011 city council meeting. From The Chronicle’s report of that meeting:
In the early part of the meeting, mayor John Hieftje effectively headed off a debate that might have otherwise unfolded among councilmembers on the relationship between the taxes collected for street and sidewalk repair and the city’s public art program. The mayor announced that he’d be nominating Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) to serve on the public art commission as a replacement for recently resigned commissioner Jeff Meyers. And Hieftje went on to say that in September he wanted to take a longer look at the city’s public art program.
That assurance was enough for now to hold off a council discussion of an explicit restriction on the street/sidewalk repair tax – a restriction that would prevent those tax monies from being used to pay for public art under the city’s Percent for Art program.
Hieftje said he’d been looking into the art commission, and had met and talked with various people. The feedback he’d heard is that people support the public art program, but want to know where the art is. A profusion of art in the city hasn’t happened as a result of the program, he said. This is not the same situation as with the housing commission, he added. [In March 2010, the city council undertook the wholesale replacement of the city's housing commission. Derezinski was the city council liaison to the housing commission.] Hieftje said that Derezinski was willing to be appointed to the public art commission, if someone else would step forward to become the liaison to the housing commission.
The mayor continued by saying he wants to pause in September to take a look at why there isn’t more art in the city. He acknowledged that there’d been a proposal by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) [in connection with the past year's budget discussion] to reduce the percentage allocation to art. The council might decide to do that, he said, but he wanted to bring that discussion forward for September.
At AAPAC’s Aug. 24 meeting, Derezinski told commissioners that whenever they do make a presentation to city council, people will be watching it very carefully. The fact that other councilmembers have on two occasions proposed to cut back the program shows that AAPAC needs to make a strong case for it, he said. A working session is not to be feared, he added, it’s to be taken advantage of – but they need to be prepared. McCormick would likely be the staff person to make the actual presentation, he said, and commissioners should “orchestrate” what they want their message to be. They should provide examples of the program’s value, and why it should continue, he said.
Derezinski said he hoped the “powers that be” would agree to postpone the presentation, at least until the new city administrator, Steve Powers, arrives. Powers is due to start his job in mid-September.
Based on that, Zuellig said, it made sense to table a discussion about adding commissioners.
Future of AAPAC, Percent for Art: Procurement?
Zuellig reported another item from the planning committee’s meeting with McCormick. McCormick had suggested that AAPAC consider procurement of artwork – buying pieces that are already made, rather than commissioning new art – as a way to add more quickly to the city’s collection of public art. If AAPAC decides to take that approach, Zuellig said, they’d need to determine how to manage it.
Chamberlin said there are several positive things about that approach, particularly for certain sites. It would certainly reduce the timeline considerably.
But Margaret Parker expressed caution. When you buy art that’s already made, she said, it might not fit the site for which it’s intended. Elaine Sims disagreed – sometimes, an existing piece can fit beautifully on a site. AAPAC could look for opportunities where this approach might work, Sims added. One way to start would be to create a database of artists and their portfolios.
Sims said she had a piece on display at the University of Michigan Hospital by a Chicago artist that was available for sale. [Sims is director of the UM Health System Gifts of Art program.] She also suggested that they consider buying work from artists at the annual Ann Arbor art fairs.
After further discussion, commissioners agreed that the planning committee would explore this approach. It was decided that Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, would research what other communities are doing, and develop a proposal for how to proceed. The planning committee will give that proposal an initial review before bringing it to the full commission.
Current Projects: Dreiseitl, Murals, Fuller Road Station
The commission discussed several ongoing projects at their August meeting, ranging from one that is near completion – the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture at the new municipal center – to some that are in much earlier stages.
Current Projects: Dreiseitl Sculpture
Marsha Chamberlin reported that Herbert Dreiseitl will be in Ann Arbor from Sept. 25 through Oct. 5, to oversee the final testing of lighting in the water sculpture he designed for the city. The piece, commissioned by the city at AAPAC’s recommendation, is being installed this month in front of the new municipal center at Fifth & Huron. Blue bulbs will be embedded in the elongated bronze piece, over which water will flow.
By way of background, in 2010 the city council approved a budget of $737,820 for the Dreiseitl piece. The city had previously paid Dreiseitl $77,000 in preliminary design fees. Funding comes in part from the Percent for Art stormwater funds, because the sculpture is designed as part of the site’s stormwater management.
Previously, AAPAC had discussed coordinating a dedication ceremony for the sculpture with whatever event the city planned for the dedication of the municipal center – the complex that includes the new police/courts building plus the renovated city hall and plaza in front of those two buildings, where the sculpture will be located. But Chamberlin said city officials have decided not to have a dedication for the municipal center, so AAPAC is free to choose a date and time for the sculpture dedication alone.
Commissioners discussed possible dates and times, noting that holding the ceremony at dusk would allow for a more dramatic presentation of the lit sculpture. Other factors included holding it later during Dreiseitl’s visit, to ensure that the sculpture would be completely installed, and to avoid a conflict with the Oct. 3 city council meeting and with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year celebration that begins at sunset on Sept. 28. They settled on a tentative date of Tuesday, Oct. 4 for the dedication, with a backup date of Oct. 3. The public relations committee will handle details, including putting together a VIP list of invitees. The dedication will be open to the public.
Current Projects: Mural Program
Jeff Meyers, who had championed a pilot mural program, resigned from AAPAC in July 2011. Wiltrud Simbuerger, one of the newest AAPAC commissioners, agreed to take over leadership of that effort. A task force had previously recommended two sites for the first murals: A building at Allmendinger Park, and a retaining wall along Huron Parkway. Simbuerger reported that, based on positive feedback from residents regarding a mural at Allmendinger, and some negative feedback regarding the Huron Parkway project, the task force has decided to put the Huron Parkway mural on the back burner.
The task force is moving forward with the Allmendinger project, Simbuerger said. Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, reported that $8,000 from a Richard T. Whitaker foundation grant will be allocated to the mural – $7,200 for the artist, and $800 set aside for future maintenance. Another $5,000 will come from Percent for Art funds, for a total budget of $12,200, excluding maintenance. The grant funds need to be spent this year, he said.
Marsha Chamberlin noted that AAPAC had originally passed a resolution recommending $10,000 for a mural at Allmendinger and another $10,000 for one along Huron Parkway. Cheryl Zuellig suggested that they vote again, and simply vote to accept the current recommendations of the mural task force report. [.pdf of task force report] In addition to Simbuerger and Seagraves, task force members include Connie Pulcipher, Mariah Cherem and Hannah Smotrich.
Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of the mural task force.
Simbuerger said the city’s legal staff needs to review a statement of qualifications (SOQ) to elicit potential artists for the mural project, and she wasn’t sure how long that would take. The SOQ will be issued as soon as the city attorney’s office signs off on it, she said, with a tentative Oct. 24 deadline for submissions. A selection panel would meet in early November to pick finalists, who would then have until Dec. 30 to submit proposals. Interviews with finalists would take place in early January, and a recommendation would be made at AAPAC’s Jan. 25 meeting.
Based on this timeline, the mural could be completed in the spring of 2012.
There was some debate among commissioners about whether more time should be allowed for artists to respond to the SOQ. Simbuerger noted that the timeline depended in part on when the city attorney’s staff completed their review, and it’s difficult to anticipate how long that will take. Several commissioners observed that historically, review by the legal staff takes a long time.
Another concern was that the grant money, which is administered by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, needs to be spent this year. Seagraves indicated there could be some flexibility on that.
Connie Rizzolo-Brown noted that for the West Park artist selection, the task force allowed just three weeks and received 13 responses. However, the current SOQ deadline for art in the lobby of the city’s new justice center had to be extended, because few responses were received. She felt the decision on a timeline should be made by the mural task force.
Current Projects: Fuller Road Station
The city council hasn’t formally approved the Fuller Road Station (FRS), a joint project of the city and the University of Michigan to build a large parking structure, bus depot and possible train station on city-owned land near the UM medical complex. But a task force has been formed to incorporate public art into the building’s design, which is already underway. Task force members are: Dave Dykman, the city’s project manager; Doug Koepsell, UM’s project design manager; Connie Pulcipher of the city’s systems planning unit; Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator; AAPAC members Cathy Gendron and Connie Rizzolo-Brown; Larry Cressman, a faculty member with the UM School of Art & Design; and Angela Pierro, a representative of the public.
At the Aug. 24 AAPAC meeting, Gendron and Rizzolo-Brown reported on the latest meeting of the FRS public art task force. [.pdf of task force report]
Of the $250,000 allocated to the project, $200,000 will be available to the selected artist. The remaining funds are earmarked for project management costs ($20,000); contingency costs ($25,000); stipends for the five artists selected as finalists whether their project is selected or not ($5,000 – that is, $1,000 per artist). Dykman is planning to spend 1% of his time on the project devoted to the public art project management, Gendron said.
Gendron noted that the city will be contributing only a portion of the $250,000 – $55,000, based on the 22% share of construction costs that the city is expected to shoulder for FRS. [Details of an agreement between the city and UM have not been made public, but based on a memorandum of understanding previously signed by the two entities, it's anticipated that UM will pay for 78% of the project, and have control over that percentage of the parking spots in the structure.]
Even though there’s no formal agreement yet on FRS, Gendron reported that Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, indicated that planning for the public art component can move ahead.
The other issue raised by commissioners related to maintenance costs. Gendron said McCormick had clarified that regular maintenance costs would be paid for by the unit where the artwork is located. For example, the city’s parks and recreation department will pay for maintenance of the metal tree sculpture in West Park. Extraordinary maintenance – like the repair for the Sun Dragon sculpture (see below) – will be treated as new projects, and must go through AAPAC’s selection process.
Gendron noted that the Percent for Art ordinance doesn’t stipulate that projects include set-asides for future maintenance costs. Yet AAPAC’s guidelines do include a provision for maintenance. From the guidelines:
Every public art project funded with Public Art Funds will reserve (10%) of the proposed budget for long term maintenance and conservation of the work(s) of art unless a different amount is required for a particular work of art.
After consulting with McCormick, Gendron said the planning committee will work to revise the guidelines to be consistent with the ordinance. That way, it would not require review by the city’s legal staff. She noted that approval of AAPAC’s bylaws by the legal staff had taken over a year.
The city attorney’s office is also involved in reviewing the statement of qualifications (SOQ) to seek artists for the FRS project. The office has been reviewing the document since May, Gendron said, and the task force wondered if the delay could be tied to the lack of a formal agreement with UM. McCormick believes an agreement with UM won’t be completed until at least September, Gendron said, but that the SOQ will likely be approved by legal staff by the end of August.
Current Projects: Sun Dragon
Connie Rizzolo-Brown reported that the city has received a proposal for the design and preparation of construction documents for repairing the Sun Dragon, a sculpture by Margaret Parker made of colored plexiglas that’s attached to a beam holding Fuller Pool’s solar-heated shower. [Parker, a local artist, is a member of AAPAC.] The sculpture was damaged in the spring of 2010 by workers who were repairing a beam that supported the piece.
Rizzolo-Brown said the city doesn’t yet have a full cost estimate for labor to repair the sculpture, and for the structure that will hold it.
Parker expressed frustration that the project has taken so long. [It has been a topic discussed at several AAPAC meetings for more than a year. In March 2011 AAPAC voted to approve up to $2,000 to hire a city engineer to assess the repair and make cost recommendations.] Parker urged Rizzolo-Brown to reconvene the task force that’s handling the repair project, and to include the city’s structural engineer at the meeting. Rizzolo-Brown agreed that it was taking a long time, but said the city has assigned a project manager to deal with it and she didn’t want to act outside of that person’s authority.
Future Projects: Riverwalk, Stadium Bridges, Washtenaw Avenue
Margaret Parker gave a report on steps that she and Malverne Winborne have taken to explore a possible art riverwalk along the Huron River. [.pdf of Parker's report] AAPAC’s annual plan for FY 2012 calls for possibly adding public art at two locations on the river.
Parker said she met with three members of the city’s parks staff: Colin Smith, head of parks and recreation; park planner Amy Kuras; and Cheryl Saam, head of the city’s canoe liveries. The staff had three recommendations for possible public art at Gallup Park:
- A memorial wall that combines art with donor names on the north side of the livery building – this was the staff’s preference, Parker said.
- Artwork on the far shore, across the river from the livery.
- Decorative elements on a walkway that will be built between the livery and new docks, as part of a renovation project at the park.
Funding would likely come from a $300,000 state grant that the city has applied for, to complete the renovation work at the Gallup Park livery. Update: Smith later clarified for The Chronicle that no state funds would be used for public art. Funding for artwork would likely come from city matching funds.
For the second site – at the Argo headrace, near Argo Pond – parks staff cited four possibilities for public art locations:
- At the end of the headrace near Broadway, where a public area with an amphitheater is planned.
- On top of the embankment: A way-finding system could feature the area’s history – its use as an Indian path, for example, or the location of mills.
- Along the river: A way-finding system could mark a water trail.
- At the area connecting Argo Dam with the headrace.
Maintenance and graffiti were mentioned by the parks staff as issues that need to be considered, Parker said. She also felt that the staff wanted to put limits on what artists could do, and said she couldn’t find a way to describe to the parks staff why artists should be allowed to “think big and amaze us.”
Elaine Sims drew an analogy to putting art in your living room. If you do it, you might just put something above your sofa. But an interior designer might come up with a vision that you’d never consider. Cheryl Zuellig noted that it’s also true that no one knows your living room as well as you do – it made sense to collaborate with the parks staff, she said. Cathy Gendron said she didn’t think projects could be successful unless artists were involved in the very earliest stages.
Parker suggested that perhaps the city’s river art project could be part of a larger riverwalk. She was meeting later in the week with representatives from the Huron River Watershed Council and Andy Buchsbaum, head of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Natural Resources Center in Ann Arbor. Both groups are involved in RiverUp!, an effort to improve a 104-mile stretch of the Huron River, starting from the north at Milford through Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and downstream to Flat Rock. [See Chronicle coverage: "RiverUp! Focuses on Revitalizing Huron River"]
Zuellig noted that it wasn’t necessary for AAPAC to be the champions of a riverwalk – the watershed council or another group could do it, and take a more holistic approach beyond the boundaries of Ann Arbor. AAPAC could participate, but not necessarily take the lead, she said. There was further discussion about AAPAC’s role in this effort, and whether they were the appropriate group to develop a vision for the riverwalk. Tony Derezinski said they shouldn’t be too concerned if their role is ambiguous at this point. He likened it to initial talks about the Reimagine Washtenaw project, with representatives from multiple jurisdictions sorting out their roles in revitalizing Washtenaw Avenue.
Marsha Chamberlin reminded commissioners that Peter Allen had attended an AAPAC meeting in January to advocate for an Argo Pond artwalk. Where does he fit in? she asked. Parker noted that Allen owned property on the west side of Argo Pond, off of North Main Street. [AAPAC recently awarded Allen's development company a Golden Paintbrush award for rock cairns on its North Main property.] He might be willing to contribute to the broader riverwalk effort, she said.
Derezinski said that others in the city are looking at ways to improve North Main as an entrance to the city. He and fellow councilmember Sandi Smith had taken a walk along that stretch earlier this year with Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city’s project management unit, to talk about what could be done as part of a resurfacing project scheduled for next year, he said. The Near North affordable housing project will be built in that area, he noted. Other related projects include the Allen Creek greenway, and making Bandemer Park more accessible, he said.
Parker said she’s been asked to loop in the city’s park advisory commission regarding possible artwork along the river, and will make a presentation at one of PAC’s future meetings, then report back to AAPAC with feedback.
Future Projects: Washtenaw Avenue, Stadium Bridges
Aaron Seagraves reported that city staff had suggested the non-motorized path being built along Washtenaw Avenue might be a good place for public art, and he asked for feedback from commissioners. A wide path is being built on the north side of Washtenaw, between Toumy and Glenwood. Construction will likely be finished in September.
Commissioners wondered where artwork could be located, given that the project is almost done. Cheryl Zuellig noted that one possible location in that area – though not connected to the path – was the triangular traffic island at the intersection of Washtenaw and Stadium. [The location has previously been the target of an Ann Arbor Newshawk satirical news report.]
Tony Derezinski reported that the Ann Arbor Rotary might “adopt” the location, and representatives were to meet later in the week with Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city’s project management unit, to talk about the possibility. At Zuellig’s suggestion, Derezinski said he’d bring up the possibility of Rotary partnering with AAPAC on the project.
Later in the meeting, Zuellig reported that she and Wiltrud Simbuerger would be meeting with city engineer Michael Nearing later this month to talk about the East Stadium bridges reconstruction, and how public art might be a component of that project.
Administrator’s Report: Budget, Inventory, Arts Alliance
Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, reported on several items during the meeting.
Administrator’s Report: Art Inventory
At AAPAC’s July 27, 2011 meeting, Seagraves told commissioners that CultureNOW, which runs a project called Museums Without Walls, had contacted the city about being included in a national online inventory of public art projects. Based on feedback from that meeting, he arranged to include some pieces from the city of Ann Arbor’s art inventory on the CultureNOW website. He reported that University of Michigan artwork is also on the site – UM has an extensive public art collection.
Administrator’s Report: Arts Alliance
Two items were brought up during the meeting that related to the nonprofit Arts Alliance, which is based in Ann Arbor. Seagraves said the alliance has asked the city to sponsor its Sept. 20 Arts Convergence conference, to be held at Eastern Michigan University’s student center. The sponsorship cost is $250. Commissioners discussed whether it was valuable to be a sponsor. Margaret Parker advocated for sponsorship, noting that the alliance is a countywide organization and that a sponsorship would make a statement that AAPAC plays a pivotal role in the community.
Elaine Sims, who will be one of the speakers at the event, felt AAPAC should have a policy on this kind of thing, rather than make sponsorship decisions on an ad hoc basis.
There was some discussion about whether funds were available for this purpose. Seagraves said it would likely come out of the Percent for Art administrative budget. Commissioners asked him to find out how much was available.
Parker suggested skipping the sponsorship, and using that money instead to make printed materials that could be handed out to showcase the Dreiseitl sculpture and other projects. Commissioners seemed to reach a consensus on that approach.
Later in the meeting, Cathy Gendron – during her report from the PR committee – noted that the 2011 ArtWalk, which is organized by the Arts Alliance, is set for Oct. 21-23. The Dreiseitl sculpture will be one of the featured pieces, and Gendron encouraged commissioners to volunteer for a “shift” at the sculpture, to talk to the public about the project and the city’s public art program.
Administrator’s Report: Percent for Art Budget
Seagraves included an updated summary of the Percent for Art budget in the meeting packet, showing line items for expenses as well as balances available for public art. [.pdf of budget summary] The report shows $1,142,509 available for future projects, after factoring in previously allocated funding.
Commissioners present: Connie Rizzolo-Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Tony Derezinski, Cathy Gendron, Margaret Parker, Wiltrud Simbuerger, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.
Absent: Malverne Winborne.
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 4:30 p.m. at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [confirm date]
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