Ann Arbor public art commission (Sept. 28, 2011): Commissioners spent a portion of their monthly meeting discussing details of the Oct. 4 dedication of Herbert Dreiseitl’s bronze sculpture, the city’s largest public art project to date funded from the Percent for Art program.
The installation was still underway – blue glass lights embedded in the elongated metal panel hadn’t been wired, and water wasn’t yet flowing over the sculpture. But those elements are expected to be in place by Tuesday evening, when the German artist will be among those gathering on the plaza in front of city hall for the dedication ceremony. [Dreiseitl and members of the design/fabrication team have been testing the lighting and water flow, but it will be formally "turned on" at the dedication ceremony.]
The Percent for Art program was also a topic of discussion at AAPAC’s Sept. 28 meeting, in light of recent proposed action by the city council. A council resolution sponsored by councilmember Sabra Briere – who attended AAPAC’s meeting but didn’t formally address the group – would explicitly exclude sidewalk and street repair from projects that could be tapped to fund public art. Briere’s proposal would also require that any money allocated for public art under the program be spent within three years, or be returned to its fund of origin. The council ultimately postponed action until their second meeting in November, following a working session on the Percent for Art program that’s scheduled for Nov. 14.
In the context of those possible changes, Margaret Parker made an impassioned plea for her fellow commissioners to increase their efforts at public outreach. Many people didn’t know about all the work that was being done through the Percent for Art program, she said. By not getting their message out, she cautioned, ”that can be the undoing of all the work that we’ve done.”
Updates on several projects were given during the meeting, and commissioners took one formal vote – giving approval to set up a task force that will select public art for the East Stadium bridges project. Other projects in the works include a mural at Allmendinger Park, artwork in the lobby of the new justice center, a possible partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program, and public art for a rain garden to be created at the corner of Kingsley and First.
Parker also made a pitch for a possible way to fund temporary art – such as performances or short-term exhibitions – that can’t be paid for by the Percent for Art program, as stipulated by city ordinance. Rather than describing it as temporary art, she said, perhaps AAPAC could characterize such temporary work as promotion for public art in general, or tie it to promotion of a permanent piece, like the Dreiseitl sculpture. There was no action taken on this idea, other than an apparent consensus to explore that possibility further.
Commissioners discussed plans for the Tuesday, Oct. 4 dedication of the sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl, being installed this week in the plaza in front of city hall. The event will take place from 7-8 p.m. in the plaza, or inside the building’s atrium if it’s raining.
Connie Brown reported that the dedication will include performances by Jazzistry, and remarks by Dreiseitl, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje, and Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the public art commission. Margaret Parker, a current commissioner and former AAPAC chair who was instrumental in starting the city’s Percent for Art program, will also be part of the program. Light refreshments will be served, and a display with photos of other public art in the city will be set up in the city hall atrium.
Brown said she’s been assured that the sculpture’s lights and water will be functional by Oct. 4. Blue glass bulbs are embedded in the bronze sculpture, over which water will flow. [On Friday, a Chronicle Stopped.Watched observer reported that the water flow was being tested for the first time.] Commissioners discussed the importance of highlighting how the sculpture contributes to the site’s stormwater management system. The site also includes a rain garden.
There will also be “a little bit of silliness” injected into the event, Brown said, involving blue beach balls, blue “glow necklaces,” and glow-in-the-dark buttons.
The building’s design team will be hosting a private reception after the dedication – commissioners will be invited to attend, Brown said.
The group also discussed how to promote the event. Malverne Winborne is contacting public radio stations – including WEMU, WUOM and WDET in Detroit. Wiltrud Simbuerger is designing a flyer and brochure, which will also be distributed at the dedication. She said she incorporated a simple description that Margaret Parker had used to describe the Percent for Art program at a recent city council meeting – a penny of every dollar for public art.
When Parker suggested modifying it to “every capital improvement dollar,” Simbuerger said she was trying to make it catchy, and not include every detail. Winborne added: ”I have a new saying – ‘The more you explain, the less they get it.’”
The Dreiseitl piece was the first one commissioned by the city using Percent for Art funds. Last year, the city council approved a budget of $737,820 for the piece, including design and construction costs. The city had previously paid Dreiseitl $77,000 in preliminary design fees for three pieces, but two of those pieces did not move forward because of budget constraints and aesthetic considerations. Funding for the sculpture comes in part from the Percent for Art stormwater funds, because the sculpture is designed as part of the site’s stormwater management.
City Council, Percent for Art Ordinance
Margaret Parker gave a report on the Sept. 19 city council meeting, when she and other supporters of the city’s Percent for Art program spoke during public commentary. Her comments at AAPAC’s meeting developed into an impassioned plea for the commission to devote more resources to promoting its work.
The attendance by Parker and other public art advocates at the Sept. 19 council meeting was prompted by a resolution to revise the city’s public art ordinance. The resolution – which council ultimately postponed until its Nov. 21 meeting – would explicitly exclude sidewalk and street repair from projects that could be tapped to fund public art. It would also require that any money allocated for public art under the program be spent within three years, or be returned to its fund of origin.
The resolution was sponsored by councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) – she attended AAPAC’s meeting on Wednesday, but did not formally address the commission.
The timing of the ordinance change was related to two proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot: (1) renewal of a 2.0 mill tax to fund street repair; and (2) imposing a 0.125 mill tax to fund the repair of sidewalks – which is currently the responsibility of adjacent property owners.
At Wednesday’s AAPAC meeting, Tony Derezinski – a city councilmember who was recently appointed to serve on AAPAC – noted that some councilmembers wanted to table the resolution and not consider it at all. But postponing it seemed like the best option, he said, and will give AAPAC time to prepare for a Nov. 14 council working session.
Commissioners agreed to spend part of their next meeting – on Wednesday, Oct. 26 – prepping for the working session presentation. A few of them plan to meet with Derezinski before the Oct. 26 meeting to draft a plan for the presentation.
Later in the meeting, Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, gave a handout to commissioners with information about how the Percent for Art funding might be affected if the proposed ordinance changes take effect. [.pdf of Percent for Art handout] On average, money coming from street millage capital projects account for about 38% of total Percent for Art funds. For fiscal years 2011 and 2012, it represented even more of the program’s total revenues – about 55%.
Seagraves also provided a chart that showed how fund balances would be affected if the proposed three-year time limit went into effect during the current fiscal year. However, Briere clarified that the ordinance change would start the clock going forward, beginning when the ordinance is adopted – that is, the calculations would not be retroactive and would not impact funds that have previously been allocated to public art.
Seagraves noted that the largest pool of unspent Percent for Art funds has come from the street millage, which has a balance of $555,248. The total balance from all funds – parks, solid waste, water, sewer, energy and airport – is $1,229,705. When Seagraves suggested that commissioners might want to consider projects that could tap these street funds, Parker noted that the upcoming East Stadium bridges project would fall into that category. [Percent for Art projects must relate in some way to their funding source. For example, because the Dreiseitl sculpture is connected to the stormwater management system at the new municipal center, it was paid for
primarily partially from stormwater Percent for Art funds.]
Parker said it’s important to note that no general fund dollars are used for the Percent for Art program. [The city's ordinance does not prohibit spending general fund dollars directly on the Percent for Art program. In actual practice, however, capital improvement projects are typically not paid directly out of the general fund.]
Percent for Art: Public Outreach
Parker said that as she’s been talking with people about the Percent for Art program, they seem totally surprised that AAPAC is doing anything. The commission is not getting its message out, she said. “That can be the undoing of all the work that we’ve done.”
Commissioners need to redouble their efforts at outreach, Parker said, adding that the Dreiseitl dedication is important for that reason. She expressed dismay that AAPAC didn’t have promotional materials at the recent Convergence event, a day-long conference for the Washtenaw County arts community. If commissioners want AAPAC and the Percent for Art program to continue, she said, “we need to tell people what we’re doing in an effective, repeated, committed way.”
Parker also expressed frustration that more information isn’t posted online – such as AAPAC’s project tracking spreadsheet – in advance of their monthly meetings. It’s important to include as much information as possible in the city’s Legistar system, she said, so that the public can be informed about what AAPAC is doing.
Derezinski agreed. “The medium is the message,” he said, adding that by posting on Legistar, they’ll be communicating that AAPAC is open and transparent.
Derezinski offered some other suggestions for getting the word out. There are spots on the agenda of council meetings for councilmembers to give liaison reports, he noted, and he could update the council about AAPAC’s activities then.
Other options for making presentations include being a guest speaker at the weekly Ann Arbor Rotary Club lunch, he said, or meetings of the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue group and the Main Street Area Association. He also noted that Rotary might be interested in partnering with AAPAC on a project to beautify entrances to the city.
Cheryl Zuellig suggested doing more outreach each year after the annual art plan is completed. It’s really about increasing AAPAC’s network, she said. That’s time consuming, but now that Seagraves has been hired and is picking up administrative tasks, commissioners should have more time to do outreach, she said. Parker added that going out to business associations and other groups could also be an opportunity to ask for input about what types of public art projects people are interested in pursuing.
There was some discussion about whether any funds are available from the Percent for Art program for public relations and promotion. Seagraves indicated that some funds tied to specific projects, like the Dreiseitl sculpture, could be used for that purpose.
Percent for Art: Temporary Installations as Promotion?
Later in the meeting, Parker floated an idea that evolved from discussions she’s had about the Dreiseitl dedication. Several people have talked to her about projects related to the theme of water, she said. Mary Steffek Blaske, executive director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, mentioned that AASO had commissioned a piece titled “Watershed,” by Evan Chambers, and that it could be performed by a quintet rather than the full orchestra. There’s also a book titled “H2O” with water-related work by artists, and a local group that’s developed dances with water themes.
Parker also mentioned FestiFools, which has previously approached AAPAC about funding. FestiFools is still interested in publicly displaying the large puppets that its participants construct for the annual Main Street parade, she said.
All of this got her thinking about how to tap this interest, while taking advantage of city hall’s new atrium space, Parker said. She thought that perhaps the atrium could be used for displays and events, and portrayed as a way to promote public art. It would not be expensive, she said, but it would be a way to work with other parts of the arts community under the constraints of the Percent for Art program.
Connie Brown pointed out that AAPAC had previously been interested in temporary installations like the FestiFools proposal, but had been told by the city attorney’s office that temporary work couldn’t be funded by the Percent for Art program. [This issue has been discussed at several AAPAC meetings. In November 2010, commissioners noted that Mark Tucker, founder and creative director for FestiFools, had sent a letter to mayor John Hieftje, asking that the city consider having an installation of FestiFool puppets in the justice center lobby.]
Brown wondered whether the Percent for Art could fund a permanent gallery, but with temporary installations. They’d have to figure out how to make it work to conform to the Percent for Art ordinance, she said.
By way of background, the Percent for Art ordinance defines public art in this way:
Public art means works of art created, purchased, produced or otherwise acquired for display in public spaces or facilities. Public art may include artistic design features incorporated into the architecture, layout, design or structural elements of the space or facility. Public art may be any creation, production, conception or design with an aesthetic purpose, including freestanding objets d’art, sculptures, murals, mosaics, ornamentation, paint or decoration schemes, use of particular structural materials for aesthetic effect, or spatial arrangement of structures. [.pdf of Percent for Art ordinance]
Parker acknowledged that commissioners keep trying to find a way to work around the ordinance, so that temporary work could be included. She said they could start small, perhaps by holding events on Sundays that link to the Dreiseitl sculpture and water-related themes. It could be presented as a way to promote the Dreiseitl piece, or the newly renovated city hall, or public art and the region’s arts community in general, she said. They wouldn’t characterize it as temporary installations, but rather as promotion for the city’s permanent artwork.
There was some discussion about whether funds for the city’s public art program, given by donors and being held by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, could be used. It might also be possible to set up a new fund to accept donations for this kind of project. Commissioners reached consensus that Seagraves would look into it further, consulting with the city’s CFO, Tom Crawford, as well as with Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator who oversees the Percent for Art program.
Artwork for Justice Center Lobby
Margaret Parker is leading a committee to select art for the lobby of the justice center, a new building next to city hall at Huron and Fifth that houses the 15th District Court and Ann Arbor police department. At Wednesday’s AAPAC meeting, Parker reported that the committee received 96 responses to the most recent request for artist statement of qualifications (SOQ). [The deadline for submissions had been extended, because few responses to the initial SOQ had been received.]
The 10-member committee has winnowed down the finalists to four, Parker said. The artists’ recommendations will be checked, and they’ll be invited to attend a walk-through of the lobby on Oct. 7. Proposals will be due on Dec. 1, after which the committee will review the proposals and interview finalists before making a recommendation. That recommendation will then be forwarded to AAPAC for a vote.
The budget for this project is $250,000, with funds coming from the municipal center building project.
New Projects: East Stadium Bridges, Rain Garden, DIA
Commissioners discussed two projects that are in the initial phases of planning, as well as a potential partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts.
New Projects: East Stadium Bridges
Cheryl Zuellig reported that she and Wiltrud Simbuerger had met last month with Michael Nearing, project manager for the East Stadium bridges replacement. They discussed the feasibility of including public art in the project.
Nearing is enthusiastic and willing to participate, Zuellig reported, though he’ll likely be too busy to serve as project manager for the public art component after construction of the bridges gets underway. There are lots of details to be worked out, she said, including identifying a funding source. But it’s a project that’s in AAPAC’s 2012 annual art plan and is consistent with AAPAC’s mission, so the planning committee – which Zuellig chairs – is recommending that the project move forward by forming a task force.
Tony Derezinski asked about the project’s timetable, and Zuellig said the bids for reconstruction of the bridges are expected to go out later this year, with work to start after the University of Michigan football season ends. The project would likely be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.
Derezinski noted that it’s a high-impact location, especially with many of the 100,000-plus UM football fans passing through that stretch.
In a written report prepared by the planning committee, several possible locations for public art were identified:
- walls under the South State Street bridge
- staircases from South State Street up to the bridge
- a rock wall between Rose and White streets (with the possibility of connecting Rose White park to the project)
- walls along the field hockey area
- walls on the upper part of the bridges, with sidewalks
- a possible light project on the bridge
- a possible mural project
Potential task force members include a representative from the Lower Burns Park Neighborhood Association. Zuellig said the planning committee talked about the importance of public engagement, and noted that the East Stadium corridor “is not unknown to public involvement.”
Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to create a task force for an East Stadium bridges public art project.
New Projects: Rain Garden
Seagraves reported that a rain garden will be constructed on two city-owned parcels: 215 and 219 W. Kingsley. The city has awarded the contract for construction to Conservation Design Forum (CDF) of Ann Arbor, which has also been involved in the new municipal center project and the Dreiseitl sculpture.
The site is located in a floodplain, and a vacant house is located on one parcel. The city received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to demolish the house and stabilize the site – as part of that, the rain garden is intended to minimize or prevent flooding.
CDF has requested a public art component for the rain garden, Seagraves said. He plans to submit a proposal to the projects committee to start the selection process. It’s likely that funding would come from the Percent for Art program’s stormwater fund, which has a current balance of $28,823. The process would entail setting up a task force to solicit proposals from artists and make a recommendation to AAPAC, which would in turn make a recommendation to the city council.
New Projects: Detroit Institute of Arts
Seagraves reported that he and Derezinski met earlier this month with representatives from the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA is interested in partnering with the city on the Inside|Out project, he said. The project installs reproductions from the DIA’s collection at locations on building facades or in parks. Seagraves noted that the DIA did this on a small scale in Ann Arbor previously, and it doesn’t involve any cost to the city.
[An installation on the outside wall at Zingerman's Deli – “Young Woman with a Violin” by Orazio Gentileschi – was recorded in a Chronicle Stopped.Watched. observation a year ago. Another reproduction at that time was installed on the Borders building on East Liberty.]
There may be other partnership possibilities with the DIA, Seagraves said. DIA staff will be invited to attend the Oct. 26 AAPAC meeting, he said.
Derezinski added that the DIA wants to do regional outreach, and that Ann Arbor residents are already a strong part of DIA’s membership. It seems like a natural partnership, he said.
Project Updates: Murals, River Walk, Kamrowski
Throughout Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners and staff gave updates on several ongoing projects.
Project Updates: Mural at Allmendinger
Wiltrud Simbuerger has taken over leadership of a mural pilot program, in the wake of Jeff Meyers’ resignation this summer. Meyers had initiated the program. Originally two mural locations had been selected by a mural task force – on a building at Allmendinger Park, and on a retaining wall along Huron Parkway. But the task force later decided to focus only on Allmendinger for now, following some negative feedback from residents about the retaining wall proposal.
A draft request for statements of qualifications (SOQ) to seek artists for the Allmendinger mural has been in review by the city attorney’s office. Seagraves said it’s likely to be ready for release soon. [The city's open bids and proposals are posted online.]
Project Updates: River ArtWalk
As the next step in a possible art installation along the Huron River, Parker and Winborne have met with Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council. In a brief written report, Parker indicated that Rubin was enthusiastic about the idea of placing artwork at highly used sites along the river. [The possible project was discussed in more detail at AAPAC's Aug. 24, 2011 meeting.]
There is no formal proposal at this point. Parker plans to attend the Oct. 18 meeting of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission, to discuss the idea with that group.
Project Updates: Kamrowski Murals
Mosaic murals by the artist Gerome Kamrowski, which were previously located on the outside of city hall prior to the building’s renovation, have been installed in the enclosed atrium between city hall and the new justice center. The nine panels were installed by John Tucker, Kamrowski’s stepson.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Seagraves showed commissioners the plaque that had previously been mounted next to the murals, but which was now outdated – for one thing, the artist has passed away, he noted. [Kamrowski died in 2004.] The re-installation was paid for as part of the building renovation, not with Percent for Art funds.
A new plaque is needed, Seagraves said. Connie Brown volunteered to help with the design. It will likely not be paid for with Percent for Art funds.
When Malverne Winborne asked for more information about Kamrowski, Margaret Parker explained that the artist had been part of the abstract expressionist movement in New York City, but had later taught at the University of Michigan school of art & design. He’s one of the artists that Ann Arbor should be bragging about, she said.
Project Updates: Annual ArtWalk
Seagraves reminded commissioners that the 2011 ArtWalk, which is organized by the Arts Alliance, is set for Oct. 21-23. The Dreiseitl sculpture in front of city hall will be one of the featured pieces. Seagraves passed out postcards promoting the event, and urged commissioners to take additional ones to distribute.
Three members of the public attended Wednesday’s meeting, but only one – Bob Miller – spoke during public commentary at the end of the meeting. He has previously expressed interest in volunteering for the public art program. He said that as a citizen, he’s interested in seeing more public art at the gateway entrances to Ann Arbor. He was curious about whether there could be a permanent outdoor space in which different two-dimensional artwork could be rotated.
Regarding the possible DIA partnership, Miller said he hoped it would evolve into more than just a one-time project.
Responding to Miller’s comments, Malverne Winborne said that from a marketing perspective, having a rotating display of artwork at the city’s entrances would give visitors something to look forward to and anticipate when they come to town.
Commissioners present: Connie Rizzolo-Brown, Tony Derezinski, Margaret Parker, Wiltrud Simbuerger, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Zuellig. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.
Absent: Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Elaine Sims.
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [confirm date]
Purely a plug: The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of publicly-funded programs like the Percent for Art, which is overseen by the Ann Arbor public art commission. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.