Except for projects already in the works, spending of funds accumulated through Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art program has been suspended until April 1, 2013. The city’s public art ordinance requires that 1% of all capital project budgets be set aside for public art. The vote – taken at the council’s Dec. 3, 2012 meeting – was 10-1, with Margie Teall (Ward 4) dissenting.
A committee consisting of Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) has been appointed to recommend amendments to the city’s public art program. The committee is charged with making a recommendation to the council by Feb. 15, 2013.
The city council took the action on suspending the program at its Dec. 3 meeting, after postponing the resolution from its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.
Also at the November meeting, the council had tabled two proposals that would have changed the public art program – one from Jane Lumm (Ward 2) that would have terminated it, and one from Sabra Briere (Ward 1) that would have narrowed the scope of qualifying projects.
The result of Briere’s proposal would be to reduce the amount of public art funding by about 90%. For the last two fiscal years, the Percent for Art program has generated roughly $300,000. If Briere’s proposed ordinance revisions had been in place, only about $25,000 would have been generated. [.jpg of chart showing public art allocations]
The legislative activity was prompted by a failed public art millage that had been placed on the Nov. 6 ballot by the city council. The 0.1 mill tax – which was expected to generate around $450,000 annually – was rejected by 28,166 voters (55.86%), with support from 22,254 voters (44.14%). Although the arts community had campaigned to support the millage, many arts leaders had advised the council not to put it on the ballot at this time. Councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) had first put forward the ballot proposal in August, eight weeks before the election. [See Chronicle coverage: "Despite Worries, Art Commission Backs Millage"]
The suspension of the program prevents funding of any new art projects, but doesn’t affect any funds that have already been committed by a contract for a specific project. The council’s suspension of funding does not apply to artwork for: (1) the Kingsley Street rain garden; (2) the East Stadium Boulevard bridges reconstruction project; or (3) the Argo Cascades project. After the funding for those projects is subtracted from funds already accumulated through the Percent for Art program, roughly $1 million is left – which will, by the terms of the council’s resolution, not be allocated for public art.
The future of that $1 million will depend on future action by the council, as recommended by the appointed committee. If the council takes no further action, the $1 million would simply return to be available under the existing ordinance. If the council chose to do so, it could eventually revise the ordinance to end the Percent for Art program, but allow the already-accumulated funds to remain earmarked for art – for example, to provide for maintenance. Or the council could revise the ordinance so that the already-accumulated money would be returned to its fund of origin.
For a report on the most recent meeting of the public art commission, see: “Public Art Commission Eyes Uncertain Future.”
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]