Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (March 27, 2013): Public art commissioners hope to involve more students in their work – but no formal mechanism is yet in place to make that happen.
At AAPAC’s most recent meeting, John Kotarski proposed adding three students to the nine-member commission as voting members. He suggested that the student commissioners be selected by: (1) the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education; (2) the dean of the University of Michigan School of Art & Design; and (3) the Arts at Michigan program. Deb Mexicotte, president of the AAPS board, is also program coordinator for Arts at Michigan.
Ultimately, commissioners passed a resolution on a 5-1 vote asking that the city council consider adding students to the commission. Marsha Chamberlin dissented, saying she supported the concept of student involvement but didn’t like this approach. She’d rather handle it informally, perhaps by including students in the task forces that are set up for each project.
Chamberlin also noted that any change in AAPAC’s composition would require a revision to the city’s public art ordinance.
The city council committee that’s currently undertaking dramatic revisions to the public art ordinance has nearly completed its work, with plans to present recommendations to the full council on May 6. The recommendations include eliminating the Percent for Art funding mechanism and the concept of “pooled” funds from capital projects. Instead, the city council will designate specific capital projects to be “enhanced” with extra funding allocated for public art or architectural features, based on recommendations by AAPAC. [.pdf of draft ordinance revisions] [.pdf of most recent memo to city council regarding draft recommendations]
This Chronicle report includes a summary of the council committee’s April 18 meeting, which is probably the last one prior to presenting the recommendations – likely on May 6. The committee is suggesting that the council take a final vote on June 3, after soliciting public input through A2 Open City Hall.
In other action during the March 27 meeting, AAPAC approved its annual art plan. This year, because of uncertainty regarding the program’s future and a current moratorium on spending, the plan sets general goals rather than proposing new projects. Those goals are: (1) the creation of public art in more areas of the city and a commitment to balance the number of artworks throughout the city and its neighborhoods; (2) a focus on high use and visibility as locations for public art; and (3) an emphasis on putting public art in underserved neighborhoods.
AAPAC also selected Josh Wiener, an artist from Denver, to work with landscapers and incorporate public art into a new rain garden at the corner of Kingsley and First. The $27,000 project was one of several for which funding had already been approved, prior to the council’s decision to temporarily halt spending on public art.
Commissioners discussed a range of other ongoing projects, including public art at the East Stadium bridge, Argo Cascades and the Justice Center lobby. A project that doesn’t include city funding is the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program. Installation of that artwork in Ann Arbor took place two days after AAPAC’s March 27 meeting. Framed replicas of paintings from the DIA collection were mounted at several locations in the downtown area, and free docent walking tours will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays, starting on April 27. The tours will leave from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum every half-hour between noon and 3 p.m.
Looking ahead, Chamberlin reminded commissioners that it’s time to solicit nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which recognize local contributions to public art. The award winners are selected by AAPAC, with a presentation at an Ann Arbor city council meeting in June.
March 27 was the first meeting for AAPAC’s two new commissioners, Ashlee Arder and Nick Zagar. Arder, who works for ArtServe Michigan, took action during the meeting to set up a Twitter account for the commission: @AAPublicArt.
Update: Revisions to Public Art Program
At AAPAC’s March 27 meeting, Bob Miller reported on progress of the Ann Arbor city council committee on public art. Five councilmembers – Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Sally Petersen, Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall – have been meeting since December 2012 to develop recommendations for the city’s public art program and revisions to two city ordinances that affect that program – Chapter 8 (organization of boards and commissions) and Chapter 24 (public art).
Miller reported that the committee is interested in soliciting feedback. “I don’t seen any changes coming quickly,” he said, “but I do see changes coming.” He challenged commissioners to come up with projects that don’t rely on city funding, and that involve outside partners. “We’re reshaping ourselves,” he said.
Update: Revisions to Public Art Program – Committee Meeting
The council committee most recently met on April 18, and it’s not expected to meet again before presenting their recommendations to the full council on May 6. [.pdf of draft ordinance revisions] [.pdf of most recent memo to city council regarding draft recommendations]
The meeting was attended by all five councilmembers who serve on the committee, as well as assistant city attorney Christopher Frost and Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator and senior manager who’s responsible for the public art program. Representing AAPAC were Bob Miller and John Kotarski.
The current city’s public art ordinance requires that 1% of all capital project budgets be set aside for public art. But at its Dec. 3, 2012 meeting, the council put a temporary halt on that set-aside and on spending of existing fund through April 1– except on projects already in the works. At the same December meeting, a council committee was formed to review and suggest revisions to the city’s public art program. The effort followed a failed millage proposal in November 2012, which was meant to provide an alternative funding mechanism to the Percent for Art approach.
At its April 1, 2013 meeting, the council extended the spending moratorium until May 31.
[For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: "City to Seek Feedback on Public Art Program," "Council's Public Art Committee Begins Work," as well as an update on the committee's work provided in the reports of AAPAC's Jan. 23, 2013, Feb. 27, 2013 and March 7, 2013 meetings.]
Highlights from the council committee’s recommendations are:
- Eliminate the Percent for Art funding mechanism, which requires that 1% of all capital project budgets be set aside for public art.
- Eliminate the “pooled” funding approach. That approach entails setting aside Percent for Art money from projects into which it would be difficult to incorporate public art. Those funds are combined from different projects and used for artwork in other locations, but thematically linked to the original funding source.
- Identify capital projects that can be “enhanced” with public art or architectural features, and allocate funding for those enhancements.
- Encourage additional fundraising for community‐generated public art projects.
In addition, the committee is recommending that a public art administrator – either city staff or a contract employee – be more than a part-time position. Currently, the city’s public art administrator, Aaron Seagraves, is a part-time city employee.
The nine-member Ann Arbor public art commission would remain in place as an advisory body, with three-year terms. Term limits had been considered by the committee, but ultimately were not added as part of their recommendations.
The public art commission would continue to produce an annual public art plan with a list of recommended projects. The public art ordinance currently requires that the plan be delivered to the city council by April 1. That deadline will likely be moved to an earlier date to better synch with the city’s budget planning process.
During the committee’s April 18 meeting, Sally Petersen advocated for highlighting three major points – either in a memo to the full council from the committee, or as part of the staff memo that will accompany the proposed ordinance revisions. She wanted to highlight: (1) the elimination of pooled funding, (2) the fact that the city attorney’s office has been involved in and has reviewed these revisions, and (3) an explanation of the committee work, including how many times they’ve met and why their original timeline was pushed back. [The committee was originally expected to report back with recommendations by mid-February.]
Petersen said she wanted to ameliorate the concerns raised by some members of the public regarding pooled funds and the lack of a city attorney’s opinion regarding the original Percent for Art ordinance. Christopher Taylor took issue with the perception about the lack of an opinion from the city attorney’s office, saying that the city’s legal staff had been very involved in drafting the original ordinance.
[By way of background, the issue has never been a question of whether the city attorney's staff was involved in drafting the ordinance. Rather, concerns have been raised because the city attorney never publicly released a written opinion about the legality of the Percent for Art ordinance. Such an opinion has apparently been provided to the city council, but as an "advice memo" – and not available to the public. It's the position of city attorney Stephen Postema that advice memos are not subject to the state's Freedom of Information Act. And by calling his opinions “advice memos,” Postema believes he is avoiding the city charter requirement that his opinions be filed with the city clerk’s office.]
Update: Revisions to Public Art Program – Next Steps
Based on discussion among councilmembers at the April 18 public art committee meeting, the ordinance revisions likely will be on the council’s May 6 agenda for first reading. The expectation is that the item will be moved to a second reading on May 20, but then postponed until the council’s June 3 meeting for a public hearing and final vote.
Between the May 6 and June 3 meetings, the committee plans to post a survey on A2 Open City Hall to solicit feedback on the proposed revisions. Petersen wondered whether other councilmembers would be open to amending the proposal, based on feedback from A2 Open City Hall. Other committee members, including Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall, indicated that they would be open to making amendments, if necessary. Taylor noted that if the proposal were amended significantly at second reading, it would need to go back for a first reading again.
Petersen agreed to work with Lisa Wondrash, the city’s communications manager, to draft questions for A2 Open City Hall.
AAPAC’s March 27 meeting was the first for two newly appointed commissioners: Ashlee Arder and Nick Zagar. Each of them gave brief comments about their backgrounds during the meeting.
Zagar told commissioners that he grew up in Ann Arbor, attending Eberwhite Elementary, Slauson Middle School, and Pioneer High. He has a fine arts degree from Corcoran College in Washington, D.C., and a masters of fine arts in painting from Washington University in St. Louis. For the past eight years he’s been living in New York City working in commercial real estate, but recently took an opportunity to move back to Ann Arbor. He said he’s excited to be back. He has a deep passion for public art and looks forward to being involved.
Arder is programs coordinator for ArtServe Michigan, a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and while there was heavily involved in other arts advocacy efforts. She said she recently moved back to Ann Arbor and is interested in getting involved again in the arts here.
Later in the meeting Arder discovered that AAPAC didn’t have a Twitter account, so she set one up before the meeting adjourned. The Twitter handle is @AAPublicArt.
Commissioners considered a proposal by John Kotarski to expand AAPAC’s membership by adding three positions designated for students. He proposed that each of the student commissioners would be selected by: (1) the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education; (2) the dean of the University of Michigan School of Art & Design; and (3) the Arts at Michigan program. Deb Mexicotte, president of the AAPS board, is also program coordinator for Arts at Michigan.
Kotarski suggested that these student positions be for one-year terms. He thought the approach would distribute ownership of the city’s public art program, and provide outreach to communities that are otherwise difficult to reach. He told commissioners that he had discussed the idea with some councilmembers who are on the committee that’s reviewing the public art program, and they were supportive. Kotarski said AAPAC could make this recommendation to the council committee, but he thought it was the mayor who would actually make a decision about whether to implement it.
Marsha Chamberlin clarified that the city’s public art ordinance governs the membership of AAPAC. Given that ordinance revisions are being developed, now would be the time to make a change, she said. However, her preference would be to make ad hoc appointments, so that the ordinance wouldn’t need to be amended.
Bob Miller indicated support for Chamberlin’s suggestion, saying it would be easier to bring people on if it were handled less formally. He also questioned whether the students should be full voting members, and wondered if that would be appropriate. He wanted to make sure that the students got something out of the experience, and felt that high schoolers would need more guidance than college students.
Kotarski argued that students should have “full citizenship” on the commission. The intent is to get fresh voices on AAPAC, he said, but also to engage these community stakeholders – the university and public schools – by putting the appointments on school leadership’s agendas. He didn’t think it would be a bad thing for the mayor to have a conversation once a year with the UM art school dean or the AAPS board president.
As for the students’ participation, Kotarski felt they would rise to the occasion. “They’ll probably be more diligent about this than some of us,” he said, referring to service on the commission.
Kotarski made a motion to communicate with the city council’s public art committee, telling councilmembers of the desire to include students on the commission.
Outcome: On a 5-1 vote, commissioners voted to ask the city council to add students to AAPAC’s membership. Marsha Chamberlin dissented.
After the vote, Chamberlin told commissioners that she liked the concept, but didn’t like this approach. She’d rather handle it informally, perhaps by including students in the task forces that are set up for each project.
Miller asked what needs to happen in order to move this effort forward. Craig Hupy – the city’s public services area administrator who also attended AAPAC’s March 27 meeting – said Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator who reports to Hupy, would write a memo about the proposal and send it to the council’s public art committee.
As of April 18, the draft recommendations from the city council committee did not include any reference to student members. [.pdf of draft ordinance revisions] [.pdf of most recent memo to city council regarding draft recommendations]
The city’s public art ordinance stipulates that a public art annual plan is due to the city council on April 1. This year, it covers activities that AAPAC intends to pursue in fiscal year 2014, which runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. [.pdf of 2014 annual public art plan and staff memo]
Commissioners have discussed the plan at previous meetings, and provided suggestions via email as Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, developed the draft.
This year, given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the city’s public art program and current funding mechanism, the plan focuses on three general goals:
AAPAC will coordinate the creation of public art in more areas of the city and is committed to balance the number of artworks throughout the city and its neighborhoods.
AAPAC will value areas of high use and visibility as locations for public art because they contain the greatest potential audience.
AAPAC will site public art at underserved areas.
There was little discussion about this draft on March 27. John Kotarski asked for a revision to an item in the accompanying staff memo, which listed projects currently underway that will not be affected by any changes to the ordinance. As described in the memo, those projects are:
Argo Cascades, a new park amenity and a great setting for art.
East Stadium Boulevard bridges, located at a cross-section of traffic.
Kingsley Street and First Street rain garden, to be coordinated with the rain garden’s design and installation.
Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program, the City is acting as a Community Partner with the museum to display famous works from their collection in public spaces.
Memorial to Coleman Jewett, using Mr. Jewett’s Adirondack chair design as the inspiration.
Sidewalk Chalk project focusing on stormdrain education in conjunction with the Huron River Watershed Council.
A Canoe project using recycled canoes as the medium for an art display in partnership with several community organizations.
Kotarski noted that a private donation of $5,000 has been offered for the Jewett memorial, but only if the memorial is a bronzed replica of one of Jewett’s chairs. Kotarski was concerned about the phrase “design as an inspiration,” which seemed to imply that the memorial might not be an exact replica. He suggested removing the phrase “as an inspiration.” There seemed to be consensus to make that change.
Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved the fiscal 2014 annual public art plan, to be forwarded to the city council as an item of information.
Artist Selection: Kingsley & First Rain Garden
A recommendation was on AAPAC’s March 27 agenda to select Josh Wiener, an artist from Denver, to work with landscapers and incorporate public art into a new rain garden at the corner of Kingsley and First. Task force members making the recommendation are Connie Brown, Jerry Hancock, Claudette Stern, John Walters and Jeff Kahn.
Aaron Seagraves gave a slide presentation of Wiener’s work. Commissioners were also provided a written proposal from Wiener, as part of their meeting packet. [.pdf of Wiener's proposal] The project has a total budget of $27,000, though the artist’s contract would be for $23,000.
Connie Brown reported that 11 proposals had been reviewed, and two artists were selected to be interviewed in early March. Wiener was selected as the finalist in part because he had “more robust qualifications,” she said, as well as a flexibility that would be valuable in collaborating with the project’s landscape architect.
This step was to select the artist, Brown explained. Wiener would then work with the landscape architect – Conservation Design Forum (CDF) – to develop a design for the artwork, which will also be reviewed by the task force. The process will include a public forum to get feedback from residents. The project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2013.
Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, clarified that because the artist’s contract is under $25,000, it does not need city council approval. John Kotarski thought that the council should still receive a memo about the selection, outlining how this artist had been selected.
Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to select Josh Wiener for the rain garden public art project.
Several projects were discussed briefly during the March 27 meeting, by way of updates. Additional information was also included in a written report by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.
Project Updates: Jewett Memorial
Marsha Chamberlin reported that Sarah Gay had written up a project plan, but subsequently Chamberlin hadn’t heard from her in about three weeks. If she didn’t get some kind of communication from Gay soon, Chamberlin said AAPAC should take over the project themselves.
By way of background, at a special meeting on March 7, 2013, AAPAC had voted to accept a memorial for Coleman Jewett as an official AAPAC project and to approve Sarah Gay as a volunteer project manager. Her duties were to lead efforts for city council approval, donor relations and fundraising.
The proposal is for a bronze Adirondack chair at the Ann Arbor farmers market. Jewett was a long-time local educator who died in January. After he retired, he made furniture that he sold at the Ann Arbor farmers market. A private donor has committed $5,000 to create a memorial at the market, in the form of a bronze replica of one of Jewett’s Adirondack chairs.
John Kotarski indicated that Gay had been working on the project. Chamberlin said she didn’t mean to imply that Gay wasn’t doing anything, just that she hadn’t heard from Gay.
Another update is expected at AAPAC’s April 24 meeting.
Project Updates: Justice Center
The Ed Carpenter glass hanging sculpture in the lobby of this building, next to city hall at the corner of Huron and Fifth, is set to be installed during Memorial Day weekend on May 25-26. Aaron Seagraves indicated that drywall work is already being done to prep for the installation.
Marsha Chamberlin asked whether it was time to schedule a dedication ceremony. Bob Miller suggested reaching out to Margaret Parker, a former AAPAC member who co-chaired the task force that recommended Carpenter for this project. He felt she might be willing to plan the dedication.
Craig Hupy suggested coordinating it with the mayor’s office, to ensure that the city council is included.
Project Updates: East Stadium Bridge
The four artists selected as finalists for artwork on the East Stadium bridge would be coming to town for an April 1 site visit/open house, Aaron Seagraves reported. Those artists are: Volkan Alkanoglu, based in Atlanta, Georgia; Sheila Klein of Bow, Washington; Rebar Group of San Francisco; and Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass.
The project has a budget of $400,000. Members of the task force are Wiltrud Simbuerger, Bob Miller, Nancy Leff, David Huntoon and Joss Kiely.
The Chronicle attended a portion of the April 1 open house, held at the Ann Arbor senior center in Burns Park. Artists were on hand with images of their work in other communities, and about 20 or so members of the public were there at the time The Chronicle stopped by. While they were in town, the artists also were given a tour of the city and the University of Michigan campus, and toured the East Stadium bridge site to get a sense of where their work would be located.
The four finalists will be returning to Ann Arbor in a few weeks to make presentations of their proposals, with additional opportunities for public input.
Project Updates: Argo Cascades
Aaron Seagraves reported that over 50 entries were received for the public art project at Argo Cascades. A selection panel would be meeting in April to begin evaluating the proposals. Members of the selection panel include John Kotarski, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Saam, Margaret Parker, Cathy Fleisher, Bonnie Greenspoon and Julie Grand.
Project Updates: DIA Inside|Out
Installation on the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program artwork took place two days after AAPAC’s March 27 meeting. Framed replicas of paintings from the DIA collection were mounted at these locations: Justice Center (Fifth & Huron); downtown fire station (Fifth & Ann); Lena (Main & Liberty); Kerrytown Market & Shops (Fourth & Kingsley); Sculpture Plaza (Fourth & Catherine); Zingerman’s Deli (Detroit & Kingsley); and the Liberty Street alley near Main Street.
John Kotarski reported that he and city councilmember Sally Petersen were working to organize bus trips to the DIA on April 20 and 21, when Ann Arbor residents would get free admission as part of the Inside|Out program. In addition, free docent walking tours of the installations will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays, starting on April 27. The tours will leave from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum every half-hour between noon and 3 p.m.
Project Updates: City Apartments
Marsha Chamberlin has been exploring the possibility of including artwork at the City Apartments project being built at the corner of First & Washington. When the project was originally proposed several years ago, there had been discussions about including public art in the public parking portion of the building, located on the lower levels and managed by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority under contract with the city. Until a few weeks ago, the last time that the public art component had been brought up publicly was at AAPAC’s October 2008 meeting, in connection with a possible partnership with the DDA. Chamberlin is the only current commissioner who was also serving at that time.
On March 27 she reported that public art there “is a project that doesn’t seem to have much traction.” Village Green, the developer of City Apartments, doesn’t have funding for it, she said, so she wouldn’t recommend that AAPAC make it a priority. She agreed that it should remain on the table, but didn’t think the commission should take any action at this point.
Chamberlin also noted that the building is located across the street from some nightclubs, which might make artwork there more vulnerable to vandalism. [The project is near the Blind Pig, 8 Ball Saloon and Cavern Club.]
Marsha Chamberlin reminded commissioners that it’s time to be soliciting nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which recognize local contributions to public art. Last year’s winners were Jim Cogswell, David Zinn and Margaret Parker, a former AAPAC chair.
The award winners are selected by AAPAC, with a presentation at an Ann Arbor city council meeting in June.
Commissioners present: Ashlee Arder, Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, John Kotarski, Bob Miller, Nick Zagar. Also: Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, and Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator.
Absent: Wiltrud Simbuerger, Malverne Winborne.
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. in the basement conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [Check Chronicle events listing to confirm date]
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