Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Aug. 28, 2013): The only major action item for public art commissioners was approval of Joshua Wiener’s design for artwork in a new rain garden at the southeast corner of First & Kingsley.
His proposal entails creating white metal images of five small mouth bass, in varying sizes, that appear to be emerging from the landscape and pointed toward the Huron River. Two of the sculptures will be large enough to serve as benches.
Because the artist’s contract of $23,380 is less than $25,000, it does not require city council approval. The sculptures would likely be installed during the spring of 2014.
Commissioners also received several updates during the meeting, and reviewed a new spreadsheet designed to track more effectively current and potential projects. [.xls file project tracker] Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, reported that a selection panel picked Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass., as the artist for a major public art project on the East Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor. However, the panel is asking Widgery to revise her proposal before presenting it to AAPAC and the city council for approval. The project has a $400,000 total budget.
Other updates covered projects at Argo Cascades, the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Arbor Oaks Park, a memorial for Coleman Jewett at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, and the “Canoe Imagine Art” community project. Additional potential projects were mentioned, including possible artwork for the new bike share program and the public skatepark, which is now under construction at Veterans Memorial Park.
Commissioners also viewed a short video produced by Ashlee Arder, one of the newest members of AAPAC. The intent is to promote the commission and the city’s public art program. The video is already available on YouTube, and Arder plans to post it on the commission’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account, @AAPublicArt.
The meeting was attended by six of the seven commissioners, including Marsha Chamberlin, who participated via conference call. There are two vacancies on the nine-member commission. At the city council’s Aug. 19, 2013 meeting, Devon Akmon was nominated to fill one of the vacancies. Akmon is an Ann Arbor resident and the new director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. At its Sept. 3 meeting, the city council is expected to vote on Akmon’s confirmation to AAPAC .
No name has been put forward publicly for the second vacancy. One of the two vacancies resulted when Tony Derezinski was not reappointed. The other stemmed from Wiltrud Simbuerger’s resignation earlier this year. Her term would have ended Dec. 31, 2013.
First & Kingsley Rain Garden
Commissioners were asked to vote on Joshua Wiener‘s schematic design for public art at a planned rain garden, to be located at the southeast corner of First & Kingsley. [.pdf of staff memo, including itemized budget]
At AAPAC’s March 27, 2013 meeting, commissioners had selected the Denver artist to work with landscapers and incorporate public art into a new rain garden at that location, which is in a floodplain. The project has a $27,000 budget, though the artist’s contract would be for $23,380.
Wiener visited Ann Arbor on July 15 to present his design to the public. He gave a presentation at city hall, and attended the Townie Party to talk with community members about the project. His proposal is for sculptures showing the outlines of five fish. They’re small mouth bass, in different sizes, made of white epoxy-painted steel and pointed toward the Huron River. The largest sculpture will be just under 8 feet tall, 20 feet wide and about 5 feet deep. Two of the fish will be large enough to serve as benches.
From the artist’s statement:
The significance of water on this site is represented by having fish on the land. They are emerging to articulate how this rain garden is an extension of the river. The fish evoke water and the shape of their bodies creates waves that give an additional suggestion of water on the land. As the audience passes the piece, the fish will change positions in relation to one another. The sculpture will have a kinetic feel without any moving parts. The fish will appear to be swimming and the outline of their fins will create overlapping waves, adding to the feeling that water is moving on this site. The landscape and the art have been woven together. The plants will be placed in a way that conveys the surface of water with long flowing lines along the same orientation as the fish. There are also shapes in the landscape that suggest shadows of the fish.
Kingsley & First Rain Garden: Commission Discussion
At the Aug. 28 meeting, Bob Miller expressed surprise at some of the items included in the staff memo, which indicated that the artist would need to provide a plan for removing graffiti and proof that the sculptures would remain secure and permanent. Where did those items come from?
Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, indicated that those were the result of questions raised by the task force that had recommended Wiener for the work. [Task force members are Connie Brown, Jerry Hancock, Claudette Stern, John Walters and Jeff Kahan.]
John Kotarski asked about the color of the fish sculptures. The artist had proposed white, but some members of the public had indicated a preference for cor-ten steel, which is a rusty brown. Cor-ten is a more expensive material, Kotarski noted, so that would have meant fewer fish sculptures, but the rusty brown color would stand out more in the winter.
Connie Brown reported that the task force had discussed this issue at some length, but opted to go with the artist’s preference. Miller said his only concern was about the maintenance of powder coating, which is the process that will be used to paint these sculptures. Brown replied that the artist has been directed to provide something that’s as maintenance-free as possible, with the understanding that every kind of artwork needs some kind of maintenance. Wiener will be developing a maintenance program for this work, she said.
Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, pointed out that because the artist’s contract is less than $25,000, it does not require approval by the city council. However, he recommended that AAPAC provide a formal communication to the council about the project.
Outcome: Commissioner unanimously approved Joshua Wiener’s schematic design for the rain garden sculptures.
Life after Percent for Art
Bob Miller, chair of the public art commission, reported that he and John Kotarski had been meeting with Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, to talk about how to move forward following the elimination of the city’s Percent for Art program earlier this summer.
From 2007 until this June, the city had funded public art through a Percent for Art mechanism, which set aside 1% of the budget for each of the city’s capital projects for public art – up to a cap of $250,000. However, at its June 3, 2013 meeting, the city council voted to eliminate the Percent for Art approach in favor of one that allows for discretionary incorporation of public art into a particular project.
Now, city staff will work to determine whether a specific capital improvement should have enhanced design features “baked in” to the project – either enhanced architectural work or specific public art. The funding for any of the enhanced features would be included in the project’s budget and incorporated into the RFP (request for proposals) process for the capital project.
On Aug. 28, Miller described the conversations with city staff as positive, but noted that there’s no clear process in place. He hoped to invite Deb Gosselin, who handles the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), to AAPAC’s Sept. 25 meeting. Gosselin had attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27, 2013 session to explain how the CIP process works.
Life after Percent for Art: Project Spreadsheet
Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, passed out a new spreadsheet to use for tracking public art projects. [.xls file project tracker] The spreadsheet is divided into three categories: (1) projects that have already been approved under the former Percent for Art program, with funding identified; (2) potential projects, either using remaining Percent for Art funds or private funding; and (3) potential capital projects that could be “enhanced” with public art under the new public art program. About $840,000 in Percent for Art funds are unspent.
In the third category, the potential “enhanced” capital projects are in the pipeline for the fiscal year 2016 and beyond. The idea is to identify those projects early on, so that AAPAC can work with staff to incorporate public art into the design process. Examples of those potential projects include:
- Decorative “stamping” for new sidewalks.
- Decorative “street access” (manhole) covers.
- Stadium Boulevard reconstruction, from Hutchins to Kipke.
- Improvements at the intersection of Dhu Varren & Nixon.
- Detroit Street improvements.
- East Ellsworth reconstruction, from South State to Platt.
- South State Street improvements.
- Improvements at Cobblestone Farm and Leslie Science & Nature Center.
Projects that have already received preliminary approval from AAPAC, which could be funded with remaining Percent for Art funds, include a mural program, as well as artwork at the city’s new wastewater treatment plant, Arbor Oaks Park, the new roundabout at South State and Ellsworth, and the Forest Avenue plaza. A memorial for Coleman Jewett and a community project called “Canoe Imagine Art” also might be eligible for remaining Percent for Art funds, although the primary source of funding would be from private donors.
Seagraves also listed a range of other potential projects that have not yet received approval from AAPAC. Those include artwork at the Ann Arbor skatepark, which recently began construction, as well as art for the new bike share program, street and sidewalk stamping, utility boxes (signal control cabinets), fences (including a section next to new sidewalks along a stretch of Scio Church Road), and “permission walls” for graffiti.
For each project, the spreadsheet includes a traffic count at the closest intersection, to indicate how visible the location might be. Also indicated is the general geographical quadrant for each project’s location – for example, whether the project is in the southeast, central, north or west quadrant of the city.
Commissioners were supportive of the new approach. Connie Brown asked for information to be added about each project’s potential timeline.
Nick Zagar asked about the skatepark project. Brown reported that when initially approached, skatepark organizers were “not very receptive” to the idea of incorporating public art into the project’s design. “They might have a different mindset now,” she said. [The skatepark, to be located in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park, broke ground earlier this month.]
Zagar thought it would be a great location for a “permission wall” – a place where graffiti is allowed. “It seems like it’ll be unpermissionedly tagged up anyway,” he said. Seagraves noted that if art is located in the skatepark, it would be the only public art so far that’s located west of Seventh Street.
Bob Miller suggested a “permission wall” out by Argo Cascades, pointing to the wall under the trestle there that currently is covered with graffiti.
Marsha Chamberlin said she was the impetus for this new spreadsheet, as a way to help push projects forward and allocate remaining Percent for Art funds. She noted that two projects she’s working on that are mostly funded with private donations – the Coleman Jewett memorial and the “Canoe Imagine Art” community project – would benefit from public art funding. If the city commits funds to such projects, she added, it’s easier to raise money from private donors. “Money upfront gets more money.”
She hoped that AAPAC could make some funding decisions soon. “Craig [Hupy] has been telling us since April that we need to pay attention to allocating those [Percent for Art] funds,” Chamberlin said.
John Kotarski reminded commissioners that there are constraints associated with Percent for Art funding. The Percent for Art mechanism set aside funds for public art that were originally designated for infrastructure like roads or utilities. Because the money was taken from restricted funds, a thematic or geographic link must exist between the funding source and the public art expenditure. “It’s just not money that we can allocate at will for something we’d like to see brought forward,” Kotarski said.
Chamberlin pointed out that the spreadsheet indicates what category of Percent for Art funding could be used for each project.
Miller said it might be possible to vote on funding allocations for some of these projects at AAPAC’s September meeting.
Ashlee Arder recently finished a short video to promote AAPAC and the city’s public art program. She had shot footage of commissioners at their June 26, 2013 meeting, as well as at their booth at the July Townie Party.
Commissioners watched the roughly 2-minute video at the end of their Aug. 28 meeting. Arder plans to post it on the commission’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account, @AAPublicArt. It’s also posted on YouTube.
Commissioners also spent part of their Aug. 28 meeting watching a video presentation of national public art projects that have won awards from the Americans for the Arts. Marsha Chamberlin, who participated in the meeting via conference call, gave a brief introduction to describe the annual awards process. The presentation included the award-winning work Cloudbreak by Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass., who was recently selected by an AAPAC task force for a major public art project at the East Stadium bridges. [An update on that project is provided later in this article.]
Several projects were discussed briefly during the Aug. 28 meeting, by way of updates. Additional information was also included in a written report by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. [.pdf of Seagraves' report] These projects were either already in progress when the city council temporarily halted spending on public art late last year, or don’t use Percent for Art funds.
Here are some highlights.
Project Updates: East Stadium Bridges
In early August, Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. was recommended as the artist for public art on the East Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor. She was picked by a selection panel from four finalists who had submitted proposals for the project, which has a $400,000 total budget. [.pdf of Widgery's proposal]
Seagraves reported that the selection panel is providing feedback to Widgery and is asking that she revise her proposal before it’s presented to AAPAC and then later to the city council for approval. Members of the panel are Wiltrud Simbuerger, Bob Miller, Nancy Leff, David Huntoon and Joss Kiely. A conference call with the artist has been scheduled for Sept. 6 with panel members to discuss the proposal. [.pdf of panel feedback]
Revisions to her proposal are due by Oct. 4. Bob Miller reported that the selection panel is trying to focus her work on the connections between East Stadium Boulevard and South State Street, which runs below the bridge.
Seagraves indicated that Widgery’s revised proposal would likely be presented to some of the city’s boards and commissioners for feedback, before presentation to AAPAC. Connie Brown praised the outreach efforts that Bob Miller and John Kotarski have already undertaken for this project. They’ve made presentations to various groups, including the Ann Arbor District Library board and the park advisory commission, among others. The intent is to create community buy-in before a project is finalized.
Project Updates: Bike Share Program
Seagraves reported that he met with staff from the Clean Energy Coalition about a new bike share program that CEC is managing, with a targeted launch of April 2014. They talked about the possibility of including public art at the bike share station locations, he said, or possibly on the bikes as well. The CEC team is interested in drafting a proposal to present to AAPAC in the future, he said.
A detailed presentation about the program was made to the Ann Arbor District Library board on Aug. 19. See Chronicle coverage: “Library Board Briefed on Bike Share Program.”
Project Updates: Argo Cascades
Three finalists had been selected for artwork at the Argo Cascades, but one of them – Andy Dufford of Denver, Colo. – subsequently dropped out, Seagraves said. The remaining two finalists are Jann Rosen-Queralt of Maryland and Mags Harries & Lajos Heder of Cambridge, Mass. [.pdf of staff memo on Argo Cascades public art]
The artists came to town in early August to meet with the public – including a presentation at the Workantile on Main Street, and a reception at Argo Cascades. John Kotarski reported that the artists had the chance to kayak through the cascades while they were here, as did he.
Proposals will be due in early October, with presentations by the artists during the week of Oct. 14, with a specific date to be determined.
AAPAC had approved a $150,000 total budget for the Argo Cascades project on April 25, 2012.
Project Updates: Coleman Jewett Memorial
At a special meeting on March 7, 2013, AAPAC had voted to accept a memorial for Coleman Jewett as an official AAPAC project. The original proposal was 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 foundation 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.
A memorandum of understanding has been negotiated between the Jewett family, the city, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, which will act as a fiduciary for fundraising. The plan now calls for two full-sized replicas in bronze, at an estimated cost of $15,000 each. Materials for fundraising are being developed. Marsha Chamberlin, who is taking the lead on this project, said about 300 personalized letters to potential donors will be sent out within the next week or so.
The next step will be to write a formal request for proposals (RFP) for doing the work.
Project Updates: Canoe Imagine Art
Marsha Chamberlin has been working on a canoe art project with other local organizations, called Canoe Imagine Art. The project will use old aluminum canoes from the city of Ann Arbor’s Argo canoe livery, which artists and community groups will turn into artwork that will be displayed throughout the downtown in 2014. Partners in the project include the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Main Street Area Association (MSAA), the Arts Alliance, and the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). Task force members are Chamberlin; Cheryl Saam, the city’s canoe livery supervisor; Shoshana Hurand of the Arts Alliance; Mary Kerr of the CVB; Maura Thomson of the MSAA; and Laura Rubin of HRWC.
Seagraves reported that a formal agreement has been reached between the city and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, which will act as fiduciary for the funds raised on this project. Fundraising materials are being developed.
Project Updates: Arbor Oaks Park
The first task force meeting for possible artwork in the Arbor Oaks Park is set for Sept. 5. At AAPAC’s June 26, 2013 meeting, commissioners approved setting up an exploratory task force for this project, located in the Bryant neighborhood on the city’s southeast side. Members include public art commissioners Malverne Winborne and Nick Zagar; Derek Miller, deputy director of the nonprofit Community Action Network (CAN); and CAN board member David Jones.
It’s being conceived of as a community art project, Seagraves reported.
Project Updates: Wastewater Treatment Plant
Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, had approached AAPAC earlier this year about the possibility of incorporating public art into the wastewater treatment project. The city is building a new wastewater treatment facility and renovating its existing facility in Ann Arbor Township, at 49 S. Dixboro Road. [.pdf of memo describing the wastewater treatment plant renovations]
Hupy had noted that of the remaining amount in the Percent for Art funds, much of it – about $448,000 – came from wastewater-related projects, and must be spent on public art with a “nexus” to wastewater.
John Kotarski is taking the lead on this project. He reported that he met recently with Hupy and Earl Kenzie, manager of the treatment plant. He’s also been in touch with the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum and University of Michigan, about possible participation in this project. The intent of any artwork would be to “train, teach, entertain and inspire,” he said.
Commissioners talked about the possibility of taking a field trip to the plant site, which is still under construction.
Project Updates: Fencing on Scio Church
At AAPAC’s June 26 meeting, Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, suggested a possible public art project related to fencing. The city is putting in sidewalks along a stretch of Scio Church Road, and will also be installing a fence there. The city staff was planning to install the kind of chain link fence that they usually use, but Hupy thought there might be an opportunity for something more creative, if AAPAC wanted to explore that possibility. The construction work would likely occur next summer.
On Aug. 28, Marsha Chamberlin reported that she has collected about 30 examples of different fencing designs used in other municipalities. Bob Miller suggested that Chamberlin could present that information at AAPAC’s next meeting.
Commissioners present: Ashlee Arder, Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin (via conference call), 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: Malverne Winborne.
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 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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