The Ann Arbor Chronicle » rain garden it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 First & Kingsley Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:29:48 +0000 Mary Morgan Installation underway for large fish sculptures in this city rain garden, a project paid for by the now defunct Percent for Art program. [photo] Sculpture Joshua Wiener is working on site. [photo] Also here are Bob Miller and John Kotarski of the city’s public art commission, WEMU reporter Andy Cluley, landscape architect Patrick Judd of Conservation Design Forum, and Jerry Hancock, the city’s stormwater and floodplain programs coordinator. [photo] [photo]

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Design Approved for Rain Garden Sculptures Thu, 29 Aug 2013 23:37:56 +0000 Mary Morgan 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.

Joshua Wiener, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A drawing of Joshua Wiener’s proposed rain garden sculptures at First & Kingsley. (Image provided in the AAPAC Aug. 28, 2013 meeting packet.)

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.

Bob Miller, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bob Miller, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission.

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.

Connie Brown, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Connie Brown.

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.

Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Screenshot from a video by Ann Arbor public art commissioner Ashlee Arder. The film is black and white, with spot color. This poster was part of AAPAC’s booth at the July 15 Townie Party. (Image links to the video on YouTube.)

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.]

Project Updates

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]

Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor’s public art commissioner.

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]

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our artful coverage of public entities like the Ann Arbor public art commission. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

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Fifth & Huron Wed, 10 Jul 2013 13:21:31 +0000 Sabra Briere New fence segments being delivered and (I’ll bet) installed at the rain garden at City Hall. [photo] [photo]

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Art Commission Debates Advocacy Role Mon, 05 Dec 2011 03:48:44 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Nov. 30, 2011): At their final meeting before the city council convenes on Monday night (Dec. 5) to consider changes to Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art program, public art commissioners debated how to respond – particularly to a temporary funding cut – and expressed different views on what their role should be.

Margaret Parker, Malverne Winborne

Ann Arbor public art commissioners Margaret Parker and Malverne Winborne at the commission's Nov. 30 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Former board chair Margaret Parker, who was instrumental in creating the Percent for Art program in 2007, argued passionately that commissioners should be strong advocates for it. Saying she didn’t believe councilmembers really understood the issues that AAPAC is facing and that the currently proposed changes represented an “incredible kink in the road,” she urged commissioners to attend Monday’s city council meeting and speak against the proposed changes during the public hearing.

Parker also argued that the council should double the budget for administrative support to public art projects – from 8% to 16%.

As she’s done in the past when the proposals to cut Percent for Art funding have been floated, Parker is trying to mobilize people in the local arts community. She has sent emails urging people to lobby councilmembers, including a bullet-point “fact sheet” related to the program. [.pdf of Parker email] [.pdf of "fact sheet"]

Marsha Chamberlin, AAPAC’s current chair, questioned whether commissioners should “pick a fight” with city council, and said she felt that councilmembers did understand the issues clearly. Noting that she had attended previous council meetings and also communicated with councilmembers privately, Chamberlin wasn’t convinced that turning out yet again would be effective.

The councilmember who has in the past advised AAPAC about the sentiment on council – Tony Derezinski, who also serves on AAPAC – did not attend the Nov. 30 meeting.

Malverne Winborne pointed to political realities at play, and said that AAPAC needs to be realistic about the situation – other programs are being cut, too. If the council decides to get rid of AAPAC, he said he wouldn’t fight that. “Decommission me – what the hell,” he quipped.

In addition to an extended discussion on city council’s proposed changes to the Percent for Art ordinance, commissioners voted to move forward on two projects: (1) public art in a proposed rain garden at the corner of Kingsley and First, and (2) a partnership with the Detroit Institute of Art’s Inside|Out project, which involves installing framed reproductions from the DIA’s collection at outdoor locations on building facades or in parks.

Commissioners were also briefed on a range of other projects, including the latest on a mural at Allmendinger Park. A task force has selected four finalists for the $10,000 project: (1) Robert Delgado of Los Angeles, Calif.; (2) Bethany Kalk of Moorehead, Kentucky; (3) Jefferson Nelson of Liberty Center, Ohio; and (4) Mary Thiefels of Ann Arbor. The artists will submit preliminary concepts for potential murals on Dec. 8, and from those, the task force will recommend one for AAPAC and the city council to consider.

Commissioners also changed the date for AAPAC’s final meeting in December – to Dec. 13, when they’ll hold a follow-up discussion to their Oct. 26 working session. That October session, intended to prep AAPAC for its presentation at a Nov. 14 council work session – focused on challenges facing the Percent for Art program, and possible solutions.

Proposed Percent for Art Changes

As part of his administrator’s report, Aaron Seagraves – the city’s public art administrator – updated commissioners on the status of proposed changes by city council to the Percent for Art ordinance.

By way of background, the city enacted a law in 2007 that requires all capital project budgets to include 1% for public art, with a limit of $250,000 per project. Since then, there have been previous unsuccessful attempts by some councilmembers to reduce the percentage allocated to public art. This most recent proposal, which the council approved on an initial vote at its Nov. 21 meeting, would temporarily reduce the amount allocated from all capital project budgets to public art from 1% to 0.5%.

In addition to cutting the public art amount from 1% to 0.5% per project, several other revisions to the public art ordinance received initial council approval, and are expected to be considered for a final vote at the council’s Dec. 5 meeting:

  • The reduction from 1% to 0.5% would apply for the next three fiscal years, from 2012-2015. After that, funding would revert to 1%. [A proposal by councilmember Jane Lumm to cut the funding even more – to 0.25% – did not pass.]
  • A sunsetting amendment would require that future funds reserved for public art under the ordinance, starting in fiscal 2012, must be spent or allocated within three years. Money that is unspent or unallocated after three years must be returned to its fund of origin. This applies only to “pooled” funds – from Percent for Art money funded by parks, stormwater or solid waste projects, for example, and not for specific building projects like the proposed Fuller Road Station. The proposed revision would also make it possible for the council to extend the deadline for successive periods, each extension for no more than six months.
  • For the purposes of the public art ordinance, a definition of capital improvement projects would exclude sidewalk repair from the ordinance requirement. Voters on Nov. 8 approved a new 0.125 mill tax that is supposed to allow the city to take over responsibility for the repair of sidewalks. Previously, sidewalk repair was paid for by adjacent property owners.
  • Any capital projects funded out of the general fund would be excluded from the Percent for Art requirement. Such projects are rare.

The sunsetting amendment came in response to criticism about the pace at which public art has been acquired. More than $500,000 has accumulated for public art over the last five years, just from projects funded with the street repair tax – money that has yet to be spent on the acquisition of public art. Critics of the program also point to legal issues connected with the use of dedicated millage funds or fee-based utility funds for public art. [Additional Chronicle coverage: "Council Preview: Public Art Ordinance"]

When it became clear earlier this year that a proposal to reduce the Percent for Art funding would be brought forward to the city council, AAPAC commissioners and others in the arts community began lobbying informally as well as speaking during public commentary at city council meetings. The council focused on the Percent for Art program at its Nov. 14 working session, which included a presentation by AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin and by Sue McCormick, the city’s public services area administrator, who oversees the program.

AAPAC held an Oct. 26 working session to prep for the Nov. 14 presentation to the council. At that meeting, commissioners cited a range of challenges facing the program, including: (1) a lack of public awareness about the program, its constraints, funding sources, and AAPAC’s role; (2) the perception that not enough art is coming out of the program, and that the process is too slow; (3) the complaint that local artists aren’t given preference; and (4) the sense that in this difficult economy, city funds shouldn’t be spent on public art.

In addition to offering ways to address these challenges, at the Oct. 26 session commissioners also discussed their own workload. They noted that AAPAC is still relatively new and is one of the few city commissions that hasn’t enjoyed consistent staff support over the years. Although a new part-time public art administrator was hired this summer – Aaron Seagraves – the program had no dedicated staff person for about a year.

Proposed Percent for Art Cuts: Commissioner Discussion

On Nov. 30, Seagraves reported that he thought the Nov. 14 work session with city council had gone well, and that the information about the Percent for Art program had been well-received by councilmembers. Based on his observation of the subsequent Nov. 21 council meeting, Seagraves felt councilmembers understood the situation and were sympathetic to the situation that AAPAC has operated under for the past few years. That’s all positive, he said.

In reviewing the proposed ordinance changes, Seagraves noted that the biggest change would be the funding reduction from 1% to 0.5% – but it would return to full funding at 1% in fiscal 2016. [The city's fiscal year starts on July 1 and runs through June 30.] He clarified that the proposal to return funds to their original source after three years, if unspent or unencumbered for specific projects, would apply to funding that’s allocated to the Percent for Art program starting in FY 2013 – that is, starting on July 1, 2012. The proposal includes an option of an unlimited number of six-month extensions for funds that haven’t been spent or encumbered, he noted.

Existing funds wouldn’t be affected, he said, but the wording on that part of the ordinance revision is unclear. He said he expects the wording will be changed before the final vote, to clarify that existing Percent for Art funds will be exempt from the three-year spending rule.

Connie Brown raised some concern about funding for art at the Fuller Road Station project. She observed that since the overall project has been delayed, it’s unclear how long it will take before the public art funding for that is available. Seagraves said that because those funds are tied to a specific capital project – not part of the pooled Percent for Art funds – the three-year rule won’t apply.

Malverne Winborne wondered “who’s the timekeeper?” With football, he said, there are 60 minutes in the game but it typically takes three hours to play, because of timeouts and other factors. With public art projects, there are many things out of AAPAC’s control that might delay a project, he said. Each project has its own clock, and the question is “do we own the clock?” he said.

Proposed Percent for Art Cuts: Administrative Costs

At this point, Margaret Parker weighed in, saying she had sat through the full discussion at the city council’s Nov. 21 meeting and she didn’t believe the councilmembers had responded to the Nov. 14 work session at all. The council didn’t discuss the work session, she said, but instead jumped into a new proposal that had “popped up” over the previous weekend to cut the program even more – to 0.25%. [That proposal, by newly elected councilmember Jane Lumm (Ward 2), was ultimately rejected.]

Parker spoke at length about her concerns. She contended that councilmembers didn’t seem to hear about all the projects AAPAC had in the works, which had been described to the council at the Nov. 14 working session. They didn’t seem to hear that the program needs more administrative staff time, she said. Rather, councilmembers intimated that AAPAC has bungled the program and hadn’t successfully finished enough projects, Parker said.

The idea of returning funds that haven’t been spent or encumbered after three years is an “incredible kink in the road,” Parker contended. Every project takes a different length of time, she said, and this ordinance change will make it a lot harder to do projects. The council also didn’t address the fact that it’s been taking longer to do projects because of a lack of administrative support, Parker said. [During council deliberations, Margie Teall among others mentioned lack of staff support to the commission.] Currently, spending on administration is capped at 8% of total public art funding – it should be 16%, she said. If the council wants AAPAC to do more projects, more quickly, she added, then they need to provide the administrative support for that.

By way of additional background, at the council’s Nov. 14 work session, Sue McCormick had alluded to an 8% limit on administrative costs – the costs associated with the functioning of the commission itself (for example, keeping meeting minutes, among other items). The 8% limit is not a part of the public art ordinance. By way of comparison, the city’s greenbelt program operates under the legal limit of a 6% cap on administrative costs, though it has expended considerably less than that – 1.5% for the most recent fiscal year. The 8% limit would still be in effect for public art administrative costs, McCormick had explained. She also recommended increasing the contract for the city’s public art administrator by $35,000 – moving the position from part-time to full-time status, but still as a contract employee.

At AAPAC’s Nov. 30 meeting, Seagraves noted that the percentage for administration isn’t written into the Percent for Art ordinance – it’s a separate issue, he said. He noted that McCormick is working on a way to increase funding for public art administration.

“It’s not a separate issue,” Parker replied. It’s a step in how the ordinance was developed, she said, and it’s important to say that. It would be a recipe for failure if Seagraves has to do all the work as a part-time employee, she said.

Parker said the council asked AAPAC to examine its policies and procedures, and AAPAC did that faithfully. Yet all that work has been swept under the rug, she said. The reason why things haven’t moved faster is that volunteers are doing the work, she said, referring to AAPAC commissioners. And those volunteers have just about worn themselves out, she said.

There was some uncertainty among commissioners about how the 8% amount for administration is allocated. Brown noted that if the 8% isn’t part of the ordinance, it’s important to understand how that’s managed. In addition to the public art administrator, city project managers – for the municipal center building, for example, or the proposed Fuller Road Station – spend part of their time managing the project’s public art component.

Cheryl Zuellig wondered whether Seagraves could take on additional project management responsibilities related to public art projects, in addition to his part-time job as public art administrator. Marsha Chamberlin indicated that would be possible.

Parker said that since the council is looking to cut Percent for Art funding in half, and is pointing to money that hasn’t been used as a rationale for doing that, then this issue of administrative costs needs to be raised.

Proposed Percent for Art Cuts: Role of AAPAC

During the discussion, Parker criticized Chamberlin for not attending the Nov. 21 council meeting. Chamberlin replied that she has attended previous meetings and has been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes communications with councilmembers as well. Parker said she felt councilmembers aren’t giving AAPAC credit for work that’s been done. If AAPAC doesn’t insist that more funding be allocated to administration prior to council’s final vote on the ordinance revisions, then it won’t happen, she said.

When Seagraves replied that the issue is being addressed by McCormick, Parker pressed for details. Seagraves said he wasn’t sure how McCormick was planning to handle it, but that she planned to make a recommendation to the council at some point about increasing the budget for public art administration.

AAPAC needs to know what that recommendation will be, Parker said. Councilmembers who’ve been supportive of the Percent for Art program are now willing to back a funding cut, she said, because they feel the program isn’t running well. This needs to be addressed before the council’s final vote, she said.

Chamberlin wondered whether Parker felt that these issues weren’t covered adequately by McCormick at the Nov. 14 council work session. Parker replied that the council didn’t discuss the issues at their Nov. 21 meeting, when they gave initial approval to the ordinance changes. She implied that since the issues weren’t discussed, councilmembers hadn’t grasped their significance.

Chamberlin queried the other commissioners, asking for their opinion on how to proceed. Should they take action as Parker had suggested? Or should AAPAC work through Seagraves and Tony Derezinski, the city councilmember who also serves on AAPAC, and trust their leadership and advice? [Derezinski did not attend the Nov. 30 meeting.]

Cheryl Zuellig suggested that commissioners could speak during public commentary on Dec. 5, getting it on the record that AAPAC is working with McCormick and others on the project management issue, which they’ve identified as a challenge. They could present it in a proactive way, she said.

Wiltrud Simbuerger also supported speaking to the council on Dec. 5, telling the council how AAPAC feels about the proposed changes. It would send a bad message, she said, if the reaction by council to problems that arise in the program is simply to cut the budget – commissioners need to respond to that.

Chamberlin observed that there seems to be a perception among commissioners that there hasn’t been adequate reaction to these proposed ordinance changes. She said she’s had private communication with councilmembers, and wondered whether other commissioners have as well. Simbuerger replied that it was important to make a public statement, in addition to whatever other communication occurred.

Parker added that it’s important for AAPAC to advocate for its position. Chamberlin wasn’t so sure. Is it their role to publicly argue with city council? she asked. “I don’t think so.”

Malverne Winborne said he felt “lost in the weeds.” The commissioners all had opinions, he said, but he wasn’t sure they knew what they were talking about – or rather, he added, he didn’t know. AAPAC now has a project management process in place that hasn’t been allowed to operate for very long. As a volunteer, Winborne said, he doesn’t have time to handle the workload that’s been expected of commissioners. As for staff, if there isn’t enough staff time to manage the projects, then AAPAC should go to the city council and communicate that.

But the elephant in the room is the political reality of the situation, he said. There are underlying political issues that AAPAC needs to be realistic about. Everyone’s being cut, but until now, the Percent for Art program hasn’t been cut. The question is – do they have the votes on the council or not? he said.

Chamberlin said AAPAC doesn’t have the role of a political action committee. But Parker made another plea for advocacy. She said that in the past when she was AAPAC’s chair and the Percent for Art program has been threatened, it made a difference when commissioners and other supporters of public art attended the council meetings and spoke during public commentary. In the past, none of the proposed cuts were approved. All councilmembers have told her that it makes a difference when people show up, Parker said. If people don’t show up and advocate, the cuts will be approved. In the past, Parker said, councilmembers have told her that “cuts have not been made –because of eloquent public input.”

Parker said she has orchestrated public feedback in the past, and is organizing it again. [.pdf of Parker's email urging support for the Percent for Art program] [.pdf of "fact sheet" Parker attached to the email]

Parker told Chamberlin that it’s important to lobby privately, but it’s also necessary to turn out in public, because that makes it a lot more difficult for councilmembers to vote for the cuts. Council is trying to cut a very small program in half, when nothing else is being cut that much, she said.

Proposed Percent for Art Cuts: Coda

At the end of the Nov. 30 meeting, Parker brought up the issue of the proposed ordinance revision again, asking to know which commissioners planned to speak at the Dec. 5 city council meeting. Commissioners were initially silent. Then Connie Brown noted that they’d indicated they would state that the program is important. But who is coming? Parker wondered.

Again, Chamberlin asked whether they really wanted to pick a fight with the council. She said she has another commitment that night, and from talking with councilmembers, it seems clear that they understand how AAPAC feels. The council has also heard from the public, Chamberlin said, because Parker has done a good job in organizing that. So the question is how much does AAPAC want to do beyond that, she said.

Winborne noted that commissioners serve at the pleasure of the mayor. [The commissioners are nominated by the mayor, and confirmed by the entire city council.] Is it their job to advocate for something they’ve been assigned to? he asked. It seemed to him that AAPAC’s role is to lay out their approach and agenda. If they’re not wanted, the council can get rid AAPAC, and he wouldn’t fight that. “Decommission me – what the hell,” he said. AAPAC’s job is to represent the public in terms of distributing public art around the city, he concluded.

Brown said she couldn’t attend the Dec. 5 meeting. When Parker said she’d be attending and had invited others to come, Winborne indicated support of that approach, saying that the public should be the the people to speak to the council. Parker said she’s always been told by councilmembers who support this program that it’s helpful to have a turnout during public commentary, and she said she’s been thanked “profusely” afterwards. She said she’s been told it’s important to speak during the meeting because it’s televised. [Meetings are broadcast live by Community Television Network on cable access Channel 16, are streamed live via the Internet, and are available via video-on-demand.]

Having at least two commissioners at the meeting, in addition to members of the public, would be very powerful, Parker said. It’s not picking a fight – it’s stating what’s important. And it has to be restated, because there now different councilmembers on board, she said.

Chamberlin concluded the discussion by saying she’d urge anyone who can attend the Dec. 5 meeting to do so, and that she’d try to change her schedule so that she could attend, too.

Project Votes: Kingsley Rain Garden, DIA

AAPAC discussed and voted on two projects that had been presented at the group’s Oct. 26 meeting: (1) public art in a rain garden at the corner of Kingsley and First, and (2) a partnership with the Detroit Institute of Art.

Project Votes: Kingsley Rain Garden

At AAPAC’s Oct. 26 meeting, Patrick Judd of Conservation Design Forum and Jerry Hancock, Ann Arbor’s stormwater and floodplain programs coordinator, had talked to commissioners about possible public art in a rain garden that’s being designed for property at the corner of Kingsley and First. The city is buying 215 and 219 W. Kingsley – land that’s located in a floodplain. A boarded-up house is located on the corner lot; the adjacent lot is vacant. The city received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to demolish the house and stabilize the site.

The city has awarded Conservation Design Forum (CDF) the contract for the project, which will include building a rain garden on the site. CDF was also involved in the new municipal center project and the Dreiseitl sculpture.

The overall project cost is about $280,000 – the city will pay for 25% of that, or about $70,000. Because the city’s portion will come from the city’s stormwater fund, the public art component can use pooled Percent for Art funds captured from stormwater projects. A balance of about $27,000 is available in stormwater Percent for Art funds. [.pdf of rain garden project form]

At AAPAC’s Nov. 30 meeting, Cheryl Zuellig reviewed the proposal. Advantages of putting public art there include the fact that it will be on city-owned land in a visible and accessible location, because the street serves as a cut-through for motorists trying to avoid Main Street. Another advantage is that it’s a project supported by city staff, she noted, and the project’s designer is willing to integrate public art into his work. Cons to the project include somewhat limited public visibility – it’s a relatively small site, and not on a major thoroughfare.

Zuellig said she’d been on the fence about it. It’s not part of AAPAC’s annual public art plan, but the overall rain garden project is part of the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP). Although there’s $27,000 in funding available, Zuellig wasn’t sure they should spend that full amount, and wondered whether $10,000 would be an appropriate figure.

Malverne Winborne wanted commissioners to at least think about the fact that this project isn’t in their annual plan. In the context of concerns over AAPAC’s ability to get projects done in a certain timeframe, he didn’t want them to lose focus on what they’d already said they’d do.

Zuellig said this question came up with the West Park sculpture project, too. Like the rain garden, public art in West Park was initiated by the city and tied to renovations there, but hadn’t been part of AAPAC’s annual plan. In the past, AAPAC has accepted projects if they are tied to the CIP or proposed by city staff, she said. Commissioners can change that stance, she added, but that’s what they’ve done to date. She said they should think about the implications of saying no to projects like this – what message will it send to city staff?

Marsha Chamberlin noted that since the Fuller Road Station project is on hold, that frees up some time to take on something else. She characterized the rain garden as an interesting project, in a different part of town from other art installations.

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, said he didn’t think AAPAC should limit projects only to those in its annual plan. The plan is designed to be a guideline, but does not bind their work. In response to a question from Connie Brown, he said installation for the public art piece in the rain garden would likely happen in the spring.

Referring to a conversation that commissioners had earlier in the meeting, Margaret Parker said this situation illustrates the “jaws” of their dilemma. On the one hand, they face pressure to move more projects along quickly. On the other hand, she isn’t confident they have the administrative support to take it on. Aside from those concerns, she said, it’s a great project, and would support using the entire $27,000 to fund it.

Brown asked Seagraves whether he felt he could manage it, given that Fuller Road Station is delayed. Yes, he said. In that case, Brown said she’d support the project, but felt that $27,000 was too much.

Wiltrud Simbuerger called it a great opportunity. They could do the project quickly – and it’s important to have a range of projects, she said, both smaller and larger projects that would take longer to complete. As head of AAPAC’s mural program, she noted that the $10,000-per-mural that they had approved was really insufficient, so she supported allocating more for the rain garden. Perhaps $20,000 was the right amount, she said.

Chamberlin indicated that it might be possible to pay Seagraves to manage the project, in addition to his part-time administrative role. She agreed on the need for a higher budget – for the West Park sculpture, she noted that the artist had absorbed much of the costs, because the budget had been too low. She supported using the full $27,000.

Winborne said he’s not opposed to the project, but is concerned about possible “scope creep.” He wants a process that doesn’t let AAPAC lose focus. They need to be vigilant when things like this pop up. That said, this project is low-hanging fruit and can be done quickly, he said, and he’d support it.

After additional discussion, commissioners voted on a resolution to accept the project for public art in the Kingsley rain garden and to create a task force to work on it. The resolution recommends funding the project at between $20,000 to $27,000, with the final recommendation for funding to come from the task force.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved the Kingsley rain garden public art project.

Project Votes: DIA Partnership

At AAPAC’s Oct. 26 meeting, commissioners met with Larry Baranski, director of public programs for the Detroit Institute of Arts, regarding the DIA’s Inside|Out project. The project involves installing framed reproductions from the DIA’s collection at outdoor locations on building facades or in parks.

In 2010 the DIA installed 40 works within 60 miles of Detroit, including two pieces in Ann Arbor: One on the exterior of Zingerman’s Deli on Detroit Street, and another reproduction on the Borders building on East Liberty. The DIA is planning an expanded program in 2012, funded by the Knight Foundation. Each community will have between five to eight installations grouped within a one-mile radius. Communities will participate during one of two periods: from April through June, or July through September. DIA would provide the framed reproductions, printed materials to distribute, and informational labels for the artwork – including a QR code that links to a website with an animated feature on the program.

The DIA pays for everything, including the cost of installation and liability insurance. The frames are mounted to the building walls by customized brackets. The DIA will also replace any work that’s stolen or damaged by vandalism, or will remove it if requested.

At AAPAC’s Nov. 30 meeting, Marsha Chamberlin said the partnership would involve the city simply selecting seven sites on city-owned property. Malverne Winborne supported it, with the caveat that the commitment on the city’s part was limited to site selection.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the partnership with the DIA for the Inside|Out project.

Project Updates

At the beginning of the Nov. 30 meeting, Aaron Seagraves – the city’s public art administrator – gave brief updates to the commission on several projects:

  • Dreiseitl sculpture: There’s no completion date set for the water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl. A formal dedication took place in October, but since then the blue lights and flowing water have been turned off so that additional work could be done. Seagraves said he didn’t know what the hold up is.
  • Justice Center artwork: On Dec. 12, the selection committee for artwork in the Justice Center lobby will meet with finalists and see presentations of the artists’ proposals. The meeting will not be open to the public, Seagraves said, but other commissioners can attend.
  • Fuller Road Station: Because the overall project has been delayed, possibly by as much as 6-12 months, Seagraves said the art component is also on hold. A task force had previously been formed for the project, but will wait until the rest of the project moves forward before continuing its work.
  • Mural at Allmendinger Park: The deadline for the four finalists to submit preliminary concepts is Dec. 8. The four finalists are: (1) Robert Delgado of Los Angeles, Calif.; (2) Bethany Kalk of Moorehead, Kentucky; (3) Jefferson Nelson of Liberty Center, Ohio; and (4) Mary Thiefels of Ann Arbor. The mural has a budget of $10,000.
  • Stadium Bridges: A task force is being formed for the public art component of the Stadium bridges reconstruction, and will hold its initial meeting on Dec. 5.

Later in the meeting, Seagraves also briefed commissioners on proposed changes to a document outlining the steps for completing public art projects through the Percent for Art program. [.pdf of draft project steps document] Commissioners discussed the need to streamline the steps even more, and proposed that Seagraves work with Connie Brown to refine it before bringing it back to the full commission at their Dec. 13 meeting.

Project Updates: “Street Art Spots”

At AAPAC’s October meeting, Cheryl Zuellig had mentioned that the planning committee, which she chairs, was developing a strategy for procurement of public art. On Nov. 30, Seagraves presented a draft document outlining the concept of a public art procurement program for non-commissioned, completed artwork. The program is tentatively titled “Street Art Spots.” [.pdf of draft proposal]

The proposal calls for selecting curators – such as a gallery owner, arts advocate, artist representative, or art curator – who in turn would present AAPAC with potential artwork to acquire, based on certain selection criteria. At the same time, AAPAC and city staff would identify possible locations for artwork. A selection panel would evaluate and decide whether to recommend purchasing the work that’s been submitted by curators. There would also be a public opinion component involved in selecting art for each location.

Seagraves suggested reviewing the draft proposal and discussing it at a future meeting.

Some commissioners raised concerns over how curators would be paid. It’s common for such work to be handled on a commission basis, Zuellig said. Connie Brown said she was uncomfortable with that, and would prefer to pay a fee to a consultant instead. Seagraves indicated that this was an initial draft, and he could investigate how other cities handle this kind of procurement process.

Malvern Winborne wondered if this program was a “nice to do” or a “need to do.” He said he’d always bring up that point, to keep their focus.

Margaret Parker pointed out that this effort is in direct response to concerns that city councilmembers had raised about AAPAC not getting enough public art into the community quickly.

Chamberlin suggested putting it as an agenda item for AAPAC’s meeting in January or February.

December Meeting: Working Session Follow-up

AAPAC’s regular meetings are set for the fourth Wednesday of the month. The December meeting would fall on Dec. 28, between Christmas and New Year’s. After some discussion, commissioners decided to switch the date to Dec. 13 instead. At the meeting, commissioners plan to follow up on an Oct. 26 working session held to prep for a presentation to city council on Nov. 14.

Marsha Chamberlin suggested that they take the ideas and challenges identified at that October work session, and decide how to move forward. She noted that the discussion would dovetail nicely with development of the annual public art plan, which the commission needs to complete by April.

Commissioners present: Connie Rizzolo-Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Margaret Parker, Wiltrud Simbuerger, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Zuellig. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Absent: Tony Derezinski, Cathy Gendron, Elaine Sims.

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [confirm date]

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.

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Art Commission Preps for Dreiseitl Dedication Mon, 03 Oct 2011 10:00:34 +0000 Mary Morgan 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.

Herbert Dreiseitl with design team in front of city hall

On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 2, Herbert Dreiseitl (center, in maroon cap) meets in front of city hall with the design/fabrication team for his sculpture. To the right is Rick Russel of Future Group, the Warren firm that fabricated the bronze sculpture. To the left of Dreiseitl is Patrick Judd of the Ann Arbor-based Conservation Design Forum, which helped with the design. In the background, electrician Jim Fackert hooks up wiring to operate the blue lights embedded in the bronze. (Photos by the writer.)

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.

Dreiseitl Dedication

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.

Dreiseitl Sculpture blue lights

On Sunday evening, Oct. 2, tests of the light and water system of the Dreiseitl sculpture were undertaken.

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.”

Wiltrud Simbuerger, Connie Brown

At AAPAC's Sept. 28 meeting, Wiltrud Simbuerger holds a flyer she's designing to promote the Oct. 4 dedication of the Herbert Dreiseitl sculpture. Next to her is Connie Brown.

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.

Southwest corner of the Ann Arbor justice center lobby

Looking at the southwest corner of the Ann Arbor justice center lobby, facing Fifth Avenue – the old fire station, now the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, is visible across the street. A public art installation is being commissioned for that corner of the lobby. (Links to larger image)

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.

Kingsley & First

A vacant house on this city-owned lot at Kingsley & First will be demolished with funds from a federal grant. The city is contracting with Conservation Design Forum to build a rain garden in that corner lot, which will also incorporate public art.

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.

Public Commentary

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.

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Ann Arbor OKs Water-Related Projects Wed, 06 Jul 2011 02:01:42 +0000 Chronicle Staff At its July 5, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved several water-related items.

The council approved a permeable surface alley project in the Burns Park Neighborhood – the alley connects Wells Street and Scott Court, running parallel to and between Lincoln Avenue and Martin Place. The porous pavement will allow rainwater to soak through the surface, reducing runoff. Money for the $121,139 contract with Audia Concrete Construction Inc. on the $200,000 project will come from the city’s stormwater capital budget. But that will be repaid as a loan from the State Revolving Fund (SRF) and will include 50% loan forgiveness. The use of stormwater funds on road construction was a practice that was criticized during the public hearing held at the council’s June 20, 2011 meeting, on the increase in stormwater rates.

The council also approved a $25,440 contract with Conservation Design Forum to design and construct a rain garden on the property at 215-219 W. Kingsley Street. The rain garden is meant to alleviate some of the flooding that occurs there during heavy rains. The parcel has drawn the curiosity of Chronicle readers due to its boarded-up house and the prodigious amounts of water that accumulate there during heavy rains. At its Nov. 15, 2010 meeting, the council accepted a FEMA grant that will help pay for the demolition of the structure to aid stormwater remediation efforts.

The council also approved a level-of-service study for its drinking water distribution system with AECOM. The outcome of the study will be a recommendation for a sustainable level of service for the city’s water distribution system, and determination of how much investment it would take to achieve that level. The study would also help the city decide, for example, which water mains should be replaced first. The council had tabled the resolution at its May 16, 2011 meeting after amending out a $10,550 contingency in the $208,984 contract. Later in that same meeting, at a session reconvened on May 31, the council took the item up off the table and postponed it until July 5.

In support of the study, city staff prepared additional documentation for the July 5 vote.

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]

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