Art Commission Prepares for 2010

Annual plan for public art finalized, Dreiseitl to visit July 20
AAPAC Chair Margaret Parker, administrator Katherine Talcott and administrative coordinator Jean Borger at the commissions regular June meeting.

From left: AAPAC Chair Margaret Parker, administrator Katherine Talcott and administrative coordinator Jean Borger at the commission's June 9 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (June 9, 2009): Ann Arbor Public Art Commission members spent their regular meeting this month discussing their annual plan and budget, as well as hearing reports from their public relations, planning and projects committees. They also discussed German artist Herbert Dreiseitl’s upcoming visit to Ann Arbor, during which he’ll discuss his plans for the municipal center with AAPAC and the city.

Public Comment

Miriam Mirna Korolkovas, an artist and architect from Brazil who also commented at AAPAC’s May meeting, spoke to the commission about consulting with local art and architecture professors about public art projects (especially those involving sculptures). Korolkovas suggested that the commission enlist professors from the University of Michigan as well as other schools in the area.

“I think they are the best source of information,” Korolkovas said of the professors. “They know where to settle the sculptures.”

Dreiseitl’s Visit to Ann Arbor

AAPAC administrator Katherine Talcott informed the commission that she had sent a memo to the Ann Arbor City Council confirming that Herbert Dreiseitl – the German artist AAPAC has enlisted to create a public art project at the municipal center – will give a presentation on his vision for the project to the AAPAC task force (which includes AAPAC chair Margaret Parker and vice chair Jan Onder) as well as the city council on July 20. Dreiseitl will speak to the council during its regular session in the council chambers, Talcott said.

Talcott also said that there would be a public reception, and she was gathering materials to set up an exhibit of Dreiseitl’s work that members of the public could view.

There was some debate among the commissioners over whether Dreiseitl should give his presentation to the AAPAC task force overseeing the project and to the whole commission at separate times or together.

Talcott proposed having Dreiseitl just present to AAPAC as a whole, but other commissioners disagreed. Commissioner Cheryl Zuellig suggested that the commissioners on the task force view the presentation, gather their thoughts about it and then report back to the others. Dreiseitl would also present to the rest of AAPAC after the task force had heard from him.

Parker agreed that the task force should view the presentation on its own.

“I think the task force has been given its job to specifically think about the municipal center,” Parker said. “I get the feeling they should have some time on their own to talk about it.”

However, other commissioners had their doubts as to whether Dreiseitl could manage presentations to the task force, AAPAC as a whole and the city council all in the one day he was scheduled to visit.

“Will the task force have the time to talk with him and make a recommendation and report to us in the afternoon?” asked commissioner Elaine Sims.

Commissioner Jim Curtis also questioned whether the three-meeting arrangement would be possible in the given timeframe.

“I don’t think three meetings is too much,” said Zuellig, adding that the municipal center is a “very important project.”

Talcott agreed with Zuellig, stating that Dreiseitl is a professional and should be able to handle that many presentations. “This is a very focused day,” Talcott said in conclusion.

Annual Public Art Plan

AAPAC voted on a final draft of its public art plan for the 2010 fiscal year, which Parker had previously stated was due to the city council by June 15.

The plan, which the commissioners drafted during a planning meeting on May 26, included $50,000 to pay for work related to several donations of art offered to the city that still need to be vetted and accepted; a long-term city gateway project for $100,000; a partnership with the University of Michigan School of Art and Design artist residency program for an approximately $10,000 project; and a $50,000 pool for unanticipated small projects that could be completed within the year.

The plan also mentioned two possible public art collaborations with the Downtown Development Authority: the southwest wall of the Fourth and William parking structure, and the planned underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue.

Parker clarified that the dollar amounts wouldn’t be included in the official plan and were merely for reference use by AAPAC.

The commissioners debated whether or not the plan should be more or less specific. Commissioner Jim Kern questioned whether or not the section of the plan concerning the donations of art should name the donations. “I wonder if we need some examples, so when the council looks at that they’ll know what we’re referring to,” Kern said.

Commissioner Cathy Gendron agreed, saying she saw “no problem” with listing the two specific donations AAPAC had in mind.

Parker argued that the plan’s language should be as broad as possible.

“The annual plan is not supposed to be very specific. It’s supposed to be very general,” Parker said.

Parker added that AAPAC didn’t know if there would be more donations, and the ones they had in mind had yet to be accepted.

Also in favor of making things more general, Zuellig motioned to change the language concerning the collaboration with the DDA to say that AAPAC is looking at possible projects with the organization, rather than actually naming the potential projects. Zuellig said the partnership and whether or not the projects would actually be pursued was too uncertain for them to be mentioned specifically at this time. The commissioners unanimously approved the motion.

Onder made another motion that AAPAC eliminate the section of the plan concerning the project with U-M’s School of Art and Design (which Sims later explained would involve working with an artist who would spend one year in residence at the school, starting next fall). Onder said she felt there were too many issues with the project that weren’t addressed.

“I didn’t understand…the issue of the temporary versus the permanent, and the issue of university property versus city property,” Onder said. Other commissioners argued that AAPAC had previously discussed those issues. Sims proposed keeping the project in the plan but making the language regarding it more general.

AAPAC commissioner Marsha Chamberlin argued to keep the project in order to show the diversity and impact of the work in the plan. She also spoke against making the plan too vague. “If it’s so broad, it’s hard to write objectives and hold ourselves accountable,” Chamberlin said.

Commissioner Connie Brown agreed about keeping the project in the plan. “I’d like to see it stay,” she said. “I like the diversity.”

There was also some conflict surrounding the budget for the project. Zuellig suggested setting the dollar amount for the project as “no more than $10,000” (although Parker had previously noted that the dollar amounts wouldn’t appear on the final plan). “If we don’t have some sort of parameter in our mind, it’s just going to be open to whatever,” Zuellig said.

In the debate over whether or not to include the U-M project in the plan, Talcott recommended that AAPAC remain open to possible collaborations. “‘Partnerships’ is the wrong term,” she said of the language.

Parker maintained that the U-M resident artist project shouldn’t be mentioned because AAPAC hadn’t seen any concrete, written material or plans concerning it yet.

Although Onder’s motion to remove the U-M project from the plan was eventually voted down (with 5 opposed and 4 in favor), the commission approved a later motion from Zuellig which changed the wording to say that AAPAC intended to “pursue art-related collaboration with the University of Michigan that may include temporary and permanent projects.” This eliminated the plan’s specific mention of the resident artist project idea. The commission approved the motion 7 to 2. In AAPAC’s 2009 Annual Report (containing the public art plan as well as the budget and other AAPAC information), which the commission will present to the city council on July 6, the public art plan reads as follows:

City of Ann Arbor Percent for Art Projects

Complete Police/Courts/City Hall Building art installations located within the interior and on the exterior of this capital improvement project.

Gateway Project – research appropriate sites and set up Task Force to begin defining project, set aside funds over next several years.

Pursue donations of art to the City. Costs may include site planning and building, structural engineering fees, storage, shipping, installation, repair after moving, signage, educational material, and dedication.

Pooled Fund for Small Community-Based Projects – for small projects proposed to AAPAC that pass criteria and peer review and could be produced within the next year.

Pursue art-related collaboration with the University of Michigan that may include installation of temporary or permanent projects.

Downtown Development Authority Projects

Establish a working relationship between the DDA and AAPAC to develop public art projects.

AAPAC unanimously approved the plan as amended.


The commissioners also voted on AAPAC’s budget for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Parker said that AAPAC would receive $441,612 from the city’s Percent for Art program. Of those funds, 8% – or $35,329 – will go toward administration.

Some of the commissioners questioned whether leftover funds from administration from the previous fiscal year rolled over into the administrative budget for the next year. Parker explained that any remaining administration funding at the end of a fiscal year rolls over into the commission’s general fund for public art. The city – not AAPAC – decides to set the administration budget at 8%, she added.

Parker also told the commissioners that AAPAC has access to restricted funds from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. In order to use these funds, the commission must write to ask permission from whomever donated the money. The funds are also allocated to specific sites (although there was a question of whether or not they could be spent somewhere else with the donor’s agreement). These funds are listed in the commission’s annual report as the Ann Arbor Art in Public Places Funds: the Endowed fund (restricted to maintenance, for $10, 976), the Fourth and Washington Parking Structure fund ($12, 941), the Fourth Avenue Art Route special fund ($10,760) and the South University Public Art Project fund ($1,084).

The 2010 AAPAC budget also includes a list of goals for the commission:

Percent for Art Program: To work toward completion of projects at the Municipal Center set in motion in FY09, set goals for FY10 through the Annual Public Art Plan, and continue to define how the Percent for Art Program works.

Administration: The Public Art Administrator position, initiated as of February 2009 with the hiring of Katherine Talcott, will continue to be defined and clarified so that communication between the City and AAPAC works to the satisfaction of all. AAPAC’s Administrative Coordinator will continue to facilitate day-to-day operations and assist with writing and special projects.

Planning and Facilitation: Commission members will continue to facilitate community based projects, consult on projects
generated by developers, partner with the University of Michigan, and plan for a cohesive public art plan in Ann Arbor.

Maintenance and Preservation: To complete the inventory of artworks owned by the City, which will establish a working
maintenance program for public art.

Communication and Education: To keep the public informed and included in the public art process and to advocate for
public art and the role of the arts in the community.

DDA: To establish a working relationship with the DDA to develop public art projects.

The commissioners unanimously approved the 2010 budget. The commission also voted unanimously to accept a draft of guidelines for AAPAC’s operation, with no further amendments.

Committee reports

AAPAC heard progress reports from its newly formed committees.


Zuellig spoke for the planning committee, which consists of Sims and Chamberlin as well as herself. She said the planning group had met the week before to discuss its tasks and accomplishments.

In the past month, Zuellig said the committee had clarified the conflict of interest policy in AAPAC’s bylines as well as clarifying the compensation of AAPAC staff and the use of Percent for Art funds to pay administrators. Zuellig also listed the meeting with the DDA as an accomplishment.

In terms of issues the planning committee wanted to address in the future, Zuellig mentioned creating a diagram of the city review and approval processes for projects; answering the question of whether Percent for Art funding can be used to create art at any site or whether it’s bound to a specific location; the issue of putting public art on private property; and clarifying the definition of “public” in city ordinances.

Zuellig also listed a number of tasks her committee wanted to take on:

  • Create a committee to nominate new AAPAC members;
  • Create a training program for commissioners;
  • Identify upcoming projects;
  • List planning committee priorities;
  • Develop a process for the annual review of administrative staff and compare it to the methods the city uses to evaluate its employees.


The projects committee members (Brown, Onder, Curtis and Kern) discussed the process and criteria they wanted to use to prioritize and evaluate potential projects.

Brown said that when someone comes to the committee with an idea, they want to identify the unknowns, such as the timeline and location. The committee would give priority to projects that were more advanced in the planning process, with more of the details filled in, Brown proposed. The people behind those projects could give a PowerPoint presentation to the committee members, who would then report back to the rest of AAPAC.

Public relations

Gendron spoke for the public relations committee, which also includes Chamberlin. The PR committee had six goals, Gendron said. The first – hosting an AAPAC open house – had already been achieved in May.

As for the future, Gendron said she and Chamberlin were looking to develop a template for AAPAC PowerPoint presentations to the public concerning projects, and redesigning the AAPAC web page (as well as improving the site’s navigation).

Furthermore, the committee hoped to create a smoother process for public communication and for public art project plans, Gendron said.

Finally, Gendron said her committee wanted to establish a better format for communication between commissioners. She suggested using a private, interactive web site (possibly using GoogleDocs) where commissioners could upload documents and post a calendar.

Delegation of tasks to committees

There was some discussion over what the committees’ exact tasks were. Parker wanted to know whether the task force for the project at the municipal center, for example, fell under the jurisdiction of the projects committee.

Brown said her understanding is that the projects committee just gets the task force for a project going. “Once the project’s on its way…we may not be involved unless we’re on the task force,” Brown said.

Brown continued to say that being more invested in each individual project would be too much for the committee members. “I think it’s a lot to ask the three, the four, the eight of us to track all these projects,” she said.

Zuellig said she thought the project committee should report to AAPAC on what the task forces are doing. “I think the committee oversees projects,” Zuellig said.

Talcott brought up the question of whether project proposals should be handed off to the projects committee before AAPAC as a whole considers them. Parker said the committee should handle the proposals first, so all of AAPAC’s time isn’t spent viewing project proposals and presentations.

Brown agreed that AAPAC needs the committee to serve as a filter to pick out people with project plans that are specific enough to move forward. However, Brown later mentioned that she wasn’t in favor of allowing the projects committee to have too much sway. She said she didn’t want it to be only the committee members judging potential projects based on their individual opinions of good and bad art.

“I think if we take it too far down the road before it gets to the commission, we’re doing a disservice to each other,” Brown said.

Project-building process

Parker also suggested that AAPAC needs a list of steps “from A to ‘project built.’” That task belongs to the planning committee, she said. Parker informed the commissioners that she and Talcott had a draft of the process, and they would hand it over to the committees.

Some commissioners thought it should be a joint project between committees, while others thought it should be assigned to only a couple individuals to work on. “It almost gets clumsy having a couple of groups working on something,” Curtis said.

Eventually, Parker designated Brown and Zuellig to work together on the draft of the project process.


Some commissioners proposed that preservation of public art falls under the jurisdiction of the projects committee. However, the commission agreed that it would require more people on the projects committee to handle all of the work.

“Planning has to talk about this, and projects has to talk about this,” Parker said. “A maintenance project is just as big as an art project.”

Committee reports

At the end of the meeting, Brown mentioned that the committees’ reports should be submitted a week before the meeting at which they are to be discussed, in order to give AAPAC members time to read them. Parker instructed AAPAC Administrative Coordinator Jean Borger to make committee report deadlines a future action item for the commission.

Public visibility

The commissioners also discussed their public events and publications and the labor that goes into them.

Chamberlin described the weeks of planning and days of work it took to put together AAPAC’s Golden Paintbrush Awards earlier this month. Along with putting together AAPAC’s annual report, it’s a considerable amount of work, she said. If the commission wants to do both, they need to budget in more time.

“We can either not do an annual report or Golden Paint Brush, or find a way to support it,” Chamberlin said.

Parker suggested making the published annual report smaller and less complicated in order to keep both projects. “We want to be doing something every couple months so we have a public appearance,” Parker said.

Sims also added that AAPAC needs to figure out its publicity vehicles for next year, especially with the Ann Arbor News closing.

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Jim Curtis, Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Jim Kern, Jan Onder, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Katherine Talcott, Jean Borger

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, July 14 at 4:30 p.m. at city council chambers, 2nd floor, 100 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. [confirm dates]

About the author: Helen Nevius, a student at Eastern Michigan University, is an intern with The Ann Arbor Chronicle.