Dreiseitl Plans Return to Ann Arbor

German artist awaits final OK for municipal center work

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (Sept. 8, 2009): Herbert Dreiseitl, the German artist recruited to design three art installations at the city’s new municipal center, is coming to Ann Arbor next week to answer questions related to his proposed nearly $800,000 project, which has not yet received approval from the city.

Unlike his previous trip, Dreiseitl won’t be meeting with the public. His agenda includes meetings with businesses in Tecumseh and Hammond that might serve as fabricators for his artwork. That includes a large illuminated water sculpture for the plaza facing Huron Street, and two smaller wall installations inside the building. He’ll also be meeting with city staff and architects for the municipal center, among others.

Katherine Talcott, Ann Arbor’s public art administrator, said the city hadn’t yet paid Dreiseitl for his design work, and that they wouldn’t deliver the $72,000 check for that work until they received more information from him, including detailed cost breakdowns for the project.

City to Dreiseitl: More Details, Please

Dreiseitl came to Ann Arbor in mid-July and attended several public meetings to present his concept for a waterscape installation at the main entrance of the municipal center, now under construction. The building is being constructed next to city hall to house the police department and 15th District Court. His high-profile visit included a presentation to the Ann Arbor city council, which will ultimately need to sign off on the project.

Katherine Talcott said Dreiseitl’s return next week – arriving Sunday evening, Sept. 13 and leaving Wednesday morning, Sept. 16 – will be “on his dime.” (The comment prompted commissioner Cathy Gendron to quip, “Ultimately, it’s on our dime.”) Dreiseitl will meet with Bill Wheeler, project manager for the municipal center, as well as with the project’s architects from Quinn Evans and staff from Conservation Design Forum. He’ll also meet with Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council, who’ll be sharing maps of the watershed with Dreiseitl. He plans to incorporate elements of the watershed into some of his artwork. And while he’s here, he’ll be interviewed by Dana Denha for Community Television Network’s “FYI” program.

Talcott said that Dreiseitl has fulfilled the terms of his initial design contract, but that there are still several questions city officials and AAPAC commissioners have about the project. Some of those questions concern his proposed budget estimate, which lists nine items and totals $720,000:

  1. Water basin: precast concrete = $57,000
  2. Water elements: rotating, stainless steel = $21,000
  3. Outdoor sculpture: element base = $57,000
  4. Indoor sculptures (2) = $75,000
  5. Sculpture: configuration, spotlight, lighting, water supply, lighting control, programming = $225,000
  6. Water technology, basin, drain, filter, water treatment, control = $120,000
  7. Contingencies = $40,000
  8. Artistic design and supervision = $55,000
  9. Design development, construction documentation, services during construction = $70,000
  10. Change orders = to be discussed

Several commissioners commented that the itemized list was too vague. Dreiseitl also provided sketches for the indoor wall installations, but did not include details about what materials would be used or the size of the pieces. He’ll be asked to provide that information while he’s here.

“We feel confident that before he leaves, our questions will be answered,” said Margaret Parker, who chairs AAPAC.

There are several steps that need to be completed before the project can move forward. A task force – formed last year to deal with art projects at the municipal center – will at some point make a recommendation to AAPAC on whether to proceed. AAPAC will then consider the proposal and make a recommendation to city council, which must give final approval. Then the city staff will need to hammer out a detailed contract for the work.

There was some confusion about the budget related to Dreiseitl’s project. At their August meeting, commissioners had raised questions about roughly $22,000 that had been paid out of AAPAC’s budget to Quinn Evans, for the architects’ work related to public art at the municipal center. At Tuesday’s meeting, Talcott reported that she’d been told by the city’s finance staff that a purchase order had been created about a year ago for Quinn Evans, to be paid out of AAPAC’s Percent for Art funds. [The Percent for Art program takes 1% of every city capital project to fund public art, with a cap of $250,000 per project.] AAPAC did not have a contract with Quinn Evans, she said, and it wasn’t clear whether the architects were to be funded out of money set aside for Dreiseitl’s project, or from some other source. That’s still a question to be clarified, Talcott said.

Talcott also told commissioners that in addition to the 20 hours per week that  she’s paid as the city’s part-time art administrator, she has been working between 10-20 additional hours specifically on the Dreiseitl project. Talcott said those extra hours are being authorized by Sue McCormick, the city’s director of public services.

Other Public Art Projects

In addition to Dreiseitl’s work, the commission discussed several other public art projects that require some kind of action.

Gerome Kamrowski Mural

A nine-panel, 27-foot-wide mosaic by artist Gerome Kamrowski formerly marked the entrance to city hall. The artwork was moved into storage when construction began on the new municipal center complex. Called “Twilight Shadows,” it uses tesserae – small pieces of colored Italian glass – to depict fantasy animals that Kamrowski called “beaded beasts.”

AAPAC has discussed for several months where to re-install the piece, and it was again a topic at Tuesday’s meeting, with no resolution. The size of the installation makes it somewhat difficult to place, Parker said. The issue will be addressed by the task force for art at the municipal center site, which will make a recommendation to AAPAC.

Mosaics at Fourth & Washington

Margaret Parker reported that she’ll be contacting the artist who made the ceramic reliefs at the Fourth & Washington parking structure. They’ve been a topic of discussion at AAPAC meetings for several months – the pieces are starting to chip and show other signs of wear. Parker said they hope the artist can give them a statement about the longevity of the work and how the pieces are expected to age. With that information, she’ll approach the donor, county commissioner Barbara Bergman. Bergman had commissioned the work as a tribute to her husband, Reuben Bergman, who led the Downtown Development Authority for several years. The Fourth & Washington structure was built by the DDA.

Parker said the pieces might need to be re-coated, but they need to find out from the artist what substance he used. Several commissioners noted that they’d seen the chips and deterioration, with some saying that it added texture to the work. “People crack and chip too,” commissioner Jim Kern said.

Commissioner Elaine Sims said this situation highlighted the need to specify very clearly, at the beginning of a project, what the expectations were for maintenance and how the the artwork would age. It was especially true, she said,  for pieces like the Fourth & Washington ceramics that are exposed to the elements.

DDA Collaboration

Commissioner Connie Brown has been acting as a liaison between AAPAC and the Downtown Development Authority, which also sets aside funds for public art from its construction projects. Brown did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, but in her absence, Katherine Talcott gave a brief update prepared by Brown on possible DDA projects that could be opportunities for collaboration. They include:

  • Library lot underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue: There’s only a small window of opportunity for this project – about six weeks, according to Brown’s report – since work is getting underway on the structure.
  • Division Street and Fifth Avenue sidewalk, curb and street improvements: This might include planters, stamping designs into the concrete or imbedding art into curbs and sidewalks in other ways. Work is being done on Division Street now; AAPAC would need to make a decision about getting involved by the end of December. Work on Fifth Avenue is slated for next year.
  • Hanover Park: Located at the corner of Division and Packard, this park contains a sculpture that will likely be replaced.
  • Ongoing curb and street repair: Like the Division and Fifth work, projects could include planters, stamping designs into the concrete or imbedding tile or other material into curbs.

Margaret Parker mentioned an approach that Jan Onder had floated previously: Put together a pool of ideas that could be implemented quickly for curb or sidewalk replacements. Local artists could be asked to contribute ideas, and be enlisted to do the work when the opportunity arose.

Talcott asked commissioners to give their feedback to Brown before AAPAC’s Oct. 13 meeting, about which of these projects they’d like to pursue.

The mention of Hanover Park, located across the street from Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, prompted Elaine Sims to ask whether the eatery’s oversized “snow bears” had ever been nominated for a Golden Paintbrush award. The bears are a signature snow sculpture built each winter in front of the Blimpy Burger building. Commissioners could not recall that they had received such a nomination.

AAPAC Website

Commissioners Cathy Gendron and Marsha Chamberlin are members of the public relations committee, and see the redesign of AAPAC’s website as their biggest project of the year. This is another effort that’s been discussed at various times over the past several months. Gendron asked for commissioners to give her feedback on what they’d like to include in the site, and to send examples of other websites that they like. She said the budget was a big issue – it wasn’t clear how much money they had for the project, if any.

In addition to determining what funding is available, they’ll need to find a designer, Gendron said. Commissioners discussed possible options, including students at the University of Michigan or Washtenaw Community College. Jan Onder reminded her colleagues that AAPAC’s website has been maintained without charge by Annie Wolock of Keystone Media. If the project is put out to bid, Wolock should be considered, Onder said.

Two Commissioners Stepping Down

AAPAC chair Margaret Parker announced that two commissioners – Jan Onder and Jim Kern – will be stepping down at the end of 2009. Parker said that she and commissioner Elaine Sims would be meeting as the nominating committee to consider possible replacements to be recommended to Mayor John Hieftje, who is responsible for appointing the commissioners. Sims said she’d heard unofficially that Hieftje was planning to appoint Jeff Meyers, managing editor for the online magazine Concentrate. Meyers recently wrote a column on artistic identity, which in part discussed AAPAC’s role.

Misc. Items

Margaret Parker reported that she’d received an invitation from Trevor Staples of the Ann Arbor Skatepark Action Committee to an October design charrette. Parker didn’t have details of the event, but here’s what The Chronicle reported when Staples gave an update to the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission last month:

Wally Hollyday, a skatepark designer with a national reputation, will be leading a workshop on Oct. 18 to get community input on the park’s design. The meeting, which is open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. at the Slauson Middle School cafeteria, 1019 W. Washington St. There will also be a tour of the proposed site – at the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park – before the workshop, starting at 1:30 p.m.

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

Absent: Connie Brown, Cheryl Zuellig

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 4:30 p.m., 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St.


  1. By Duane Collicott
    September 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm | permalink

    Fabricators? For $800,000 he doesn’t build it himself?

  2. By Alan Goldmith
    September 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm | permalink

    “At Tuesday’s meeting, Talcott reported that she’d been told by the city’s finance staff that a purchase order had been created about a year ago for Quinn Evans, to be paid out of AAPAC’s Percent for Art funds. [The Percent for Art program takes 1% of every city capital project to fund public art, with a cap of $250,000 per project.] AAPAC did not have a contract with Quinn Evans, she said, and it wasn’t clear whether the architects were to be funded out of money set aside for Dreiseitl’s project, or from some other source.”

    Can we see a copy of this ‘open ended’ purchase order?

  3. By Alan Goldmith
    September 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm | permalink

    Who is the publisher of Concentrate that Jeff Meyers works for?

    From the Bluestone Realty Advisors site:

    “Newcombe B. Clark specializes in the leasing and sales of class A office space, retail, and commercial land for Bluestone Realty Advisors, focusing mainly in the competitive Ann Arbor market. He has a broad background in property management and investment analysis and has served in both capacities for large scale multitenant office and mixed use buildings.”

  4. By Rod Johnson
    September 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm | permalink

    I’m not the world’s biggest Kamrowski fan aesthetically, but he’s got a genuine local connection and gave a lot to this community. I hope AAPAC can find a way to honor this piece and not just “place” it.

  5. By Alternative Structures
    September 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm | permalink

    Funny that the city has all this money for their new offices, but yet wants to invoke a city income tax to cover “budget shortfalls”.

    It seems a real shame that they can cough up $800,000 of our money for a public sculpture but then turn around and make the kids pay for their own skatepark.

    Sounds like we need to give them a bit more direction.

  6. By hospadaruk
    September 9, 2009 at 11:44 pm | permalink

    “Funny that the city has all this money for their new offices,”

    That bad old “city”, they’re always doing stuff for themselves, never for me and MY city…

    Aren’t they OUR new offices?

  7. By Alan Goldsmith
    September 10, 2009 at 6:31 am | permalink


    You are right. Guess I need to head downtown and pick out my new office furniture and drapes.


  8. By Barbara O'Donnell
    September 10, 2009 at 8:51 am | permalink

    What happened to the CRY for locals to Buy local –
    Quess we don’t have local artists anymore –
    For shame that we don’t keep dollars in Ann Arbor or other towns in Michigan –
    Guess we have dollars to throw away in these hard times –
    I must be reading and seeing the news from another planet –
    Michigan must be doing very well indeed.

  9. By Alan Goldmith
    September 10, 2009 at 8:59 am | permalink

    “Unlike his previous trip, Dreiseitl won’t be meeting with the public. His agenda includes meetings with businesses in Tecumseh and Hammond that might serve as fabricators for his artwork.”

    Is Hammond a city in Michigan or would this be Hammond Indiana?

  10. By Alan Goldmith
    September 11, 2009 at 3:53 pm | permalink

    Since there isn’t a Hammond Michigan…Mr. Dreiseitl appears more than willing to help out the economy of the great state of Indiana.

    Any member of City Council who votes to approve this project should be ashamed of themselves. With discussion of a city income tax, a county ‘human services’ tax, a county ‘transportation’ tax’, etc. this project is a total disgrace. Anyone who has take Project Management 101 could come up with a better cost projections budget in less than an hour. The Dreiseitl project is going to hit a million dollars or more before it’s over.