Artist Selected for West Park Art Project

Also: DDA project moves ahead, online survey refined

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (March 9, 2010): AAPAC commissioners moved ahead on several projects during their Tuesday meeting, selecting an artist for a public art project in West Park, refining an online survey to get feedback from the public, and reviewing a gift policy for people who want to donate artwork to the city.

Jim Curtis

Jim Curtis shows other art commissioners the location for a potential public art installation in Hanover Park, at the northwest corner of Packard and Division. (Photo by the writer.)

There’s still no word from Herbert Dreiseitl, the German artist who’s been commissioned to construct a water sculpture in front of the new municipal center at Huron and Fifth. The city has been trying to contact him about two interior pieces for the building. Katherine Talcott, the city’s public art administrator, reported that he might be coming to town in mid-April to work on the larger project, which is budgeted for nearly $740,000.

In other business, commissioners approved a set of AAPAC guidelines that have been under review – mostly by the city attorney’s office – for nearly two years.

The group also hashed out some issues related to a partnership with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. As part of its Fifth and Division street improvements, the DDA has set aside about $60,000 to spend on public art at Hanover Park, at the corner of Packard and Division. They’re asking the art commission to take the lead on that project.

Artist Selected for West Park Project

As part of major renovations taking place at West Park, AAPAC was enlisted by the city parks staff to incorporate a public art component for new “seat walls” being installed in a hill facing the bandshell. [See Chronicle coverage: "Artists Sought for West Park Project"]

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jim Curtis gave a report on the artist selection process. Thirteen artists responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ). Of those, four were interviewed by a review committee. Members of the committee are Curtis and Connie Brown of AAPAC; Amy Kuras, a city parks planner; Karen Levine, a member of the city’s park advisory commission; Shannon Gibb-Randall, a landscape artist and resident of the area; and Katherine Talcott, the city’s public art administrator.

Art installation using natural materials

This image is from an installation done by the artist selected to do a public art project in West Park. The selection committee has not revealed the artist's name.

Though all four artists were exceptional, Curtis said, one in particular stood out during the March 4 interviews at Gallup Park. Curtis referred to the artist as “T.R.” – the commission is not yet releasing his name, but said that he is local. The artist has extensive experience with past projects, Curtis said, adding that his artwork is unique. Talcott noted that “he’s really about creating place.”

The artist’s conceptual proposal for the site includes creating two metal “trees” at each end of the top tier of the concrete seating area. Each tree would have a circular trunk made from recycled metal, about 8-10 inches at its base and standing about 10 feet tall. Branches near the top of the trunks would also be made from recycled metal. The trees would either be painted or left natural to weather. In addition, large boulders would be incorporated into the seat walls, as well as around the base of each tree. The artist would also help the parks staff place additional fieldstone boulders in the area between the seats and the bandshell, for seating and aesthetic purposes.

The review panel will meet with the artist next week and set a timeline for meeting other milestones in the project, with the goal of having a completed design and budget – of up to $10,000 – by May 3. Curtis characterized the next phase as “we’re on the dance floor,” meaning that they’ll be working with the artist to talk about formalizing the agreement.

Elaine Sims asked if there would be give and take about the design. “We didn’t have that with Dreiseitl,” she said. Curtis assured her that there would be room for negotiation. At Sims’ suggestion, commissioners agreed that the contract would specify the first step as having the artist submit a proposal, and that he would be compensated for that work at between $500 to $1,000 – even if AAPAC decided not to move ahead with the full project.

Outcome: Commissioners approved the selection of artist “T.R.” to proceed with the West Park public art project, with no dissent.

DDA: Sculpture in Hanover Park?

Jim Curtis and Marsha Chamberlin had previously met with Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The DDA is eager to work with AAPAC, Curtis said, to install public art in Hanover Park as part of the Fifth and Division street improvement project. The DDA has already constructed a circular dais in the park. It’s about 25 feet in diameter, enclosed by a seat wall, with an empty center that’s suitable for a sculpture or plantings.

Curtis reported that a meeting he’d set up with Chamberlin and the DDA’s  project manager and architect had been postponed – that’s their next step, to get more details about what’s possible at that site. The dais could be wired for electricity, for example.

Curtis said that Pollay has asked the commission to bring a proposal, including a budget, back to the DDA board. The DDA has suggested a budget of $60,000 – including $10,000 set aside for administrative costs. Curtis said there’s flexibility in that amount, noting that the DDA has earmarked about $300,000 for public art in total for the street improvement project and the Library Lot underground parking structure. This amount is separate from the city’s Percent for Art program.

Margaret Parker, AAPAC’s chair, said there are some questions that need to be answered. For example, if Katherine Talcott writes the RFP for the project, who’s paying for her time to do that? Who would pay for someone to administer the selection process? Parker also said they need to form a task force that includes members of the public, because the sculpture will be “a very public piece.”

Chamberlin asked her colleagues what their understanding is about how AAPAC will work with the DDA. “That’s the big question,” Parker replied. “That’s the big question.”

Chamberlin likened it to the expertise of AAPAC being on loan to the DDA for this project. The DDA expects to pay for that, she said. But does the project also have to go through AAPAC’s usual vetting process? She said that she and Curtis don’t think that it should.

The DDA wants AAPAC to come up with a proposal and budget that the DDA board can vote on, Curtis said. “They want to work with us, and they want us to lead the way.”

Parker said that everything needs to be written down, to clarify the process. She wanted to know how much time and energy AAPAC members would be putting into this project, because that’s time and energy they won’t be able to put into other efforts.

Curtis said his vote would be to charge forward with the project. “How many times in life do you have a partner willing to pay for something wonderful?” he asked. It’s also a project that offers more latitude, since it’s not constrained in the same way that Percent for Art funding is. [The artwork from the Percent for Art program must relate thematically to the fund which is paying for the project. Artwork funded from the street millage, for example, would need to relate to transportation.]

Curtis also noted that this is the first project in what will likely be a long partnership with the DDA – it’s another reason to move ahead, he said.

Parker clarified that it wasn’t the first time they’d partnered with the DDA. AAPAC took the lead on a $30,000 renovation project of the Arch in the Kerrytown Sculpture Park, funded by the DDA. AAPAC got no credit for that, she said, despite the number of hours that she and Curtis invested. Before AAPAC took on a project for the DDA, she said, commissioners needed to know if it was something they were capable of doing, given their other obligations.

Dreiseitl, Other Municipal Center Artwork

In giving an update on Herbert Dreiseitl’s work for the municipal center, Katherine Talcott said there was nothing new to report – the German artist hadn’t yet responded to queries about two interior pieces, and “time is running close,” she said, as construction of the center moves ahead.

Though Dreisetl had originally been asked to propose three art installations – a large outdoor water sculpture, and two wall pieces – his budget for the design work (at $77,000) and the sculpture alone (nearly $740,000) exceeded the entire original amount of $750,000 designated by AAPAC for all three pieces. However, AAPAC asked for some design modifications and a revised budget for the two interior pieces – that’s the information that hasn’t been forthcoming.

Elaine Sims asked Talcott whether it reflected a lack of interest on Dreiseitl’s part. Talcott said she really couldn’t say.

Meanwhile, Talcott said, the contract for the sculpture is being finalized – it’s a contract with Quinn Evans, the Ann Arbor architectural firm that’s handling the project and working with Dreiseitl.

Margaret Parker reported that the municipal center task force for public art is now focused on artwork for the north courtyard of the site, and she’s working with Talcott to draft requests for proposals for two works in that location. One of the requirements will be that the artists must reside full-time in Michigan.

Marsha Chamberlin asked what had been decided about the mosaics by Gerry Kamrowski, which had previously been installed at city hall. They’ve been removed as part of the construction currently underway at that site.

Parker said the task force was still looking for a place to install the artwork within the new municipal center site, but if they can’t, they’ll take steps to decide where it should go. Chamberlin suggested it might be a good fit for the north courtyard, along Ann Street. When Parker pointed out that it would need to be in a place protected from the elements, Chamberlin replied that it would be cheaper to construct a shield for an existing piece of art than to commission a new piece.

Elaine Sims noted that Kamrowski fit the requirement of being a full-time Michigan resident. “He’s dead!” Chamberlin said. Yes, Sims said, he is.

Public Art Survey

Marsha Chamberlin presented a draft of an online survey, which will be used to gauge awareness of public art and to get feedback. The survey asks whether respondents have seen existing public art in this region, including the Wave Field on the University of Michigan’s north campus and the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, among others. It asks for feedback on statements like “Public art helps define our community” and “Michigan artists should get preference in public art projects.”

The link to the survey, when completed, will be posted on the city’s website and emailed to groups like the Arts Alliance.

Discussion of the survey led to another topic that has been unsettled for several months: When to hold a public forum, and what kind of event that should be.

Margaret Parker, AAPAC’s chair, wanted to include a date in the survey for a public forum. Other commissioners said they weren’t ready to commit to a date at this point, since they hadn’t yet determined what kind of event they will hold.

Parker also pointed out that there was nothing in the survey to get public input on AAPAC’s annual plan. Chamberlin said the intent of the survey was to guide the commission regarding what they’ll do next – to let people tell AAPAC what they want. Curtis agreed, saying the survey was another way to communicate and connect with the community.

Parker said she thought that the survey was being planned in conjunction with an event, where the survey results would be revealed. She pointed out that they’d been talking about projects for over two hours during Tuesday’s meeting, and that these were the kinds of things that people wanted to know about.

Talcott noted that Herbert Dreiseitl might be in town on April 13, 14 and 15. Though she stressed that it wasn’t confirmed and that even if he did come, he might not have time for a public event, it might be possible, she said, to plan an event related to his visit. The other option would be to feature the West Park artist, Talcott said.

Annual Plan

Elaine Sims gave a report of the planning committee, focused on AAPAC’s annual plan. There was some confusion over whether the annual plan meant the commission’s organizational plan for the year, or whether it referred to the annual art plan that AAPAC must submit to city council in April as a requirement under the Percent for Art ordinance.

Sims clarified that the plan she was presenting was a list of things that AAPAC needed to do in order to make its annual public art plan. She noted that action items were top-heavy at the beginning of the calendar year, but light from October through December. It might be worth shifting things around, she said.

Margaret Parker said that some things can’t be shifted, such as the report to city council. She noted that it was already March, but they haven’t taken any of the steps required for the annual art plan, which is due in April.

Jeff Meyers suggested that Sims identify which items could be moved to other times during the year, and which ones needed to occur at a specific time. That would help in reviewing their options.

Sims said the planning committee would make revisions and bring it back to AAPAC at a future meeting.

Gifts of Art

Garo Kazan, a local artist, offered to give the city a bronze horse sculpture that he made – he raised this possibility more than a year ago. Katherine Talcott reported that she’s putting together a gift review panel to evaluate the sculpture. So far, confirmed members of the panel include Ellie Serras, as a community representative; Lou Marinaro, a local sculptor; and Cresson Slotten, a city engineer and project manager.

Talcott also presented commissioners with a draft worksheet for prospective donors who offer gifts of art to the city. Items requested from the donor include a current appraisal of the artwork’s value, as well as a maintenance budget; a letter of authentication from the artist; and background on the artist’s significance, among other things.

The commissioners were asked to review the worksheet and give feedback at a future meeting.

Commissioners present: Marsha Chamberlin, Jim Curtis, Jeff Meyers, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims. Others: Katherine Talcott, Jean Borger, Shary Brown, Brad Mikus

Absent: Connie Brown, Cathy Gendron, Cheryl Zuellig

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


  1. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm | permalink

    “Elaine Sims asked Talcott whether it reflected a lack of interest on Dreiseitl’s part. Talcott said she really couldn’t say.”


  2. By Jason Gravelle
    March 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm | permalink

    Good thing Ann Arbor didn’t go with a local artist. God forbid the city council let a resident show any interest in this city.

  3. By ROB
    March 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm | permalink

    Dreiseitl not interested?!? Guess he already cashed his check from the city… Maybe we could could bronze the members of AAPAC and install them near the various entrances to Heiftje Hall as monuments to wasteful and irresponsible municipal spending!

  4. By ROB
    March 11, 2010 at 5:29 pm | permalink

    I have always believed in speaking truth to power… and buffoons!

  5. By johnboy
    March 12, 2010 at 3:19 am | permalink

    ….as the stadium bridge crumbles …