Art Commission Sets Date for Public Forum

Also, input sought for online survey, Golden Paintbrush

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (April 13, 2010): After several months of discussion, the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission has set June 23 as the date for a public forum, though the format for the event hasn’t yet been determined.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, commissioners also discussed the need to publicize two projects: 1) an online survey seeking citizen input about public art, and 2) nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which honor contributions to public art. A nomination form can be downloaded from AAPAC’s website.

Commissioners got updates on several public art projects in the works, discussed an upcoming retreat planned for May 12, and approved an annual planning process. They continue to await a response from German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, who was scheduled to come to Ann Arbor last week to work on his water sculpture for the municipal center, but was not planning to meet with AAPAC while he was here.

Council Approval of Guidelines, Bylaws Postponed

In her report as AAPAC chair, Margaret Parker said she’d attended the April 5 Ann Arbor city council meeting – approval of AAPAC’s bylaws and guidelines had been on the agenda. She said she sat through four hours of public commentary and discussion on The Moravian apartment complex, only to have councilmember Marcia Higgins ask to postpone the AAPAC agenda item when it came up toward the end of the meeting. Parker said that Higgins had questions for the city attorney, but it wasn’t clear to Parker what those questions were. She planned to follow up with Higgins before the next council meeting.

Public Art Planning and the AAPAC’s Annual Plan

Parker briefed commissioners about a meeting several AAPAC members had on April 6 with Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator who oversees the Percent for Art program. Parker had called the meeting to go over the city’s capital improvements plan, or CIP. The Percent for Art program is funded through the city’s capital projects, at 1% of each project’s budget – up to a limit of $250,000 per project. Parker said she was frustrated because she had called the meeting specifically to look over the CIP, but McCormick told them that the CIP report wouldn’t be ready until later this month. Parker also reported that McCormick didn’t expect any new capital projects in the coming fiscal year.

At the April 6 meeting, commissioners had discussed and clarified with McCormick the two categories of projects that involve AAPAC: city-generated projects, and projects generated by AAPAC.

The West Park project is an example of a city-generated project. [See Chronicle coverage: "Artist Selected for West Park Art Project"] City staff had a specific capital project – in this case, renovations of a city park – and asked AAPAC to help incorporate public art. The Fuller Road Station is another example of city staff asking AAPAC to become involved. Many of these city-generated projects have tight timelines that make it difficult for AAPAC to respond, some commissioners noted.

In contrast, AAPAC itself can decide to pursue specific projects – there are funds generated through the Percent for Art program that AAPAC can use for these efforts. An example of this would be deciding to commission public art for a “gateway” to the city, which commissioners have previously discussed.

There was also a discussion about the difference between “pooled” and “designated” funds. Parker illustrated the difference, using the example of the municipal center currently under construction. That project generated the maximum $250,000 Percent for Art funding, and those dollars were designated for use within the municipal center complex. In addition, other “pooled” funds are also used for public art at the municipal center – coming from water, sewer and stormwater capital projects. Those pooled funds could be tapped because the commissioned artwork at the center has a water theme, Parker explained.

Revenue line items in the Percent for Art budget reflect these “pooled” categories, and include the street millage, parks millage, solid waste, water, sewer, stormwater, airport.

McCormick suggested that AAPAC meet with the heads of city departments each November, to get a clearer idea of projects that AAPAC might be asked to participate in, Parker said.

Annual Planning Process

Commissioners reviewed and approved the outline of an annual planning process, which describes actions that AAPAC needs to take throughout the year. There was some discussion about whether to hold a planning retreat in the third or fourth quarter of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. This year, the retreat is planned for May 12. A consensus was reached to hold the retreat during the third quarter in future years, to give commissioners more time following the retreat to finalize their annual report to city council.

Connie Pulcipher from the city’s systems planning unit will facilitate the May 12 retreat. The meeting runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St. It is open to the public.

Annual Report

The Public Art Ordinance specifies that AAPAC deliver an annual report to city council, providing specific information. From the ordinance:

(i) A report on the status of all public art incorporated into or funded by capital improvement projects in progress or completed during the preceding fiscal year;

(ii) A maintenance report on each work of public art presently under city management detailing maintenance costs for the preceding fiscal year, anticipated maintenance costs for the next fiscal year, and any significant future maintenance concerns, including prioritized recommendations for the maintenance, repair or renovation of particular works;

(iii) A review of the city’s public art with regard to the purposes stated in this chapter;

(iv) A report on the oversight body’s efforts to promote awareness of public art;

(v) A report on donations of art and where such art was placed;

(vi) A report on additional funds raised and how such funds were used; and

(vii) Any other matter of substantial financial or public importance relating to the public art in the city.

Parker noted that in the past, AAPAC’s annual reports have been more of a general storyline about their work. She wondered whether they needed to produce two reports: one intended for a broader audience, and another for city council that would meet the ordinance requirements.

Connie Brown said the report required by the ordinance seemed technical in nature, and though it would be available to the public, AAPAC could reach out to the community more effectively in other ways, like a public forum.

Parker asked who would handle the annual report, and the consensus seemed to be that it was suited for the planning or PR committee, or both. Cathy Gendron of the PR committee offered to assemble the report, if others would contribute the information. Commissioners decided to discuss it further at the May 12 retreat, and to seek feedback from Sue McCormick.

Projects: Skatepark, West Park, Dreiseitl, DDA

Connie Brown gave the projects committee report. She passed out a chart that showed current projects in the works, which included a list of task forces set up for each project. An additional task force needs to be set up for the Fuller Road Station, she said. [AAPAC has been asked to give input for public art at the joint city of Ann Arbor/University of Michigan project, a large parking structure and bus station near the UM medical complex.] Brown and Cathy Gendron volunteered for the Fuller Road task force.

Ann Arbor Skatepark

Parker questioned why the Ann Arbor Skatepark wasn’t on the projects list. Brown said that it wasn’t a formal AAPAC project at this point, though it might be something they choose to do in the future. It’s not a project until AAPAC approves it or the city requests that AAPAC take it on, she said.

Expressing concern that the skatepark not be “erased,” Parker said she’d recently talked with Trevor Staples, one of the skatepark organizers, who had told her that fundraising was going well. She noted that they were having a public design charette on April 25 – she didn’t want to lose the opportunity to work with them, especially since they had reached out to AAPAC.

Everyone is excited about the skatepark, Brown said. But it’s not a city project – it doesn’t generate Percent for Art funds. AAPAC might choose to allocate money for a public art project there, she added, but it seemed too soon to make that commitment. Parker said they could discuss it at the retreat.

West Park Public Art

Cathy Gendron said she was eager to see the proposal from the artist selected to work on a public art project in West Park. Gendron said she had looked at the Lotus Gardenscapes website, but didn’t see anything relevant to the West Park project. Selected by a task force, AAPAC hasn’t released the artist’s name publicly – Parker said they hadn’t yet finalized an agreement with him for the project. Katherine Talcott offered to show Gendron the artist’s submission materials after the meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: "Artist Selected for West Park Art Project"]

Parker clarified that funding for the West Park public art project will come from the parks operating budget. Up to $10,000 is allocated for that project.

Dreiseitl Project at the Municipal Center

Brown asked whether anyone had heard from Herbert Dreiseitl yet – the commission has been waiting for a response from the German artist for several months regarding two interior pieces at the municipal center. There had been no word, Katherine Talcott reported, adding that Dreiseitl was expected to arrive in town on April 15 for a couple of days to talk with contractors for the large outdoor water sculpture he’s been commissioned to make. He might bring a new proposal for those interior pieces, or respond to AAPAC’s recommendations to alter his original designs.

Dreiseitl is working directly with project manager Quinn Evans Architects and Conservation Design Forum, Talcott said. She planned to ask Ken Clein of Quinn Evans to report back to AAPAC about what Dreiseitl proposes. The approval process – including the issue of how to fund additional pieces – would have to begin anew, she said. For the outdoor piece, the city is paying Dreiseitl nearly $740,000 in addition to $77,000 he received for designing that piece and two interior wall hangings that were not approved.

Update on DDA Partnership

Parker asked for the status of talks with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Jim Curtis said he had emailed DDA executive director Susan Pollay in March with a list of clarification questions, but hadn’t yet received a response. One crucial thing to clarify is who’s responsible for funding joint projects, he said.

At AAPAC’s March meeting, the commission had discussed a possible sculpture project at Hanover Park, which is part of the DDA’s Fifth and Division street improvement project. Elaine Sims asked what would happen to the current book sculpture in that park ["Arbor Sapientiae" by Ronald Bauer]. She confirmed that the DDA wanted it moved.

Parker said they’d need to set up a task force to decide what to do with it – either moving it to a new location, storing it or de-accessioning it. The task force should include community members, she said, not just AAPAC members. People are aware of the sculpture, she added, and it needs to be treated with respect. She said the same thing needed to be done with the nine-panel, 27-foot-wide mosaic by artist Gerome Kamrowski, formerly located at city hall – the municipal center task force will be handling that.

Public Relations: Survey, Public Forum

AAPAC’s PR committee includes Cathy Gendron and Marsha Chamberlin. The commission’s newest member, Jeff Meyers, has indicated he’d like to join as well, according to AAPAC chair Margaret Parker. Neither Chamberlin nor Meyers attended Tuesday’s meeting. Gendron gave the committee report.

Public Art Survey

An online survey has been posted to get feedback from citizens, Gendron reported. Parker said she’d heard that over 60 people had already taken the survey. Gendron said it seemed likely that most of those people were Parker’s friends, since Parker had sent out an email about the survey before a press release was issued. Parker said it didn’t matter who had responded – the people she knew could weigh in, just like anyone else. It did, however, raise a question about whether there was a good process for putting out a press release, Parker added. There should be specific steps taken each time, she said – those steps should include notifying all AAPAC members when the press release goes out.

Public Forum Set

Parker reported that the planning committee, on which she serves, had decided to set a date for a public forum. That date is Wednesday, June 23 from 7-9 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. [This has been a contentious issue among some of the commissioners at previous meetings. Parker has been asking the public relations committee – Gendron and Chamberlin – to plan a public forum. Chamberlin has previously said she didn't want to hold a forum simply to cross it off their list – she wanted to make sure such an event would achieve something more than that.]

At Tuesday’s meeting, Parker told Gendron that the event should showcase the projects AAPAC has been working on, what’s in the pipeline and what other communities are doing that’s related to public art. They could also talk about results of the survey, she said.

Jim Curtis cautioned that they needed to be discrete regarding projects that they haven’t completely finalized. “In some ways we’ll need to be ‘mum’s the word,’ a little,” he said.

Katherine Talcott, the city’s public art administrator, suggested bringing in a speaker, saying that someone from outside the community can bring a different perspective and be inspiring. Several commissioners agreed. Elaine Sims noted that part of AAPAC’s mission is to educate the public about art, and a speaker could do that. Talcott also proposed having some kind of hands-on activity for kids, and Sims suggested partnering with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

Parker expressed concern that with a speaker, there wouldn’t be time for people to ask questions or give comments about the city’s public art projects.

Gendron said she understood that the idea of a forum had been controversial, but now that it had been set, the PR committee would make it happen. They just needed to figure out a good way to publicize the event, she said.

“Just say ‘Free Food!’” Curtis suggested.

[For a report on AAPAC's public open house last year, in May 2009, see Chronicle coverage: "The Where and Why of Ann Arbor's Art"]

Golden Paintbrush Awards

Gendron reported that the PR committee is working on criteria for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, given by AAPAC for contributions to public art. They are thinking of creating three categories: 1) professional projects, 2) community projects, and 3) public art supporters.

The awards are typically given in May. Parker asked how many nominations had been received, and was told that so far, there are none. This happens every year, Parker said. She urged commissioners to make nominations, and was worried that having categories would exclude possible nominees. “You can overdefine it and get nothing,” she said. Gendron said the categories were designed to help the commission organize nominations, not to exclude anyone.

Sims said she thought that the sculpture by Doug Hollis, located outside the entrance to the University of Michigan Hospital, should be nominated. [See Chronicle coverage: "New Sculpure Honors UM Transplant Team"] She pointed out that a conflict of interest prevents her from nominating it. [Sims is director of the UM Health System's Gifts of Art Program.] She also suggested nominating the snow bears crafted each winter in front of Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger.

Gendron said she’d try to get a notice asking for nominations on the Art Alliance’s new website. Applications are due May 1. [.pdf of Golden Paintbrush application form]

AAPAC Membership, Governance

Elaine Sims, who serves as the commission’s liaison to UM, reported that Lee Doyle is interested in serving on AAPAC. Doyle is chief of staff for the UM Office of the Vice President for Communications, and is a member of the President’s Advisory Committee for Public Art.

Parker said the planning committee would discuss the possible appointment of Doyle, adding that there were other people interested as well. AAPAC makes recommendations for appointments to the mayor, who then nominates members for approval by city council.

Parker also made a query she’s made at several previous meetings: “Anybody want to be chair?” Parker has served as chair of AAPAC since its inception, and has attempted to get someone else to take on that leadership position – so far, unsuccessfully. At Tuesday’s meeting, the results were no different. She said she’d like to have three positions: incoming chair, chair and outgoing chair. “And I might just assign those tasks,” she said.

“I don’t know if you have the power to do that,” Sims said.

Parker replied: “I do!”

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Jim Curtis, Cathy Gendron, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims. Others: Katherine Talcott

Absent: Marsha Chamberlin, Jeff Meyers, Cheryl Zuellig

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, May 11 at 4:30 p.m., 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St. [confirm date] A three-hour retreat is scheduled for Wednesday, May 12 from 5:30-8:30 p.m., also at the City Center.


  1. By Jack F
    April 19, 2010 at 6:41 am | permalink

    “Brown asked whether anyone had heard from Herbert Dreiseitl yet – the commission has been waiting for a response from the German artist for several months regarding two interior pieces at the municipal center. There had been no word, Katherine Talcott reported…”

    He’s probably hanging out in one of his new offices in Singapore or Beijing or other some other beacon of free expression where ‘politically correct art’ is a bit easier to accomplish.

  2. By Anon-U-Are
    April 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm | permalink

    This is really funny. AAPAC asked Dreiseitl to change his designs for two interior pieces they don’t have the money to pay for, and now he won’t meet with them or return any contacts. Can you blame him?

  3. April 20, 2010 at 4:08 am | permalink

    Where was the survey on AA public art posted? I never saw it and I try to seek and fill out such items. [link]

  4. By Mary Morgan
    April 20, 2010 at 9:06 am | permalink

    The survey was posted on AAPAC’s website, which is a page on the city of Ann Arbor’s site. [link] There was talk about putting it on the Arts Alliance website too, but I just looked and I don’t see it there. I believe it was also being sent out via email lists for different groups, but I’m not sure which ones.

  5. By Jack F
    April 20, 2010 at 10:19 am | permalink

    Oddly enough, I don’t see any Court-Police Building project related questions on the survey. Lol.

  6. By Rod Johnson
    April 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm | permalink