Art Commission Sets Deadline for Dreiseitl

Also, Golden Paintbrush awards, June 23 open house set

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (June 8, 2010): With some members expressing frustration at the lack of response from German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, the city’s public art commission set a deadline for him to provide information about two interior art installations proposed for the city’s new police/courts facility. AAPAC first asked for the information, including a revised budget estimate, in October 2009.

Abracadabra Jewelry storefront on East Liberty

The Abracadabra Jewelry & Gem Gallery storefront on East Liberty, just east of Fourth Avenue. The business is being given a Golden Paintbrush award by the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission for contributing to the streetscape. (Photos by the writer)

Also at their Tuesday meeting, commissioners voted on the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, recognizing contributions to art in public places. Winners this year are Abracadabra Jewelry on East Liberty, the University of Michigan Health System, and Tamara Real, president of the Arts Alliance.

The group also discussed how to publicize a public open house set for Wednesday, June 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The event will include a talk by Chrisstina Hamilton, director of visitors’ programs for the UM School of Art & Design who also runs the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speakers Series.

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Lee Doyle, who might be joining the commission. She’s chief of staff for the University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Communications and a member of the UM President’s Advisory Committee for Public Art. Doyle is also a founder of the university’s Arts on Earth program, and oversees the UM Film Office. To serve on AAPAC, she would need to be nominated by mayor John Hieftje and confirmed by the city council.

Herbert Dreiseitl Update

At Tuesday’s AAPAC meeting, Katherine Talcott, the city’s public art administrator, reported that the German sculptor Herbert Dreiseitl had been in town for a couple of days in mid-April, working with Quinn Evans Architects and the Conservation Design Forum to finalize some elements of the water sculpture commissioned by the city for the exterior of the new police/courts building at Fifth and Huron, also known as the municipal center. A request for a statement of qualifications (SOQ) is posted on the city’s Bid-Net website, to solicit responses from potential fabricators for the project. The deadline for submission of an SOQ is June 16. Up to three fabricators will be selected and asked to make proposals, which will be due July 14. A final selection of a fabricator is expected by July 23. [.pdf of SOQ request]

Talcott also provided commissioners with a detailed schedule for construction of the exterior water sculpture. According to the schedule, Dreiseitl is set to provide “firm pricing” for the piece in mid- to late August, with final city review and approval of the project in early September. Fabrication would begin soon after that, with installation to start as soon as December and continue through the spring of 2011.

Dreiseitl had originally been asked to do three pieces – the exterior water sculpture, and two interior pieces for the municipal center. The city paid $77,000 for those three designs – a price that included $5,000 for Dreiseitl’s travel expenses – but so far AAPAC and the city council have approved only the exterior piece, at a cost of $737,820.

Last year, AAPAC members had questions about the two interior designs, and at their October 2009 meeting they tabled action on one interior piece and approved the other, with certain conditions. They were also concerned about the cost. Although they had originally set a cap of $750,000 on the entire project, Dreiseitl in October proposed a budget of $841,541 for the three pieces, including the design fees.

Since that October meeting, they’ve been waiting for Dreiseitl to respond to questions about the interior pieces and to provide a new budget for those installations – etchings to be hung on the walls of the building’s lobby and atrium. At Tuesday’s AAPAC meeting, Talcott passed out copies of a revised design for one of the wall pieces – an image evocative of the Huron River watershed, to be etched on blue glass panels. In response to a query from commissioner Connie Brown, Talcott clarified that the drawing had been put together by Ken Clein of Quinn Evans and the staff of the Conservation Design Forum – not Dreiseitl. Nor has Dreiseitl provided a revised budget for the interior pieces.

Brown asked whether there was any kind of deadline for Dreiseitl to deliver designs and a budget – Talcott said no deadline had been set. She said that the exterior piece was on budget and on time, but that if they moved forward with the interior pieces, additional costs would likely be incurred because of change-orders that would need to be made on the building to accommodate the pieces.

Cheryl Zuellig expressed concern about how long it’s been since they’ve asked Dreiseitl to respond to questions about the design and budget. “I’m concerned about the artist’s engagement in this process,” she said.

Talcott responded by saying that they were dealing with an artist who had many projects underway. She and Clein have been pushing, but perhaps it’s time for the commission to decide what they’d like to do, she said – whether they want to move ahead with this project, or redirect those dollars to other places.

Margaret Parker pointed out that they do have a budget for the interior pieces – it just hasn’t been revised. [The original budget submitted by Dreiseitl last year included $53,843 for the installation in the lobby and $47,491 for the atrium wall piece.]

Later in the meeting, during a discussion of AAPAC’s annual public art plan, the topic of Dreiseitl came up again. The draft of the annual plan, which is to be submitted to the city council , includes seven items – the first three relating to public art at the municipal center: 1) complete Dreiseitl’s exterior art installation; 2) make recommendations for the two interior pieces during the first quarter of FY 2011; and 3) based on the decisions made regarding the two interior pieces, decide how to proceed with two additional exterior projects – which do not involve Dreiseitl.

Parker reported that the municipal center task force for public art had reviewed proposals for two pieces in the center’s north courtyard, next to Ann Street. But they hadn’t moved forward with those because they were waiting for AAPAC’s decision on Dreiseitl’s two interior pieces. The task force hasn’t met since last year, she said.

Talcott suggested that AAPAC set a deadline for a decision regarding Dreiseitl’s interior installations. Zuellig proposed getting information regarding the two pieces – including answers to their design questions and a new cost estimate – in time to make a decision at AAPAC’s July 13 meeting. The plan is to ask Dreiseitl to submit information by the end of June. At that point, the commission can then provide direction to the task force regarding how to move forward. Options would include approving the Dreiseitl pieces, allocating funds to work by other artists for the municipal center, or shifting dollars to projects that aren’t located at the municipal center.

Talcott pointed out that the task force had approved Dreiseitl’s two interior pieces – even though AAPAC had subsequently had issues with that work – and that one suggestion from the task force had been to seek funding from other sources to help pay for the pieces. That might be something that task force members would still be willing to do, she said, adding that it was important to respect the work of the task force.

Members of the task force who approved the Dreiseitl installation last year included: Ray Detter of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council; Bob Grese, director of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum; AAPAC chair Margaret Parker; Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council; Ann Arbor city councilmember Margie Teall; and Spring Tremaine, a lieutenant with the Ann Arbor Police Department. Sue McCormick, the city’s director of public services, is also a task force member.

Marsha Chamberlin used a familiar colloquialism to indicate it was time to either make a decision, or “get off the pot.” There was agreement on this fundamental approach.

Saying she wasn’t speaking for all commissioners, Zuellig said she was frustrated by the time it’s taken to get a response from Dreiseitl. “I question that,” she said. She also questioned whether they should commit resources to having five pieces of public art at the municipal center.

Parker suggested having McCormick come to the next AAPAC meeting to talk about funding sources, saying that McCormick had explained to the task force that there were various different funding streams that could be used for public art at the municipal center. “There are various ways you can work that,” Parker said, adding that it’s “amazingly complex.”

Zuellig responded that it wasn’t an issue of the budget. The question was whether they wanted to spend the money on those particular pieces, or at that location.

Cathy Gendron commented that the economic situation has changed significantly since they started this project, and that public perception has changed as well. Zuellig noted that Dreiseitl’s exterior piece cost more than they originally expected, and the designs of the two interior pieces “aren’t necessarily home runs.”

Talcott planned to convey AAPAC’s deadline request to Dreiseitl via Ken Clein of Quinn Evans, the municipal center’s project manager.

Golden Paintbrush Awards

Commissioners unanimously approved three Golden Paintbrush awards:

  • University of Michigan Health System, for contributions to public art, specifically in commissioning the “Rotations” sculpture as a memorial to the UM Medical Center transplant team, who died when their plane crashed into Lake Michigan in June 2007. [See Chronicle coverage: "New Sculpture Honors UM Transplant Team"]
  • Abracadabra Jewelry & Gem Gallery on East Liberty, for contributing to the streetscape with their storefront design. [See Chronicle feature: "Behind the Counter of a Local Jeweler"]
  • Tamara Real, for being a champion for the arts and artists in this region. Real is president of the Arts Alliance, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that advocates for the arts community throughout Washtenaw County.

The annual awards honor individuals, businesses or organizations that support art in public places in Ann Arbor. AAPAC chair Margaret Parker will formally present the awards to recipients at an upcoming city council meeting.

Public Relations: Open House, Survey Results

Marsha Chamberlin gave an update from the public relations committee, and reviewed the agenda for a public open house set for Wednesday, June 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The event will include a talk by Chrisstina Hamilton, director of visitors’ programs for the UM School of Art & Design who also runs the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speakers Series. In addition to providing updates on public art projects in the works, commissioners will be on hand to get input and feedback about the city’s public art program.

Chamberlin asked for help in publicizing the event, saying she hoped for better attendance than last year’s open house, which drew about 30 people. Commissioners discussed various ways to get the word out, in addition to a press release that went out last week and the group’s Facebook page. Cheryl Zuellig suggested getting the art commission on the city’s email distribution system – people can sign up to receive email alerts about a variety of topics.

Noting that the company she works for, JJR, has been hired to help with several projects that include a public engagement component, Zuellig said they’ve started going back to the sign-in-a-window approach, to reach people who might not be in the loop for online notices. She suggested emailing a sign to commissioners so they can print out copies and post them throughout the community.

Art bike hoop

A couple of respondents to the recent online public art survey didn't like the "Art" bike hoops installed downtown. This one is at the southeast corner of Liberty and Division.

Also at the open house, Chamberlin said they’ll report details of a recent online survey of public art, which yielded 263 responses. She reviewed some of the results, noting that respondents included a disproportionate number of people in the arts community, compared to the general public. A goal for next year is to broaden the input, she said. She described the open-ended responses as “all over the board,” including a number that were very supportive of the commission’s work. About 15%, she estimated, commented that they didn’t think the city should be spending money on public art during these tough economic times. That’s something to keep in mind as they determine the next steps for the municipal center building, she said. And two people characterized the “Art” bike hoops as the worst public art they’ve ever seen – Chamberlin noted that those were a Downtown Development Authority project.

Project Updates: West Park, DDA

Giving a report from the projects committee, Connie Brown said the artist selected for a West Park public art installation – Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes – is expected to submit his final design concept by June 30. [Pelletier was introduced to the city's park advisory commission by parks planner Amy Kuras at PAC's May 18 meeting, but has not yet attended an AAPAC meeting. .pdf of Pelletier's conceptual design] His work will be incorporated into new seat walls being installed in a hill facing the West Park bandshell.

Brown said there’s been no action over the past month on a potential project in Hanover Square, at the northwest corner of Packard and Division. AAPAC has been talking with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority about a possible public art installation there, paid for as part of the DDA’s Fifth and Division street improvement project.

And a task force is still being formed for a possible public art project at the Fuller Road Station, Brown said.

Planning Updates: Annual Plan, Project Steps

Cheryl Zuellig gave a report for AAPAC’s planning committee, discussing the group’s annual public art plan as well as a document outlining the steps to be taken on city-owned public art projects.

Public Art Annual Plan

In addition to the Dreiseitl project reported above, AAPAC’s annual public art plan includes four other items, which the commissioners discussed briefly. They are:

  • Develop a public art project at the Fuller Road Station.
  • Identify a gateway project and set up a task force for it. Efforts will be coordinated with other potential enhancement projects. Planning is anticipated to occur over several years, with potential installation in FY 2014-15.
  • Pilot a mural program.
  • Assist the Downtown Development Authority in developing a public art project for Hanover Square.

Katherine Talcott asked about the funding source for the mural program, which had been proposed by Jeff Meyers. She pointed out that the Percent for Art program has some constraints, and reminded commissioners that certain things – for example, temporary art projects like FestiFools – don’t qualify.

Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the annual plan, which will be forwarded to city council.

Project Steps: There Are Many

Zuellig presented the latest version of a document outlining the steps to be taken on city-owned public art projects, from intake form to completion. She noted that this draft represented the third set of revisions, based on feedback from commissioners and Sue McCormick.

On Tuesday, commissioners spent considerable time making additional changes to some of the 21 steps, in particular discussing the definition of and difference between a selection committee, task force, peer review and jury. The group also talked about the meaning of conceptual design versus proposal, as it related to the stages of approval.

Noting that the document could get complicated if they tried to account for every type of project, Zuellig proposed adding a preamble indicating these steps are intended as a general guide. Margaret Parker said she was hoping for a simplified list that could be distributed to the city’s department heads and others, to help them understand the process. She pointed out that AAPAC also has detailed guidelines about the process, and that they can address it at an upcoming organizational planning session, to be facilitated by Connie Pulcipher of the city’s systems planning unit.

Commissioners unanimously approved the project steps document, as revised.

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Katherine Talcott, Lee Doyle

Absent: Jim Curtis, Jeff Meyers

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, July 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
    June 12, 2010 at 8:52 am | permalink

    Let’s keep in mind Margie Teall’s outstanding work and support for the Herbert Dreiseitl project when the August primary rolls around.

  2. By D.P. O'Connell
    June 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm | permalink

    Let us hope the Dreiseitl project will not be hindered due to communication difficulties. It strikes me as odd, to say the least, to hear that Herr Dreiseitl was in town in April and then to listen to reports of people complaining about his ‘lack of engagement’ in the project and his slow response time. Moreover, the claim that Talcott and Clein ‘have been pushing’ Dreiseitl for answers to certain questions since October 2009 and that he has simply not responded is not really credible, unless there is some issue behind the scenes of which I am ignorant. Is something being lost in translation here? If so, perhaps they would do well to invest in a German translator.

  3. By Mark Koroi
    June 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm | permalink

    The Dreiseitl Project is a huge waste of taxpayers’ monies when the city has far more pressing needs to address.

    It is correct that Margie Teall has been an enthusiastic supporter of funding this project.

  4. By Alan Goldsmith
    June 14, 2010 at 6:47 am | permalink

    Ms. Teall was a major supporter on the project ‘task force’ (as covered in this article) and came out to vote yes on a day she supposedly had the flu, but was too sick later in the evening to show up for her council meeting (where homelessness funding was on the agenda). Then of course, she voted yes for the project later as a member of council, and as far as I know, has never apologized for either vote or the way this entire fiasco was handled. Perhaps she’s ready to now?

  5. By mr dairy
    June 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm | permalink

    I am not denigrating the need for local support for the arts (whatever that means) and the development of a coherent vision of what public art means to Ann Arbor, but as an appointed committee, the AAPAC as public service is a disaster as it is currently structured. Their insulated decision making is typical Ann Arbor “Arts Community” as opposed to Ann Arbor’s community of artists. Furthermore, the AAPAC is symptomatic of the bureaucratic style that has come to dominate City Hall in the last decade.

    I figured the AAPAC was a sham committee was when they decided to put a fountain in front of a new public building, which must have taken all of five minutes of debate. The appointees were serving the appointers in exchange for money and influence. The money came the self serving appointers by simply voting to assess a percent of the costs and by having the ability to tap into other loosely connected city “funds” like Storm Water. The influence came from the appointment to a committee that has the platform to define what public art is and means to Ann Arbor. This slightly reeks of a little local political, cultural and social back scratching. Tragically, (because I believe that Ann Arbor desperately needs a coherent vision of what Ann Arbor and “the arts” is about in this new day) all this occurs while bridges crumbled, bonds and “air rights” were sold and long term public debt was incurred.

    It is my informed opinion that the suggestion for considering Driesetl came from City Hall staff, not the AAPAC. It would be great if someone would take a deeper look into the operations of Systems Planning inside City Hall under Sue McCormick’s leadership. How much influence does city staff have over city politics? Sometimes the connection seems a little too cozy.

    When, under what circumstances, by and to whom in the bureaucracy was Driesetl’s name suggested to the newly formed AAPAC with their newly acquired funding source?

  6. June 15, 2010 at 9:02 pm | permalink


  7. By ROB
    June 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm | permalink

    The funding for this is a skimming scam that would make a “70′s Vegas mob boss green with envy! The most compelling reason I have ever seen to totally revamp the city’s entire budget process – which has clearly become a kind of pork barrel for special interests and cronies of the mayor!

  8. By Fran Wright
    June 16, 2010 at 1:21 pm | permalink

    I suppose Mr. Driesetl has been paid. Has he been paid only the 77 grand or the whole seven hundred and thirty seven thousand eight hundred and twenty dollars? If it is the smaller amount, I would recommend chalking it up to a business loss and moving on to find some local person who is capable, interested, and available to create a piece or pieces for the building. The former perennial garden facing Huron Street was spectacular during the entire gardening season. Why not go back to a garden, considering a water feature is going to be turned off six months of the year anyway?
    I thought this addition was for police, judges, criminals and jury members. Will these taxpayer funded pieces of art be available for viewing by taxpayers not on trial or on a jury?

  9. June 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm | permalink

    Fran Wright @8 We could get a heckuva nice garden for a fraction of $700,000.

  10. By Jack F.
    June 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm | permalink

    The AAPAC should have the same thing happen to it that occured with the Housing Board–everyone on the committee should be fired, and a new board reestablished with members and leaderhip more in tune with financial and artistic realities of our city. The Giant German Urinal Art saga has made Ann Arbor a laughing stock and to entrust any further tax dollars to this group makes no sense.

  11. By suswhit
    June 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm | permalink

    I agree on a garden there. Absolutely a more beautiful and interesting addition to the new building.

    Whoever is doing the gardens and planters around the parking lots is exceptional. They are each unique and amazingly vigorous.

  12. By Dave Askins
    June 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm | permalink

    Re: [11] and the gardens, planters around the parking lots.

    It’s Republic Parking that does that.