Art Commission Acts on Dreiseitl Proposal

One piece rejected; action on second work delayed

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (July 13, 2010): A significant increase in cost and several design issues resulted in rejection by AAPAC of one art installation proposed by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, and the postponement of another. The votes followed an animated discussion on the proposals.

A drawing that shows the proposed art installation by Herbert Dreiseitl for the lobby of the new police/courts building on Fifth and Huron.

A drawing that shows the proposed art installation by Herbert Dreiseitl for the lobby of the new police/courts building on Fifth and Huron. The piece includes etched blue glass panels, on the right, and blue glass bulbs hanging from the ceiling, in the left corner of this drawing. Commissioners voted to postpone action on this work, with plans to ask Dreiseitl to cap the cost at $75,000.

Commissioners voted to postpone a proposal for artwork in the lobby of the city’s new municipal center – the artwork has a budget of $141,218. They plan to ask Dreiseitl to cap the project at $75,000. With dissent from chair Margaret Parker, they rejected a work proposed for the center’s atrium, with a budget of $73,806, citing concerns over the cost, design and durability of the material.

In other business, the group got an update on their involvement in the proposed Fuller Road Station, with commissioner Cathy Gendron reporting that the project architects have already selected the location, materials and theme for public art on the parking structure and transit facility. “I had no idea that things were so far along at this project,” she said.

And a vote to allocate funds for repair of the Sun Dragon Sculpture at Fuller Pool prompted a broader discussion on how to handle maintenance costs for public art.

Some organizational changes are in the works, too. Commissioner Jim Curtis announced plans to step down at the end of 2010, to devote more time as a board member for the startup Ann Arbor Main Street Business Improvement Zone (BIZ). AAPAC will be recruiting a replacement for him. And Katherine Talcott, who has served as the part-time public art administrator, has signed a new one-year contract with the city – in the role of an art project manager. She’ll be handling the Dreiseitl project, Fuller Road Station and other projects that are assigned to her by Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator. The job of public art administrator is being restructured, and has not yet been filled.

Concerns Raised about Additional Dreiseitl Artwork

Margaret Parker, AAPAC’s chair, began the overall discussion by briefly reviewing the new proposal submitted for two interior pieces in the city’s new police/courts building, also known as the municipal center, at the northeast corner of Fifth and Huron. She noted that the two wall pieces, designed by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, were thematically linked to the large water sculpture that the city had commissioned from him. The sculpture is to be installed in front of the center.

Some Background

Dreiseitl had submitted designs for all three pieces last summer, and was paid $77,000 for that work. Only the water sculpture was approved by AAPAC and the city council, at a cost of $737,820.

At AAPAC’s October 2009 meeting, commissioners postponed action on one interior piece and approved the other, with certain conditions. They had concerns about both the designs and 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. At their June meeting, commissioners received a revised design for one of the wall pieces – an image evocative of the Huron River watershed, to be etched on blue glass panels. But that drawing had been put together by Ken Clein of Quinn Evans and the staff of the Conservation Design Forum – not Dreiseitl. Nor had Dreiseitl provided a revised budget for the interior pieces.

So commissioners set a deadline for the end of June to receive a final budget and design. That deadline was met, and on Tuesday the commission considered the proposal, which had come in at a much higher cost than originally proposed: $141, 218 for the etched, blue glass installation in the police/courts lobby, and $73,806 for the stenciled painting in the atrium.

The discussion on Tuesday was wide-ranging and covered both interior projects. For the purposes of this summary, The Chronicle separates those discussions.

Dreiseitl: Police/Courts Lobby

The piece in the police/courts lobby includes eight large, blue glass panels to be etched with an image evocative of the Huron River watershed. The panels would be mounted on the wall facing Huron Street. In the southwest corner of the lobby, a cluster of blue glass balls would be suspended from the ceiling, and lit from within. The balls – which Dreiseitl refers to as “pearls” – are also used in his exterior water sculpture.

The original budget for the lobby installation was $53,843 – the revised budget is nearly three times as much:

Glass pearls             $10,000
Glass etching            $16,000
Lighting/controls        $50,000
Blue glass panels        $32,000
Ceiling                   $5,000
Professional fees:
  Dreiseitl               $3,965
  Quinn Evans             $7,175
  Electrical engineering
    & lighting design     $3,700
  Travel, lodging         $2,078

Total:                  $141,218


Cathy Gendron began by saying that one thing she hadn’t factored in was the security of the lobby. On a recent tour, it became clear to her that the only people who’d be entering the lobby of the police/courts building would be employees and people who had a court date – it wasn’t a place that the general public would go. There was tight security, she said, and given the expense of the proposal, she wasn’t sure it was worth putting something in a place with such limited access. The word “lobby” had previously conjured up a different image for her.

Jim Curtis noted that it would be more visible at night from the exterior – it would be lit, and the large windows of the lobby face Huron Street. Connie Brown said the salient point is whether it’s worth spending so much money there, given the level of access.

Margaret Parker

Local artist Margaret Parker, chair of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission, advocated for approval of the two interior works proposed by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl. (Photos by the writer.)

Parker countered that it’s a huge wall, and something needs to go there. The task force that was formed to make recommendations for public art in the complex had spent months talking about where it should go, she said. [Task force member Ray Detter attended Tuesday's meeting, but did not address the commission.] Given the large bank of windows facing Huron, “it’s hard to put your finger on a more visual space,” Parker said.

There was discussion – and some confusion – on two other points: The glass panels, and the proposed lighting.

It was unclear whether the relatively high cost of the blue glass panels – in the budget for $32,000 – was linked to the fact that they would need to be installed, then removed for etching, and reinstalled. The panels have already been ordered, and if Dreiseitl’s proposal was rejected, they could be left in place without the etching. But would there be a cost to the Percent for Art program for that? Jeff Meyers also questioned why the panels needed to be installed before the etching was done – was it simply to have something up by the time the building opened?

Also questioned was the $50,000 cost for lighting/controls. A cluster of blue glass “pearls” would hang near the windows, and each pearl would contain a light. Those lights are programmable, though it wasn’t clear exactly what that would mean.

Elaine Sims said she didn’t like the glass pearls. Located away from the glass panels, they weren’t cohesive. For her, the price wasn’t an issue: “I wouldn’t like them even if they were $19.95 – they just don’t work.”

Cheryl Zuellig pointed out that AAPAC had requested Dreiseitl to revise his design for the lighting – his original design called for lights to be directed down onto the balls, not lit from within. He did what they’d asked him to do, she noted. So their decision needs to be cost-based, not design-based, she said.

Meyers asked whether they could eliminate the balls from the design. Parker said they could, though she noted their thematic link to the exterior water sculpture. And most people will see the work from the street, she said. From that perspective, the balls would appear more connected to the panels behind them.

Gendron asked about the $50,000 line item for lighting – did that include lights in the ceiling above the panels? It shouldn’t, Meyers said, since those lights are already installed and would need to be there regardless of the artwork.

When it came time to vote, two motions were proposed – then withdrawn – before the commission voted on a third motion.

Zuellig made the first motion, to approve the lobby installation but without the glass pearl display and contingent on the cost not exceeding $75,000.

Discussion on this proposal first came from Parker, who noted it was possible that Dreiseitl wouldn’t want anything to do with their suggestion, given how much it would alter his original design. She couldn’t support that.

Zuellig questioned whether Dreiseitl actually had a deep commitment to these pieces, noting that the most recent drawing of the installation provided to AAPAC had been done by staff at Quinn Evans. Several other commissioners agreed. Gendron said Dreiseitl might be disappointed, but he couldn’t be surprised.

Parker again stated that they should go with what Dreiseitl had proposed – she didn’t think they should second-guess the artist or the architects. Sims said she couldn’t support it as-is, because of the increased cost. She said the artist or architect should have attended their meeting, to answer questions.

Frustrated, Parker said “this is not a shopping trip, guys.” Rather than voting on the motion that Zuellig had proposed, Parker suggested that they “gently” approach Dreiseitl with their concerns and get his feedback. “Because this is embarrassing,” she said of the motion. “I would never vote for what you’re suggesting.” It’s just nickel-and-diming the project, she said – going through line by line, without the architect or the artist or the art administrator there to help explain the costs.

Responding to the point about “nickel-and-diming,” Brown pointed out that the motion would cut the cost by half. Curtis then proposed removing everything from the motion, aside from the contingency to cut costs. That way, Dreiseitl could determine what changes to make.

Zuellig countered by saying they’d just spent an hour talking about what they didn’t like about the project, in addition to the cost – they needed to provide Dreiseitl with direction.

Parker urged them to postpone the motion. Zuellig ultimately agreed to withdraw it, but said that after having waited for so many months to hear back from Dreiseitl, she had serious concerns about it. Curtis said it made sense to wait, given that they weren’t clear about the details of the budget.

Sims then moved to not approve the project for the lobby – but Zuellig pointed out that if there are no conditions, then they’d just be rejecting it outright, and they’re done. Sims withdrew her motion.

Curtis then made a motion to postpone action on the lobby installation until AAPAC’s Aug. 10 meeting, with the goal of clarifying lighting and electrical cost information and capping the project’s total cost at $75,000.

Outcome: The motion to postpone action on the lobby installation until AAPAC’s Aug. 10 meeting, with the goal of clarifying lighting and electrical cost information and capping the project’s total cost at $75,000, passed with dissent from Zuellig and Sims. Marsha Chamberlin was absent, and Jeff Meyers had left the meeting by the time the vote was taken.

Dreiseitl: Atrium

Much of the discussion of the project proposed for the atrium centered on the material – drywall – as well as the cost, which had risen from an original proposal of $47,491 to a total cost of $73,806. The budget breakdown for this piece is:

Painting                   $2,625
Paint stencil images      $15,000
Lighting/controls         $25,000
Glass pearls               $3,500
Modification to
  municipal center         $7,500
Contingency                $5,363
Professional fees:
   Dreiseitl               $3,965
   Quinn Evans             $7,175
   Electrical engineering
        & lighting design  $1,600
   Travel, lodging         $2,078

Total:                    $73,806


Cheryl Zuellig clarified that in response to concerns they’d raised about the use of drywall as a surface for the artwork, the material had been altered to a kind of abuse-resistant drywall. Jim Curtis said he still had strong concerns – he’d have those concerns if they were only paying for a $5,000 piece, let alone one that cost nearly $74,000.

Elaine Sims objected to the placement of the piece, at six feet above the floor – that was too high, she said. The placement was designed to minimize concerns about accidental damage, but Curtis said he didn’t think that would matter. Drywall would be problematic for changes in temperature and humidity, and the location is in an area where the doors will be opening and shutting frequently, as people pass through. He said he really liked the original proposal, which had called for the piece to be made of metal, but said he wouldn’t vote for the project as it stands.

Zuellig thought it would be a good location for a mural of some sort – perhaps by local school children. Sims liked the idea of a mural, but would prefer one by a professional artist.

As with the lobby installation, commissioners questioned the cost of the lighting/controls line item: $25,000 for the atrium piece. In this case, however, there was no additional lighting connected to the artwork, which left several commissioners puzzled over what they would be paying for. Would the Percent for Art program be charged for lighting fixtures that will be installed in the atrium anyway, regardless of the artwork? Jeff Meyers wondered if they’d be on the hook for those costs, even if they rejected Dreiseitl’s proposals.

Margaret Parker reminded commissioners that these were huge spaces, and anything installed there would be expensive. They’ve already spent two years working with Dreiseitl and have paid for the design of these interior pieces. If they reject them, they’ll need to take responsibility for all the time and cost they’ve already incurred, and they’ll be starting from scratch, she said.

Sims pointed out that much of the extra expense is due to delays in response by Dreiseitl.

Sims also asked whether the city owned the design, for which they’ve already paid Dreiseitl. She suggested that if they did own it, they could hire someone else to execute the design in a way that worked better for that location. Several other commissioners objected to that approach.

Connie Brown moved to not approve the atrium project, a motion seconded by Curtis. Zuellig asked whether the motion could include some of the reasons for rejecting the piece, and Brown agreed – citing the cost escalation, the questionable durability of the materials, and the departure from Dreiseitl’s original vision.

In discussing the motion, Parker said it’s not their job to question the choice of materials. The originally proposed metal proved to be too expensive, she said, and they shouldn’t factor that in. They seem to be holding him to a design he submitted months ago, she said, and it would be more appropriate to simply cite the cost escalation.

Yes, the costs did escalate, Brown noted. But there has to be some value associated with that – and drywall isn’t added value.

Painting is done on drywall all the time, Parker said, and experts say it’s a perfectly fine surface. Several commissioners voiced disagreement. Zuellig noted that they’d raised these concerns in November and had suggested some alternatives, but Dreiseitl hadn’t responded to those concerns. Brown pointed out that there hadn’t been much communication from him.

Parker said the price is reasonable for an extremely large piece that’s hand-painted – Brown pointed out that it would be stenciled. Parker said she was strongly in favor of relying on the professionals that they’d hired to do this project, who supported it.

Cathy Gendron proposed citing only cost as the reason for turning down the project. Zuellig noted that in five years, AAPAC will be sitting here trying to deal with maintenance of the piece, so it’s their responsibility now to address the issue of the durability of materials as well.

Outcome: With dissent from Margaret Parker, commissioners voted against approval of Dreiseitl’s proposal for an installation in the atrium, citing the cost escalation, the questionable durability of the materials, and the departure from the original vision for the work. Marsha Chamberlin was absent, and Jeff Meyers had left the meeting by the time the vote was taken.

Outstanding Issues: What’s Next?

After the votes, Parker said they need to give the task force some direction about how to proceed on other possible public art installations at the municipal center. Several other commissioners said it wasn’t possible, given the uncertainty about Dreiseitl’s proposal for the lobby. Depending on what they ultimately decide to do with that, it will influence how much funding is available for other work within the complex. They agreed to discuss it at AAPAC’s August meeting.

Repair Funds Approved for Sun Dragon Sculpture

A sculpture at Fuller Pool, designed by AAPAC chair Margaret Parker in 2003, had been damaged this spring by maintenance workers making structural repairs to the pool’s shower, to which the sculpture is attached. A wooden beam – which supported both the sculpture and a pipe carrying solar-heated water– had rotted. When maintenance workers removed part of the sculpture to repair the beam, parts of the artwork were broken.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners voted on approval of $6,946 in repair costs, including $4,000 for labor, to be paid out of an endowed fund established at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. The fund is designated for public art maintenance, and has a balance of $16,270.

As part of the discussion, Parker reported that Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, has told her that Percent for Art funds – which AAPAC administers – can’t be used to pay for repairs on public art acquired by the city prior to November 2007, when the Percent for Art program was established.

Several commissioners questioned that statement. Jim Curtis asked what would happen when the endowed fund ran out of money? The Sun Dragon’s repair would deplete it by half, he noted. Connie Brown brought up the stacked-book sculpture in Hanover Square, which AAPAC – in partnership with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – plans to remove and possibly reinstall elsewhere. Where would the funding come from to handle that, since the artwork significantly pre-dates AAPAC?

Cheryl Zuellig wondered whether the inability to use Percent for Art funds for repairs of pre-2007 public art was written into the ordinance or whether it was simply a staff interpretation.

By way of background, the ordinance that established the Percent for Art program does not explicitly address the issue of funding for public art owned prior to the program’s establishment. (.pdf of public art ordinance) However, a cover memo accompanying the city council’s packet for their Nov. 5, 2007 meeting states:

In discussion with CAPP [the Commission on Art in Public Places, AAPAC's predecessor group], it was noted that the program must recognize the need for ongoing maintenance of public art. As a result, the ordinance provides that normal maintenance of the art will be provided by the Services Area responsible for the location where the art is installed. Additionally, funds in pooled public art funds may be used for extraordinary maintenance, repair or refurbishment, including structural reconstruction, and for relocation, alteration and removal of public art.

Jeff Meyers said that if it is written into the ordinance, perhaps it’s worth going back to city council for revision. Zuellig noted that their other option would be fundraising.

Outcome: AAPAC approved spending $6,946 from the endowed fund to repair the Sun Dragon. Parker recused herself from the vote. The work will be handled by Plastic-Tech of Ann Arbor.

Follow-Up: Maintenance Funding Clarified

At an organizational retreat held the following night, July 14, McCormick clarified the question of maintenance, confirming that the service units that oversee the site where the art is located, or the funds from which the Percent for Art monies were drawn, are responsible for maintenance and repair. This applies to both public art that was acquired prior to the Percent for Art program, as well as work funded by the Percent for Art. In addition, AAPAC can choose to allocate funding for repair or maintenance of Percent for Art work, but not for older public art.

The Dreiseitl work, for example, is funded through the water utilities fund, which will provide funding for maintenance in the future, McCormick said. She said the city will run a depreciation schedule on each piece of art, and when the work is fully depreciated – or when it comes to the end of its “useful” life cycle, whenever that might be – the staff will come to AAPAC to discuss whether to decommission it.

For public art that pre-dates the Percent for Art program, AAPAC is under no obligation to deal with those, McCormick said – though they can if they choose.

Public Art at Fuller Road Station

Cathy Gendron and Connie Brown will be AAPAC representatives on a task force that’s being formed to handle public art at the Fuller Road Station, a joint city of Ann Arbor/University of Michigan parking structure and transit center. In reporting on a meeting that she’d had with the project manager, Dave Dykman, and other city staff, Gendron said she’d been surprised to learn that many things have already been decided, including the artwork’s location within the structure, the materials to be used and the theme of the piece – transportation. “I had no idea that things were so far along at this project,” she said.

The design concept was outlined in a memo to AAPAC. It calls for creating 15 large fritted glass panels on the front and back of the structure. From the memo:

Fritted glass is a special type of glass that utilizes ceramic-enamel coatings in a visible pattern (dots, lines, etc.) to control solar heat gain. The pattern is created by opaque or transparent glass fused to the substrate glass material under high temperatures. The substrate is heat strengthened or tempered to prevent breakage due to thermal stresses. The selected artist would create the designs for these visible patterns.

Elaine Sims asked who had made these decisions. The decisions had been made by the project’s architect – Mitchell and Mouat – and city staff, Gendron said. Margaret Parker indicated that Katherine Talcott, the city’s public art administrator, had drawings of the project, which weren’t yet available to the public.

Gendron said the two-dimensional pieces would incorporate images of bicycles, buses and trains. She described the effect as lovely, but Brown wasn’t as enthusiastic. Brown said the question was whether they’d have much input, other than just shepherding what’s already been decided.

Margaret Parker said AAPAC still has to prove itself, and that they hadn’t gotten involved soon enough. They had heard about the project in the spring, and hadn’t yet finalized a task force. [AAPAC's possible role in the project had first been briefly mentioned at their January 2010 meeting. From Chronicle coverage:

Talcott then reported on another city project in which AAPAC might play a role: the Fuller Road Station. The project manager, David Dykman, had contacted her and they planned to meet formally soon. It was good that someone from another city project is reaching out, she said.

At Tuesday's meeting, Brown said she'd met with the architects as soon as AAPAC had heard about the project, but at that time they weren't yet done with the schematic design, and people were still questioning the funding model, she said. Parker said that for whatever reason, AAPAC wasn't getting involved soon enough. She noted that the project would have two phases, and that they should be sure to be ready for the second phase.

Jeff Meyers cautioned that they don't want to be in the same position for the second phase as they are now. If the city wants AAPAC engaged, this can't be a pattern that repeats, he said. Otherwise, AAPAC should remove itself from the project.

Zuellig said the pattern already had repeated. They'd first been asked by the city to provide an art consultant, and they'd written an RFQ (request for qualifications) for that position. [AAPAC discussed the request at length at their February 2010 meeting, where they raised several questions about the process.] That didn’t work out, and they’d met with Sue McCormick and told her they need to make sure that kind of situation doesn’t happen again – they needed to play a role in the art. Now, it seems they’re being asked to play an administrative role, she said.

[At an AAPAC organizational retreat on Wednesday, Talcott told The Chronicle that she will now be serving as the art project manager for the Fuller Road Station. At that meeting, commissioners also discussed with McCormick ways that they can get involved in these city projects at an earlier point.]

Meyers said the thing that troubled him was that it impacted AAPAC’s budget, but they weren’t able to weigh in on it. Describing it as the tail wagging the dog, he said it makes AAPAC’s role an afterthought. “My inclination is to say, You’re on your own.”

Zuellig agreed, and noted that they had the option of rejecting the project. [At the July 14 organizational meeting, McCormick clarified that AAPAC was a recommending body, and that if commissioners voted against a project, the city had the option of moving ahead with it, without AAPAC's involvement.]

Percent for Art funds stipulate that 1% of a capital project’s budget be set aside for public art, up to a cap of $250,000 per project. As in the case of the municipal center building, the Percent for Art funds for Fuller Road Station are designated to be used in that project, Parker said.

Describing the situation as objectionable, Jim Curtis pointed out that now at least they have the ability to direct how the art is actually done. Other people can make suggestions, he noted, but “ultimately, we’re going to decide.”

Zuellig suggested pushing back on some of the things that had been pre-determined. Maybe there are other possibilities for materials and design, she said. That’s what the task force is for, Parker responded.

When the task force is given its charge, Sims suggested, they should be told that they can go beyond what the city has determined – it should be a jumping-off point, she said. Parker agreed, saying that it’s a negotiation. Sims noted that without an artist being involved in the project up until this point, the architects did the best that they could do.

But Meyers remained concerned that the city would simply be tasking the group to implement decisions that are already made. He felt it would be setting a precedent of being reactive, rather than proactive. He didn’t think AAPAC was set up to simply have projects thrown at it.

Curtis said it was a combination – AAPAC is approached about doing specific projects, as well as coming up with its own. Meyers noted that there’s a difference between bringing a project idea to AAPAC, versus saying “This is how it must be done.”

Zuellig agreed with Sims that the architects had to do something to accommodate public art. Now, AAPAC needed to take it from there.

Meyers ended the discussion by saying, somewhat lightheartedly, “I will temper my outrage until I hear more.”

West Park Art Project

Connie Brown reported that the design for the public art installation at West Park is moving ahead. The general concept for the work had been described at AAPAC’s March 9, 2010 meeting:

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 footings for the piece have been poured, but there are still some issues related to using color, Brown said – the task force working with the artist is concerned about maintenance issues if painting is involved. The final work is expected to be complete by September.

Governance Issues: Who Wants to Be Chair?

Margaret Parker has served as chair of AAPAC since it was formed in 2008, and before that chaired the Commission on Art in Public Places (CAPP), the group that pre-dated the Percent for Art program. For several months, she has been pushing to move out of that role, but no one has stepped forward to take it on. At Tuesday’s meeting, Cheryl Zuellig – who chairs AAPAC’s planning committee – presented a three-tiered plan for governance, to distribute the leadership duties between a vice chair, chair and past chair. The understanding is that the vice chair would spend a year learning the ropes, then move into the chair’s position for the following year. While the chair would still handle a larger share of duties compared to the other two leadership roles, some of that responsibility would be handled by the vice chair and past chair.

Zuellig presented the plan and asked for feedback.

Jeff Meyers said his biggest concern was asking the vice chair to see that far into the future – anything more than a year commitment was asking a lot. They’d be asking for three years: as vice chair, then chair, and finally past chair. He felt that requiring a vice chair to become chair was problematic.

Parker said they were open to alternative suggestions, but that they haven’t been able to get anyone to commit to anything, and that was the problem.

Meyers then suggested that perhaps they should make the job of chair less onerous – Parker said that was the point of this reorganization. The past chair, for example, would take on the task of doing the annual report, which is due in August. The vice chair would provide back-up for the chair, and provide oversight for the commission’s schedule.

Meyers proposed another option: Giving the vice chair more duties, but not requiring them to ascend to the chair automatically. Otherwise, he said, it might be difficult to get someone to commit to being vice chair.

Connie Brown raised the point that commissioners serve three-year terms. That means someone just coming onto the commission would need to commit to a leadership role immediately. Zuellig said that was only true if no one served multiple terms. When Meyers said commissioners don’t get reappointed automatically, Parker disagreed, saying “you sort of do.”

Zuellig noted that they’re facing an immediate challenge: Parker will be unable to attend the September and October meetings, and they need someone to fill in for her. There is currently no vice chair. Brown said she’d support the three-tier structure, but that still leaves the question: Who’ll take those roles?

Parker volunteered to serve as past chair.

Zuellig suggested that she email commissioners and get their feedback – including whether anyone would be willing to serve – and they could discuss it again at their August meeting.

Commissioners Recruited, and One Departs

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jim Curtis, who has served on AAPAC/CAPP for five years, told his colleagues that he plans to step down at the end of 2010.

Jim Curtis

Jim Curtis, of Curtis Commercial, announced plans to step down as a member of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission at the end of 2010.

Owner of Curtis Commercial, Curtis is also on the board of the Ann Arbor Main Street Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), which launched on July 1, and said he needs more time to devote to that. He offered to serve on the projects committee, and continue to work on AAPAC issues as much as he can. That offer was accepted, and other commissioners expressed regret that he’d be leaving.

Margaret Parker reported that Lee Doyle, who attended AAPAC’s June meeting, has agreed to serve on the commission and is sending her application to the mayor, who nominates people for the city’s boards and commissions. Those nominations must be confirmed by city council. Doyle is 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. She is also a founder of the university’s Arts on Earth program, and oversees the UM Film Office.

AAPAC is still seeking additional members. With Curtis departing, the commission would be down to six members, out of a total of nine.

Redefining the Job of Public Art Administrator

Parker reported that Katherine Talcott, who’s been serving as the city’s public art administrator on a part-time contract basis since early 2009, will be leaving that role. Parker reported that according to Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, Talcott’s one-year contract has been renewed, but that her role will be limited to project management. She will continue to oversee the Dreiseitl installations, the Fuller Road Station project, and whatever future projects McCormick assigns her, Parker said. But Talcott will no longer serve an administrative support role.

Instead, the city will be consolidating Talcott’s administrative duties and those of Jean Borger, AAPAC’s administrative coordinator. They’ll be hiring someone for that job, Parker said.

Responding to a question from Elaine Sims, Parker said that project management fees come out of the budget for each particular project.

Cathy Gendron asked whether Borger would be considered for the new job, and hoped that she would. [Borger takes minutes for AAPAC meetings, among other duties, and participated in Tuesday's meeting via speaker phone. Talcott did not attend the meeting.] Parker said she was highly recommending Borger, but it wasn’t yet clear how that job would be defined.

Sims said she assumed that AAPAC would have some input into that decision, that it would be a conversation with McCormick rather than a directive.

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Jim Curtis, Cathy Gendron, Jeff Meyers, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Ray Detter

Absent: Marsha Chamberlin

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, Aug. 10 at 4:30 p.m., 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St. [confirm date]


  1. July 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm | permalink

    Wow. I hate to be negative, because I appreciate public art, but this committee is a complete disaster, and the entire concept of managing public art in Ann Arbor needs to be rethought. Let’s get rid of the Percent for Art ordinance and this committee and put complete responsibility for public art decisions in the hands of a single person.

  2. By Mark Koroi
    July 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm | permalink

    Fred, Marcia Higgins once stated at a caucus meeting in February of 2009 that there appeared to be overfunding of art via the One Per Cent For Art program.

    Even members of the Art Commission has been surprised at the vast level of funding they have received.

    The One Per Cent For Art ordinance can and should be repealed.

    Secondly, the Dreiseitl project has been a disaster. Although many councilpersons have expressed excitement over it, most members of the public feel that it is as big of a waste of money as the police/court project itself.

  3. July 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm | permalink

    So – Parker has lost control of the Commission over the Dreiseitl Disaster. Sounds like the chickens are coming home to roost.

  4. By Rod Johnson
    July 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm | permalink

    It does seem as if some very sensible voices are being heard there all of a sudden.

  5. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 16, 2010 at 6:58 am | permalink

    “And Katherine Talcott, who has served as the part-time public art administrator, has signed a new one-year contract with the city – in the role of an art project manager. She’ll be handling the Dreiseitl project, Fuller Road Station and other projects that are assigned to her by Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator. The job of public art administrator is being restructured, and has not yet been filled.”

    Great…this is a big surprise. While the city is cutting left and right, this full time ‘art’ position has been a fix since day one. Ms. Parker has been lobbying since the half time position was approved for this and it’s finally happened. Congrats to Ms. McCormick and everyone in the city management for making this touch call while we cut back fire and police employees.

  6. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 16, 2010 at 7:01 am | permalink

    “On a recent tour, it became clear to her that the only people who’d be entering the lobby of the police/courts building would be employees and people who had a court date – it wasn’t a place that the general public would go.”

    And we’re figuring this out NOW?

  7. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 16, 2010 at 7:06 am | permalink

    “The Dreiseitl work, for example, is funded through the water utilities fund, which will provide funding for maintenance in the future, McCormick said…”

    Remember this the next time you are paying your quarterly water bill.

  8. By Brad Mikus
    July 16, 2010 at 9:26 am | permalink

    Without any changes, the three projects will be $200,000 (or 25%) over budget.

    New budget for sculpture: $738
    New budget for Lobby: $141
    New budget for Atrium: $74
    Total new budget: $956
    Original budget: $750
    M(L) than budget: $206

    How, in good faith, do you ask for $200,000 more than originally planned…and wait, the last two weren’t even designed by the artist!! Council needs to look at who has the City credit card at the art department.

    Last, why isn’t Percent Per Art required to up a dedicated fund for each project to cover the entire life-cycle cost of the project they select (design, construction, operation, maintenance/repair, removal)? I’d hate to see orphaned art projects begging for more soup.

  9. July 16, 2010 at 9:32 am | permalink

    Quasi-legal question: how far can this group go to commit city funds to projects? Since the money is taken from construction projects such as water and sewer system elements, there is presumably a limit and some annual variation in how much funding will be generated. Can the committee commit funds they don’t have? (Follow-up to Brad’s question.)

  10. By Jack F
    July 16, 2010 at 9:40 am | permalink

    It’s time Ms. Parker resigns as Chair of this group, like she’s promised. It’s time to put the past behind us and do better on ‘projects’ like this in the future. We thank her for her service but it’s time for a change in the AAPAC leadership.

  11. By Mary Morgan
    July 16, 2010 at 10:54 am | permalink

    Sue McCormick clarified for commissioners at their July 14 organizational retreat that AAPAC is a recommending body – its recommendations are passed on to city administrators and, depending on the size of the expenditure, to city council for final authorization. For example, council voted to approve both the initial design costs of $77,000 and a subsequent $111,400 contract with Quinn Evans Architects for further design and fabrication of the water sculpture. [The firm serves as lead architect for the municipal center (police/courts), and is project manager for the Dreiseitl project, with Dreiseitl as a subcontractor to QEA.] Council will presumably be voting on additional funding for the water sculpture, which has an estimated total cost of $737,820.

    More generally, each capital project has a cap of $250,000 that can be allocated for public art under the Percent for Art program. In the case of the municipal center, AAPAC recommended allocating additional funds for art at that site, pulling from other funding sources. In addition to major projects like the municipal center and Fuller Road Station, Percent for Art funds come from smaller capital projects – those funds are pooled according to the service area in which they originated. The available balance for the Percent for Art program, as of June 30, 2010, was $1.3 million. Here’s a breakdown of the sources of funding:

    Street millage: $276,208
    Parks millage: $12,115
    Solid waste: $30,708
    Water: $281,233
    Sewer: $537,362
    Stormwater: $41,622
    Airport: $6,416
    Police/courts: $115,783

    You’re correct – funding will vary year-to-year, depending on how many capital projects are done.

  12. July 16, 2010 at 10:59 am | permalink

    I want to focus attention on one part of my earlier post, and of this controversy. That is the simple proposition that committees don’t do good art.

    I care deeply about public art; it can be, and maybe even usually is, deeply inspiring and widely treasured, an integral and vital part of the civic landscape.

    But IMHO it needs to be inspired by a single, coherent vision, coming from the leadership of the sponsoring organization. It’s not a responsibility that can or should be delegated to a committee. Let’s talk about what we can do to rework the ordinance and empower the people who should be empowered: developers. ;-)

  13. July 16, 2010 at 11:40 am | permalink

    Thanks for the complete accounting, Mary. I’m astounded that no one besides me seems to find it problematic to withdraw the funding from all these programs for this purpose.

  14. By Jack F
    July 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm | permalink

    Thanks Mary for the clear financial breakdown. It’s good to be reminded that nearly all of the members of City Council and the Mayor have gone along with this fiasco whenever a vote of Council has bene required. Some, like Council Member Teall, have been cheerleading this issue from the very beginning.

  15. By Jack F
    July 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm | permalink

    I’m surprised Ray Detter was silent at this meeting, since he too was on the team that was supportive of the ‘artwork’ in the very beginning. Has he changed his mind or is he still a ‘supporter’ of this fiasco?

  16. By Brad Mikus
    July 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm | permalink

    Like others, I appreciate the accounting of the fund balance. A quick question, though, is whether the $841k budgeted for all three court projects is included the $1.3m fund balance on 6/30/10. In other words, is there “only” $460k left to spend on other projects?

    To Alan’s #6 comment on the board’s discovery that their lobby project isn’t really public: Maybe the criminals will enjoy the synergy of the Huron River illuminated with $50,000 of dazzling lights.

  17. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    “Maybe the criminals will enjoy the synergy of the Huron River illuminated with $50,000 of dazzling lights.”

    Or maybe people visiting the court space who have lost their jobs and are losing their homes to foreclosure will enjoy how their tax dollars have been spent too, but I’m not sure if foreclosures are going to be handled in the new building.

  18. By Mark Koroi
    July 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm | permalink

    Typically home and other realty foreclosures are done extrajudicially (without need for court action) through the “foreclosure by advertisement”process whereby the notices and auction are conducted through the County Sheriff’s Dept.

    After the redemption period elapse the bank typically files an eviction action in the district court to have a judicial finding that the foreclosure by advertisement process was proper. The homeowner at that time can interpose any defenses they may have to the bank’s foreclosure actions.
    If the district court judge finds the foreclosure by advertisement was legally performed, he or she will give a judgment of possesion to the bank and the homeowner will be notified that he has ten days to vacate the property or an order directing a bailiff will issue to forcibly remove the occupants and their belongings from the property.

    If anyone is on the property after ten days the bailiff may remove the occupants by force. If personal items remain in the home of the the evictees, those items, which often include toys, furnishings, and family heirlooms, are placed in a location for pickup by the sanitation department.

    Yes, Alan, the Ann Arbor District Court is located in that very same building and the irony is that the evictees will be viewing the city-funded Dreiseitl project to and from the courtroom of the judge ordering them to be evicted from their homes.

    The county has funded a project to assist distressed homeowners facing foreclosure and if the monies earmarked for the Dreiseitl project could have funded a legal aid clinic to aid distressed homeowners and to defend them in legal proceedings, I believe that many banks facing protracted legal proceedings with homeowners would enter into loan modification agreements or short sale contracts rather than proceed to foreclosure and eviction of these troubled individuals and families.

    One wishes City Council would do more for these distressed families rather than squander taxpayer monies on silly water art.

  19. By Mary Morgan
    July 16, 2010 at 5:51 pm | permalink

    Acknowledging that this is now veering totally off topic, here are links to Washtenaw County’s mortgage foreclosure prevention program, and its tax foreclosure prevention program. Both are operated out of the county treasurer’s office.

  20. By ROB
    July 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm | permalink

    The members of AAPAC should be the first to be tried in the new Hieftje Hall – charged with fraud and misappropriation of public funds, for creating the skimming scam known as the “Percent for Art”.
    Tony Soprano would be envious of the stones on this group! Public sentiment was overwhelmingly against the creation of this entire bureaucratic mess, so I hope all will remember which politicians up for re-election in a month’s time deserve to “sleep with the fishes”, so to speak.

  21. By Rod Johnson
    July 17, 2010 at 9:55 am | permalink

    Give me a break. It’s fine to be opposed about the program or the way it’s run. but these are good people trying to do something for the community. Suggesting that they are corrupt or criminal is poisonous to citizen involvement. Save comments like #20 for the tea party.

    And, as always, I’d like to see some data to support your claim that “public sentiment was overwhelmingly against” it?

  22. July 17, 2010 at 11:45 am | permalink

    Agree with Rod that #20 is unacceptable.

  23. By ROB
    July 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm | permalink

    Gee, Rod~ now that I think about it, you’re right! The first ones to be tried ought to be the losers on council who appointed this “commission” and ultimately approved this funding scam in the first place. With any luck at all, we will be rid of them over the course of the next couple of election cycles. While the blogs here at the Chronicle and may not constitute a scientific poll, the comments ran about 10-1 against the whole Dreiseitl/Percent for Art thing. And furthermore, there are far too many “good people” with their snouts in the public trough. I’ve never cared much for tea parties, either, BTW. So Ann Arbor of you to try and tar me with that brush.

  24. By Fran Wright
    July 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm | permalink

    I agree with the commentators who say this Dreiseitl project is a mess. He was chosen and then the city was told how lucky we are to have a water fountain with colored lights outside the court building. And none of the articles state clearly if Dreiseitl has been PAID IN FULL or just paid the seventy seven thousand for the design. Has he been paid in full? If not, perhaps it is time for the city to walk, telling him thanks but no thanks.
    I personally have never seen a picture of this project larger than a postage stamp sized rendition on the web. Put up a big sign on the edge of the newly paved sidewalk at Fifth and Huron displaying the fountain in its projected location with dimensions and to scale and let people vote YES or NO on it I am totally against the expense but, like I say, I have never seen it. I might after all like it.
    And leave the inside empty of Art except perhaps for a statue of Justice. This is not a art museum, it’s a court building.

  25. By Rod Johnson
    July 20, 2010 at 12:39 am | permalink

    Tell me how the AAPAC members have their snouts in the public trough, please. Looks to me like they’re giving their time for little compensation.

    And I’m not saying you’re a tea partier. I’m saying your rhetoric stoops that low.

  26. By Barbara Carr
    July 20, 2010 at 11:52 am | permalink

    This is a mess.
    No exterior art can possibly negate the ugliness of this building. (I am surprised to see the firm of Quinn-Evans associated with it.) However, we are committed to something; let’s simplify and get get rid of this German artist who has no investment in our community. As to the interior, again, make it simple, classic and inexpensive. Sometimes it is best to accept one’s losses and this artist is, for us, a loser.
    Thanks to Sims, Zuellig, and others who are trying to make it work. I favor public art, but the ordinance needs revision. The current system of budgeting and maintenance is ridiculous.

  27. By Jack F
    July 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm | permalink

    Cut and pasted from this afternoon:

    In the online version of Time Magazine today:

    “By MARK HALPERIN Mark Halperin – Tue Jul 20, 4:40 am ET
    Under pressure, the Democrats are cracking. On both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, there is a realization that Nancy Pelosi’s hold on the speakership is in true jeopardy; that losing control of the Senate is not out of the question; and that time, once the Democrats’ best friend, is now their mortal enemy. Since January, when Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, the President’s party has tried to downplay in public what its pollsters have been saying in private: that Obama’s alienation of independents and white voters, along with the enthusiasm gap between the right and the left, means that Republicans are on a trajectory to pick up massive numbers of House and Senate seats, perhaps even to regain control of Congress.”

    Meanwhile, back in Ann Arbor :

    The AAPAC and through the approval at the City Council level continues the madness of this ugly, expensive and exclusionary work of art. So much for the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.

  28. By Jack F
    July 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm | permalink


    You don’t have to be a Tea Party member to think this art project is a total fiasco. And when the Democratic Party throws its support to such ugly and thoughtless projects, in the middle of this Financial Depression for most folks other than the group supporting this project in the local arts community, you only make the job of the Tea Baggers a slam dunk when they babble about how out-of-touch some Democratic Party elected officials are.

  29. July 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm | permalink

    Jack F., there is a group called the Ann Arbor Democratic Party (it is a club) but they do not represent most people self-identifying as Democrats in Ann Arbor, nor do they have much influence on politicians, candidates, or policy. The “official” Democratic Party is the Washtenaw Democratic Party – part of the state party apparatus – but it has little influence or activity on local Ann Arbor issues.

    As far as the Percent for Art program, it has gained a number of influential friends but to my knowledge has not been officially endorsed by any level or description of Democratic party organization.

  30. By ROB
    July 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm | permalink

    @Rod… AAPAC’s activities are funded by TAXPAYER dollars. They were instrumental in creating the “Percent for Art” funding mechanism, along with the usual suspects on Council. The Percent for Art mechanism can be thought of as a giant TROUGH, which skims 1% off the top of every capital improvement project undertaken by the city (money already designated for specific, legitimate projects), and puts it into AAPAC’s SNOUT, to SPEND on so-called “art”. AAPAC members are political appointees, not elected officials – taxpayers have no control over their activities beyond jawboning on blogs like this, or speaking before Council about their activities. They may or may not be compensated for their service, but their is no doubt they are directing the flow from the trough to the snout.

  31. By Rod Johnson
    July 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm | permalink

    Taxpayer dollars, huh? No kidding! I thought it came from leprechauns! Your insight into the inner workings of government continues to impress me. :)

    Our disagreement is about civility, not spending. You started out claiming “The members of AAPAC should be the first to be tried in the new Hieftje Hall – charged with fraud and misappropriation of public funds…” That’s BS, of course–the members of AAPAC haven’t defrauded anyone, and haven’t appropriated anything, mis- or otherwise. Now you’re making some weak claim about them “directing the flow”–you know, spending the money that was appropriated on what it was appropriated for–but it wasn’t AAPAC that made the decision to appropriate this money.

    You have every right to be pissed off about the Percent for Art program–I feel the same way, at least about the crappy Dreiseitl piece and way it was ramrodded through without oversight. But unless you can document “fraud and misappropriation” your first comment was just demogoguery. Unfounded allegations that people are committing felonies just don’t belong here.

    Jack–alas, I more or less agree with you.

  32. By ROB
    July 20, 2010 at 11:19 pm | permalink

    “Civility”?!? Since when has politics in America ever been civil?? 250+ years of history to back that up with, so enough said. As far as I’m concerned, the Percent for Art skim is a form of fraud, as it is taking public money from bona fide projects like water and sewer improvements, and channeling them to something completely unrelated – “art” by committee. And it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if some sort of legal challenge to all this was eventually mounted. I understand this is already the case in some other places that have gone down this road, with some success. Seattle comes to mind.
    As for “demagoguery”, it too has a long, proud history in our great republic! Now, if it turned into “The Gangs of New York”, I might get a little concerned – but that’s not too likely here in the little city, so what the hell.

  33. By Rod Johnson
    July 20, 2010 at 11:58 pm | permalink

    Well, not much I can say to that, that’s civil anyway.

  34. By ROB
    July 21, 2010 at 2:18 am | permalink

    … I reckon’ so.

  35. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 23, 2010 at 9:08 am | permalink

    Congrats to the AAPAC. The Giant German Urinal Water Fountain fiasco had made the Drudge Report today:


  36. By Mark Koroi
    July 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm | permalink

    Tom Gantert’s article in yesterday’s edition of covered the artwork and was largely derisive about layoffs of essential service personnel while the city was splurging on this massive art “masterpiece”.

    Another reason why Fourth Ward residents should vote in August to remove its biggest cheerleader – Margie Teall – from office.

  37. By sharonsj
    July 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm | permalink

    The screaming over this work of art is now making the rounds nationally. Glad to see that people are waking up to how government spends our money.

    My first thought was: “Can’t they find an American artist?” I have no objection to art and we certainly should have local people doing the work. On the other hand, when you are going broke and firing teachers, police and firemen, spending nearly a million dollars for a giant urinal isn’t too smart.

  38. By Brian
    July 27, 2010 at 12:21 am | permalink

    If you want public art, then donate your own money.
    Do not steal my money to do it.

  39. July 27, 2010 at 11:10 am | permalink

    @37 Brian and everyone else who thinks that unwanted taxes are “stealing”: whether you like it or not, you are part of a community that has democratically, legally, and constitutionally voted to impose these taxes on itself. If you don’t like it, challenge the laws, or vote your representatives out. Abide by the rule of law.

  40. By Jack F.
    July 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm | permalink

    The Per Cent for Art Tax on construction projects probably will be challenged in court Mr. Z.

  41. July 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm | permalink

    @39 — that is absolutely fine with me.

  42. By a2eastsider
    July 28, 2010 at 10:01 am | permalink

    Interesting to hear people advocating suing over a program which is legal. Seems like that will end up costing all of us more of our tax dollars in court fees, lawyer fees, etc, in order to “save” money. How about simply advocating in front of city council for changing the percentage collected, or for ceasing the program altogether. Bring good arguments and actual numbers, not huffy accusations and fabricated figures and don’t stand there shouting about how they are a bunch of thieves. You probably already have at least a couple of council members who agree with you.

  43. July 28, 2010 at 10:30 am | permalink

    Re #41: I don’t know who would sue. We are all injured parties but usually people sue because they have a big investment in the outcome. That was true of Bolt, the plaintiff in the case resulting in the the Bolt decision [link], who felt that he was being unfairly taxed with stormwater fees for something he wasn’t consuming. The Supreme Court ruled that any user fee must be directly related to the service being charged for, and further that it should be regulatory (related to management of a resource)and measurable. It should also be voluntary – where users may avoid higher fees by using less of the measured service.. Our water fee system is set up to answer these criteria – lower rates for users of less water, and supposedly we can use less as a voluntary measure to hold down our costs.

    But the Percent for Art program meets none of these criteria. It is using money collected from fees collected for water and sewer services to pay for public art. The public has no voluntary way to reduce the fees paid for this purpose, the program itself was never approved by referendum, it has no regulatory effect, and the amounts involved are considerable. It is difficult to posit that money diverted to the Percent for Art fund does not mean higher fees for users, assuming that all other activities funded under this program are rational and legitimate (which we must).

    I suspect that there are similar legal objections to money diverted from road millages, but the Bolt decision would not apply as directly to them.

    Figures on how much money has been diverted from the sewer and water programs have been published over and over again, including here on the Chronicle relatively recently. It is tiresome to repeatedly have the “fabricated figures” accusation thrown at critics of the program.

    BTW, I was interested to note that this was one of the few issues brought up by Steve Bean in his statement regarding his mayoral campaign. [link]

  44. By Jack F.
    July 28, 2010 at 11:12 am | permalink

    “Interesting to hear people advocating suing over a program which is legal.”

    I’m assuming you AREN’T a city attorney. Lol.

  45. By a2eastsider
    July 28, 2010 at 4:31 pm | permalink

    @42. I truly didn’t mean to imply that numbers published by the Chronicle were fabricated. On the contrary, that is one reason I look here for good information. Numbers, etc, in articles look to be painstakingly researched and I am always glad to see corrections appear if something is found to have been incorrect. It means that people follow up and have a desire to convey facts, not repeat junk.

    My point was that if you want something changed, and are attempting to go about it by addressing council, you should keep a calm head and have real, verifiable, information rather than ranting and tossing around stuff that you heard from somebody who heard it from somebody’s neighbor.

    I am not a supporter of the Percent for Art program. It looks like it was very poorly thought out and should be either fixed or scrapped. I just didn’t think that “in court” was the most prudent way to do that given that we will end up paying to defend it in the process of trying to get it tossed.

  46. July 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm | permalink

    @44, you have a point. We get too much ranting these days and too little reasoned discussion. Fortunately, most of the first doesn’t occur here.

  47. By John Floyd
    July 30, 2010 at 12:15 am | permalink

    @46 Ms. Armentrout,

    You write much sense on this topic – as on many. I regret that you elected to stay out of this election.

    I share your concern for the legality – and the morality – of diverting funds, legally restricted to other purposes, to “art”.

    I support voluntary contributions for public art – much like the donated benches in the city parks for a couple of other reasons: 1) if we are going to pretend that we have a city budget problem, public art may not be the first spending priority to fund; 2) no matter what are you put up, you will offend/bore many people. Art paid for with voluntary contributions will do the same, but without forcing others to pay for it. Seriously, city government’s proper role in sponsoring The Arts is to provide performance/viewing space. Controlling artistic content should not be a function of city council.

    John Floyd
    Republican for Council
    5th Ward

  48. July 30, 2010 at 9:50 am | permalink

    Why, thanks, Mr. Floyd. I’m not exactly staying out of the election – I’ve already voted absentee and I’m Alice Ralph’s treasurer.

    Folks reading this thread might find the Arts Alliance survey of candidates interesting: [.pdf file]

  49. By Jack F.
    July 30, 2010 at 10:02 am | permalink

    Amusing Ms. Teall is proud of her endless supoort of the Giant Urinal Artwork project in her response to the AA survey but doesn’t say a word about it on her campaign webpage.

  50. July 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm | permalink

    Calling the proposed sculpture a urinal has been so popular that some people have actually been given the impression that it is one. But that has been done: [link]

  51. By Karen Moorhead
    July 31, 2010 at 9:57 am | permalink

    This project is just amazing to me; I can’t believe that in these times the artist just keeps getting paid more and more money and the budget keeps growing. Clearly he doesn’t work under the same constraints most of us know so well, particularly in Michigan.

    I do support public art and think the things Grand Rapids have done with art competition is interesting and exciting. They estimate they had 200,000 people visit and the prize is awarded from public vote. [link] I have not visited it first hand, but it is a reminder that we will support art when it brings vitality to our community. Artprize is bringing the community together and visitors from outside as well.

    The Herbert Dreiseitl project seems to be tearing down our belief that art is vital to our community and is out of control with budget increases. I wonder how many of our citizens would be happy about this project and compare that to artprize in Grand Rapids?

    I realize you may not like the comparison of one piece of art work versus an event. But how it is received by the public is a valid comment for a piece of art. It is public art after all.

  52. By Mary Morgan
    July 31, 2010 at 10:11 am | permalink

    Re. ArtPrize: Last year we traveled to Grand Rapids and reported on the event, which also drew more than two dozen Ann Arbor area artists who exhibited there. [link] It seemed to energize the entire city, and was an amazing thing to witness.

  53. By Karen Moorhead
    July 31, 2010 at 11:59 am | permalink

    Mary, thanks for your link. I was searching for it when I posted the comment. I will go read your take on the event now.

  54. July 31, 2010 at 6:35 pm | permalink

    I enjoyed rereading the piece from last September and was reminded that the ArtPrize was underwritten by a private donor, not paid for by public funds.