Mural Project OK’d, West Park Art Installed

Ann Arbor art commission also gets update on Dreiseitl

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (Nov. 9, 2010): At a meeting lasting just over three hours, AAPAC commissioners approved a pilot program that aims to add at least two murals per year throughout the city.

West Park tree sculpture

One of two metal tree sculptures at West Park, bookending the top tier of new wall seats for the park's bandshell. The work by artist Traven Pelletier is the first completed project funded by the city's Percent for Art program. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners also discussed how to publicize AAPAC’s first completed project funded by the Percent for Art program: two metal tree sculptures by artist Traven Pelletier, installed at the renovated West Park. A formal recognition of the project is expected to occur in connection with the park’s official re-opening, sometime in the spring of 2011.

There was also discussion about how to pay for repairs of the Sun Dragon, a sculpture at Fuller Pool by AAPAC chair Margaret Parker that was damaged several months ago by maintenance workers. At the suggestion of Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, AAPAC could consider the project as an “asset renewal” – meaning they could treat it as a new project, which would make it eligible for funding under the city’s Percent for Art program. [The Percent for Art program captures 1% from the budget of all city capital projects, to be set aside for public art.] One commissioner jokingly referred to the asset renewal approach as “creative financing.”

AAPAC chair Margaret Parker reported that the final $553,320 funding request for the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture outside of the new municipal center would be voted on by Ann Arbor city council at their Nov. 15 meeting. A task force is working on recommendations for additional artwork inside the new building, with a $250,000 budget. The commission discussed how that might include a venue for displaying temporary installations, like the oversized puppets created for FestiFools, an annual street festival held in April.

The commission discussed how to handle donations of art to the city, in response to a recent gift to the mayor and city council from the Ann Arbor Summer Festival of a large photograph of the event by local photographer Myra Klarman. AAPAC also got updates on the hiring process for a new public art administrator, as well as proposed changes to its website.

This was the first meeting attended by AAPAC’s newest commissioner, Malverne Winborne, who was confirmed by city council in October. Winborne is director of Eastern Michigan University’s Charter Schools Office.

Mural Pilot Program

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jeff Meyers presented a final draft of a mural program that he had first outlined at AAPAC’s Sept. 14 meeting. Elements of the program include:

  • A goal of creating two murals per year on city-owned sites, with the sites to be selected by a task force.
  • A budget of between $2,500 to $10,000 per mural.
  • An additional 50% contingency will be budgeted to cover the administrative costs for each project, including compensation for a project manager.
  • The expected lifespan for the murals, under normal wear and tear, is set at five years.
  • Artists or groups of artists who apply for a mural project must be residents of Michigan.
  • Selection criteria includes artistic merit, community impact and feasibility. Selection is subject to AAPAC approval. [.pdf of site selection criteria and .pdf of evaluation criteria]
Jeff Meyers

AAPAC commissioner Jeff Meyers describes details of a pilot mural project during the commission's Nov. 9 meeting.

Funding sources for each mural would either be linked directly to its physical location, or be linked thematically with the funding source. For example, a mural located in a park could be funded from the parks millage Percent for Art funds. If a mural is funded through the street millage, it would need to have a transportation theme.

During discussion of the proposal, commissioners suggested several relatively minor revisions, including a suggestion from Cheryl Zuellig to call it explicitly a pilot program.

Meyers asked for feedback on setting a recommended lifespan for the murals. Similar programs in other cities set the lifespan at between five to seven years, he said. The point is to indicate a period after which AAPAC would no longer be responsible for maintenance or restoration. It’s not that the mural would be removed, he stressed, but rather that the city’s obligation to it would have a limited duration. He said he didn’t want them to get locked into the idea that the murals would be permanent.

There was a fair amount of discussion about what would happen at the five- or seven-year mark. Meyers stressed that it wasn’t an action point. Zuellig likened it to a statue of limitations. If there’s not a specific period indicated, then the city could be responsible for maintaining the work indefinitely.

Commissioners reached consensus on five years. Jim Curtis wanted to insert language indicating what would happen if the mural were vandalized during that five-year period. Meyers said it would be handled like any other public art project, with maintenance provided by either the city unit where the mural is located, or from the funding source to which it’s linked.

Elaine Sims and Margaret Parker expressed concern that the timeline proposed for the initial murals was too ambitious. Meyers’ plan calls for a site selection task force to be formed by mid-December of this year – the group would include an AAPAC commissioner, a city staff representative, a community artist, and a community representative. Meyers suggested himself as chair and Mariah Cherem as the community representative, with other members to be determined.

When sites are identified, the task force would expand to include representatives from the neighborhoods where those sites are located. The goal is to have sites identified by January 2011, requests for qualifications issued in February and due in early March, artist selections made by the end of March, AAPAC approval in April, designs completed by mid-May and installation by mid-July.

Zuellig agreed that it was an ambitious timeline, but said that was the point of having target goals, which could be pushed back if necessary. Meyers replied: “I’m determined to make it happen by then.”

Commissioners also discussed the issue of graffiti on murals, which some felt would be a problem. Curtis said he would have bet that the mural of war veterans, located in an alley off of Liberty Street, would have been the target of graffiti, but that it remained untouched. Meyers observed that taggers don’t typically hit other artwork. When Parker pointed to the mural in the alley next to Michigan Theater, which is nearly completely covered by graffiti, Cathy Gendron said there were other factors at play there, describing it as a “war.”

At the end of the discussion, Parker said she wanted to add a requirement that guidelines for preparing murals be included in the program description. Meyers objected, saying that would be the responsibility of each muralist. Parker said the quality of the walls on which a mural would be painted was an element of the artwork. She made a motion to add that guideline requirement to the program, but it died for lack of a second.

Outcome: AAPAC unanimously approved a pilot mural program. Meyers will serve as chair of the task force for this effort.

Project Updates: Dreiseitl, Municipal Center, West Park, Sun Dragon

Commissioners discussed progress on several projects during Tuesday’s meeting, including the municipal center outdoor water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl, new sculptures at West Park and the Sun Dragon at Fuller Park. There was no update on efforts to form a task force for public art at Fuller Road Station – there’s been no response from city staff on queries from commissioners about that project.

Project Updates: Council to Vote on Dreiseitl Budget

Margaret Parker, AAPAC’s chair, reported that the council would be voting to allocate funds to complete the Herbert Dreiseitl sculpture at their Nov. 15 meeting. She said she plans to attend the meeting, in case any questions arise.

The council is being asked to approve $553,320 for Quinn Evans Architects, the Ann Arbor firm that’s overseeing this project. The funds, from the Percent for Art program, will be used to hire Future Fence/Future Fab Co., a Warren-based business, to handle the sculpture’s fabrication. The $553,320 will also cover the cost of installation. The city council previously approved $111,400 to Quinn Evans for this project, as well as $77,000 in design fees for Dreiseitl.

The original budget for the Dreiseitl work was $750,000 and was to include three pieces of art – a large outdoor water sculpture, and two interior wall installations. However, Dreiseitl turned in a proposal that exceeded that budget, and AAPAC commissioners had design concerns with his two interior pieces. The two interior installations were ultimately rejected. The water sculpture will be located in a plaza in front of the new police/courts building – also known as the municipal center – at the northeast corner Huron and Fifth. The sculpture is expected to be completed by the summer of 2011.

Project Updates: More Art for Municipal Center

An additional $250,000 is budgeted for up to two other pieces of artwork inside the municipal center. At Tuesday’s AAPAC meeting, Elaine Sims gave a report from the task force that will make a recommendation for those pieces, as well as for possible placement of a large multi-panel mosaic by Gerome Kamrowski, which previously was located near at the entrance to city hall and is now in storage.

Sims reported that the task force reached consensus on priorities for the municipal center: 1) placing the Kamrowski mosaic in the municipal center’s atrium, 2) placing a mobile or some other artwork in the main lobby, that could be viewed through the windows by passers-by on Huron Street, and 3) placing artwork outside, in the courtyard off of Ann Street. Sims said it would be great if the artwork in the main lobby could have a social justice theme, to reflect the building’s purpose.

Parker, who also serves on the task force, said that they’d been told by Ken Clein of Quinn Evans that if they intended to hang the Kamrowski piece, they’d need to let Clein know as soon as possible – the wall would need extra support to hang it there, given the mosaic’s weight.

Cheryl Zuellig asked whether the public would be able to access those areas. The atrium is open 24/7, Sims said, and will be the building’s main traffic area. It would also be visible from outside the building, as would the lobby installation. Jim Curtis expressed concern about vandalism on the Kamrowski piece, given that it would be located in an area open to the public. He wondered if security cameras would be installed. Sims pointed out that it had previously been located outside the entrance to city hall, and had not been vandalized there.

Project Updates: FestiFools Proposal

Jeff Meyers asked if anyone had responded to a letter that AAPAC had received from Mark Tucker, founder and creative director of FestiFools, an annual parade down Main Street featuring oversized puppets. FestiFools had previously been rejected for funding from the Percent for Art program. From The Chronicle’s coverage of AAPAC’s Jan. 12, 2010 meeting:

The commission discussed several topics that related to constraints on how Percent for Art funds can be spent.

The city attorney’s office had clarified, Margaret Parker said, that AAPAC could not use funding for temporary art projects, such as FestiFools, an annual parade of towering puppets that takes place every April on Main Street. FestiFools’ organizers had originally asked AAPAC for a five-year commitment of $25,000 each year. At AAPAC’s Oct. 13, 2009 meeting, commissioners rejected that proposal but voted to approve one-time funding of $5,000.

Parker asked that Jean Borger draft a letter to notify FestiFools of the decision. Several commissioners wanted to make sure to communicate that they supported the project in spirit, despite the funding constraints.

Most recently, Tucker proposed creating a display of the puppets at the municipal center. Here’s the text of his letter, which was also sent to mayor John Hieftje:

FestiFools is interested in finding out if you are accepting proposals for art in the interior spaces in the new City Hall. If so, we would be interested in writing and/or presenting a proposal that we think merits your attention.

In brief, this would be a relatively inexpensive proposal allowing for a selection of large-scale sculptures, or “puppets” created by community members, under local artist supervision/design, to hang in one of the spectacular atrium spaces located in the new building. The large-scale 3-dimensional pieces could be chosen by popular vote, or jury, each year from our annual FestiFools public art performance. (These creations could then replace the previous year’s winning pieces, on an annual basis).

One time funding to oversee the first set of puppets created for display, celebrating the opening of the new City Hall (and the 5th anniversary of FestiFools in 2011) and the minimal labor involved in hanging the puppets each year would be the only costs involved.

Please let me know if this is of any interest to your organization and we would be glad to make a formal proposal.


Mark Tucker, Founder/Creative Director

Sims said the task force had not discussed the proposal in detail. Meyers suggested that even though the installation was temporary, the Percent for Art program might be able to fund the creation of a permanent venue for such installations. Being able to support a community effort like FestiFools is worthwhile, he said. Commissioners discussed the possibility of creating a venue that could be used for a variety of installations, not just FestiFools. Sims said she’d take that suggestion back to the task force for further discussion.

Project Updates: Gift from the Summer Festival

Commissioners also discussed how to handle a recent gift to the city: A large print of a photo montage by local photographer Myra Klarman, taken at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. Festival organizers had gifted the work to city council and the mayor, in a formal presentation at council’s Oct. 4 meeting. The council is one of the funders for the festival – in 2010, the city contributed $25,000 to the event.

Summer Festival Presentation Myra Klarman

(From left to right): Robb Woulfe, director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival; mayor John Hieftje; and Jayne Miller and Jim Kosteva, members of the Summer Festival board, present a gift to the city at the Oct. 4, 2010 meeting of city council: a large photograph taken at the 2010 festival by local photographer Myra Klarman.

Commissioners expressed admiration for the work, and their discussion included whether the print needed to be framed, and where it might be installed. Sims also mentioned the possibility of getting additional photos from the series, which were exhibited this summer at the Power Center. [In response to a follow-up email from The Chronicle, Amy Nesbitt, the festival's general manager, clarified that the festival isn't currently pursuing a permanent collection donation to the city at this time. Pieces from the series will be exhibited elsewhere in the community – for example, an exhibit is set to run at Cafe Zola from Dec. 1 through February 2011.]

Margaret Parker wondered whether handling donations of art was something that AAPAC wanted to take on. “It’s just like having a museum,” she said. “Are we ready for that?”

Jim Curtis said it should be handled on a case-by-case basis, while Cheryl Zuellig wondered how they’d manage it if hundreds of people wanted to donate art to city hall. They needed to be careful about why they were accepting it, she said, and to know what they would do with it. She noted that the time and energy spent reviewing gifts would take away from other projects.

[AAPAC already has a process in place to evaluate proposed gifts of art. Earlier this year, the commission rejected a proposed gift of a large bronze horse sculpture by artist Garo Kazan. A peer review committee had evaluated the work, and had raised concerns about aesthetics, maintenance and liability.]

When Curtis expressed the view that the city was unlikely to be inundated with donations, Parker pointed out that when they’d taken an inventory of the city’s public art, they found pieces tucked away in closets, with no record of who had gifted it.

Sims said that the photo by Klarman was a special case, especially since it celebrated something special about Ann Arbor.

Project Updates: West Park Tree Sculptures Installed

As a member of the projects committee, Jim Curtis gave an update on the tree sculptures at West Park – AAPAC’s first completed public art installation. The artwork by Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes includes two stylized metal trees, painted orange-red, that bookend the top tier of new seat walls that face the park’s bandshell.

“Given the budget, I think it came out quite well,” Curtis said. The budget had been set at $10,000. According to a budget summary distributed at Tuesday’s meeting, total expenditures for the project were $14,890.

Jeff Meyers asked what the artist thought. It emerged that Pelletier had expressed some discontent over the amount of work he needed to do, based on the project budget. Pelletier had felt it was underpriced, Curtis said. During later stages of the project, Curtis reported, Pelletier’s enthusiasm had returned.

Meyers then asked whether Pelletier had done an exit interview – he had not. This led to a discussion about the benefits of doing exit interviews or surveying artists after their projects are completed, to get feedback about the process. Elaine Sims agreed to put the item on the agenda for the next planning committee meeting.

Margaret Parker asked whether a maintenance schedule for the artwork had been developed. That needs to be part of the city’s art inventory, she said. Though Curtis was uncertain about this, Tuesday’s meeting agenda included notes on the project, indicating that a maintenance report was in the works.

Later in the meeting, during her report from the public relations committee, Cathy Gendron noted that Pelletier had crafted his own press release, and had been working on revisions with the city’s communications staff. When Gendron reported she had posted a notice about the sculptures on AAPAC’s Facebook page, Parker urged her to get the news into the “physical press,” adding that the artist shouldn’t have to issue his own press release. The important thing, she said, is that everyone gets the credit they deserve for the project, including AAPAC.

Gendron indicated that the city apparently isn’t ready to issue a release – the official dedication of the sculptures, which will be part of the grand re-opening of West Park, will happen sometime next spring. The park has been closed for several months as part of a major renovation project there.

Project Updates: Financing for Sun Dragon Repair

Prior to the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Sue McCormick – the city’s public services administrator – had stopped by the meeting room on the seventh floor of the City Center building and told Margaret Parker that she’d figured out a way for AAPAC to handle the cost of repairing the Sun Dragon sculpture. The sculpture was designed by Parker, AAPAC’s chair, and is located at Fuller Pool. It had been damaged this spring by workers during repair of a beam that supported the piece.

Margaret Parker

AAPAC chair Margaret Parker.

In general, the service units that oversee the site where public art is located pay for maintenance and repair. This applies to both public art that was acquired prior to the Percent for Art program – like the Sun Dragon – 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.

In the case of the Sun Dragon, the parks and recreation unit would be responsible for paying for repair – an estimated $7,000 – or decommissioning it.

When the issue of repair had been discussed at AAPAC’s August meeting, Parker had recused herself from the discussion and left the room. However, at Tuesday’s meeting she relayed the information from McCormick to the other commissioners. McCormick had suggested that the Sun Dragon be considered as an “asset renewal” – that is, it could come to AAPAC as a new project. That way, AAPAC could fund it under the Percent for Art program, treating it just like any other proposal. McCormick had said it could be paid for out of the parks or water funds. According to a budget summary distributed to commissioners, there is $16,408 available for public art from the parks millage, and $115,164 from the water fund.

One commissioner jokingly referred to it as “creative financing,” and another quipped that they shouldn’t ask too many questions about it. Cheryl Zuellig clarified that as a new project, they would start by creating an intake form for it – it would then be handled by the projects committee. Jeff Meyers expressed concern about opening the door for other projects like this.

There was some discussion about what exactly the Percent for Art program could pay for – could it also cover the cost of the structural beam at Fuller Pool, even though that beam would need to be in place regardless of the public art installed on it? Parker said she would check with McCormick about that.

Misc. Updates: Website, Facebook, Arts Administrator

Cathy Gendron reported on work by the public relations committee, saying that they’d met with Nancy Stone of the city’s communications staff and are exploring ways to make AAPAC’s page on the city’s website more dynamic. They’re also looking at ways to display the city’s public art inventory, she said.

In addition, the committee is looking for ways to solicit input via their Facebook page, which includes updates on public art projects.

Gendron also reported that Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, is interested in having AAPAC develop a mapping system to identify public art, using the city’s GIS system. Cresson Slotten, a project manager with the city, will work with AAPAC on this effort. Jeff Meyers, who’s also on the PR committee, mentioned that they’d talked about developing a barcode app for public art pieces. The idea would be to affix a barcode near the artwork that could be scanned by your smartphone, and allow you listen to a digital recording about the piece, for example.

Valerie Wahna, an artist who attended AAPAC’s meeting as a member of the public, suggested that AAPAC look at the company stickybits, which offers this kind of barcode application.

Margaret Parker returned to the topic of AAPAC’s website. She said she’d been to the website for the city’s energy office, and noted that they have a very interactive page, including ways to sign up for email alerts. She suggested using that site as a template. Parker also told her colleagues that she’d recently been interviewed by a reporter for the Ann Arbor Observer, who had told her that it had been difficult to find information about AAPAC on the commission’s city website – there were no photos of the Dreiseitl project, she said, or of AAPAC’s current annual plan.

Gendron said she was well aware of the site’s shortcomings, and that they are working on it.

Cheryl Zuellig gave a report from the planning committee, including an update on the hiring process for a new public art administrator. That part-time position was previously held by Katherine Talcott, who now works for the city as a project manager, which includes work on the Dreiseitl project.

Zueillig said that Sue McCormick had revised the job description – the main difference, she said, is that the administrator can’t be a project manager. It’s still a part-time position, that reports to McCormick as a city employee. After some discussion, Zuellig said she’d forward McCormick’s revised job description to commissioners for their feedback. McCormick will then write up a job posting for the city’s website, and AAPAC can post it on other arts sites as well, like the Arts Alliance. They’ll also need to set up an interview committee.

Malvern Winborne

Malverne Winborne, AAPAC's newest commissioner.

New AAPAC Commissioner

Attending his first AAPAC meeting on Tuesday, the group’s newest commissioner, Malverne Winborne, told commissioners that he was there to listen – he was not an active participant during discussions. However, at the start of the meeting he introduced himself, saying that he worked at Eastern University and shared an office suite with Leigh Greden. [Greden, a former Ann Arbor city councilmember who was voted out of office in 2009, is now executive director of EMU's governmental and community relations. In a follow-up phone conversation with The Chronicle, Winborne said that his appointment stemmed from a suggestion by Ann Arbor city councilmember Tony Derezinski.]

Winborne said he lives in Ann Arbor and that his children had attended Bryant, Pattengill, Tappan and Pioneer schools. He’s originally from Baltimore, but moved here years ago to attend the University of Michigan, where he met his wife. His oldest brother is an artist, he said, joking that his brother had instilled art appreciation in him by beating him up – an “art thug,” he quipped. [His brother, Kylis Winborne, is a painter, sculptor and photographer who lives in Baltimore.]

In welcoming Winborne to AAPAC, Jim Curtis said he was glad to have another man on the commission. Curtis also reported that he had turned in his letter of resignation to the mayor on Monday. He had indicated his intent to resign earlier this year, to spend more time on his own projects and as a board member for the startup Ann Arbor Main Street Business Improvement Zone (BIZ). Curtis is owner of Curtis Commercial, a local real estate firm.

Commissioners present: Jim Curtis, Cathy Gendron, Jeff Meyers, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Venita Harrison, city management assistant.

Absent: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin.

Next regular meeting: Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 4:30 p.m., 7th floor conference room of the City Center Building, 220 E. Huron St. [confirm date]


  1. By Junior
    November 13, 2010 at 3:42 pm | permalink

    When is City Council going to repeal the One Per Cent for Art ordinance?

    It’s creating overfunding.

  2. By ROB
    November 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm | permalink

    “The original budget for the Dreiseitl work was $750,000 and was to include three pieces of art – a large outdoor water sculpture, and two interior wall installations. However, Dreiseitl turned in a proposal that exceeded that budget, and AAPAC commissioners had design concerns with his two interior pieces. The two interior installations were ultimately rejected. The water sculpture will be located in a plaza in front of the new police/courts building – also known as the municipal center – at the northeast corner Huron and Fifth. The sculpture is expected to be completed by the summer of 2011.

    Project Updates: More Art for Municipal Center

    An additional $250,000 is budgeted for up to two other pieces of artwork inside the municipal center.”

    So, now the price-tag for this boondoggle is up to $1,000,000. I knew it would get their if we gave these knaves on AAPAC enough time. With oversight like this, Ann Arborites deserve to have their pockets picked. Do I hear 1.5 million?!? Throw another couple pieces of junk on the pile!

  3. By Alan Goldsmith
    November 15, 2010 at 7:08 am | permalink

    “However, at the start of the meeting he introduced himself, saying that he worked at Eastern University and shared an office suite with Leigh Greden.”

    Good lord. Now we know why someone with a zero background in art got this appointment.

  4. By Jack F.
    November 15, 2010 at 8:41 am | permalink

    “One commissioner jokingly referred to it as “creative financing,” and another quipped that they shouldn’t ask too many questions about it.”

    What a hoot. An insider gets her project (that seems more suited at a Hallmark Card than real art but that wouldn’t be a first here) repaired with tax dollars and the commisison just rolls over and plays dead like always. Does this surprise anyone? And a 50% ‘administration’ fee? Yep, this is roll on the floor funny.

  5. By Jack F.
    November 15, 2010 at 8:47 am | permalink

    “Cheryl Zuellig gave a report from the planning committee, including an update on the hiring process for a new public art administrator. That part-time position was previously held by Katherine Talcott, who now works for the city as a project manager, which includes work on the Dreiseitl project.”

    Lol, now we have ONE and a HALF FTE working on ‘art’ for the city. During the worse financial crisis in 80 years.

  6. By liebezeit
    December 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm | permalink

    Wow, is public art just about the ugliest stuff ever or what? Seriously, the SunDragon looks like a craft-store disaster, and West Park would be better left alone. Let’s put the % for Art towards something that would help the artists in our city survive the high cost of living. Didn’t Vivienne Armentrout have some sort of idea along this line?