Leadership Change for Art Commission

Parker steps down as chair, with no replacement yet

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Dec. 14, 2010): On Tuesday, Margaret Parker presided over her final meeting as AAPAC’s chair, a position she’s held since 2004. She had previously announced her intent to step down, with the hope that commissioners would elect a replacement. Parker has been attempting to relinquish the job for more than a year, and the vice chair position has been vacant since December 2009.

Margaret Parker

Margaret Parker, the long-time chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, stepped down from her leadership role at Tuesday's meeting. The commission haven't yet elected a new chair. (Photos by the writer.)

After some discussion, commissioners decided to postpone the election of officers – no one is eager to take on that responsibility. Instead, they plan to rotate the chairmanship on a monthly basis, until they can come up with a way to resolve the situation.

Tuesday’s meeting also included some debate over how to handle debate and discussion during AAPAC meetings, with Parker’s call for more formality meeting resistance from other commissioners. Parker observed that the city councilmembers don’t debate at their public meetings – they make statements. She felt that AAPAC should use that as a model, to make its meetings more orderly and efficient. A compromise was eventually reached, eliminating some of the stricter rules that Parker proposed.

Commissioners also got updates on several projects, including Fuller Road Station. Though city council hasn’t given final approval to Fuller Road Station – a joint city/University of Michigan parking structure and transit center – work is moving ahead, including the formation of a task force for public art.

For the municipal center – also known as the police/courts building, at Huron and Fifth – AAPAC approved the installation of nine-panel, 27-foot-wide mosaic murals by artist Gerome Kamrowski in the building’s atrium area. The murals were previously located on the outside of city hall, at its main entrance. There was no update available on the municipal center’s largest public art project – the outdoor water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl.

Looking ahead, Parker announced that starting next year, AAPAC’s monthly meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of the month, not the second. The request is to accommodate the schedule of AAPAC’s newest commissioner, Malverne Winborne, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Leadership Change: A Work in Progress

At the beginning of the meeting, AAPAC chair Margaret Parker announced that this would be her last time to serve in that position. By way of background, Parker has been pushing for someone else to take on the chairmanship for over a year. No other commissioner has volunteered to do the job.

Parker told commissioners that they’d hold elections at the end of the meeting. Several commissioners expressed surprise – Connie Brown asked whether this meant that they’d elect someone, even if that person didn’t want the job. Parker assured her that Elaine Sims – who hadn’t yet arrived – had put together a slate.

At the end of the meeting, when the topic came up again, Sims said she didn’t realize that Parker expected her to make nominations. Sims suggested that Cheryl Zuellig – who chairs AAPAC’s planning committee – would be a good candidate, but Zuellig demurred, saying she hadn’t been aware that they’d be voting that night.

Marsha Chamberlin noted that the commission was in a quandary. They hadn’t been informed in a timely way about the vote, she said, and Sims clearly didn’t have a slate to nominate as chair and vice chair. [Jan Onder previously served as vice chair, but when her term ended at the end of 2009 she left the commission and no one was elected vice chair in her place.]

Chamberlin said they needed more time to discuss it. “I’ve been discussing it all year,” Parker replied.

Zuellig reminded commissioners that she had circulated an email earlier this year to gauge interest in serving as an officer. Some people didn’t respond, and those who did respond had indicated that they weren’t in a position to take on that responsibility, she said. Since then, there hasn’t been any formal discussion about how to resolve the problem, she added.

Zuellig had asked Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, whether the mayor had the authority to simply appoint a chair, but McCormick wasn’t sure and needed to check. As an interim measure, Zuellig suggested that the commissioners rotate the duties of chair on a monthly basis, so that someone would be designated to run the meetings.

Parker urged her colleagues to elect both a chair and vice chair. Though the duties of the chair aren’t as burdensome as they used to be, she said, the work shouldn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. Zuellig reminded commissioners that they had reviewed a proposal earlier this year that would have designated three officers: a vice chair, chair and past chair. This three-tier organizational structure had been presented at the July meeting, but the commission never acted on it.

Sims moved to rotate the position of chair monthly, in alphabetical order by commissioner’s last name. Chamberlin noted that while it was possible to do that, she asked: “How are we going to resolve this? Just think about it for another month and come back? I don’t know what the solution is.”

Though they did not discuss it, AAPAC’s bylaws lay out the process for electing officers:

Article VI Officers

Section 1. The officers of AAPAC shall be a Chair and Vice-Chair. The officers shall be elected by secret ballot each year from among the voting members of AAPAC. The officers shall be elected for a one-year term by a majority of the voting members currently serving on AAPAC. No member shall serve more than three (3) consecutive one-year terms in one office. The term of the officers shall run from the date of AAPAC’s regular meeting in January to the date of AAPAC’s regular meeting in January of the following year.

Section 2. The Chair shall preside at all meetings and shall decide points of order and procedure subject to the provisions of these bylaws and with the guidance of Robert’s Rules of Order, as revised. The Chair shall have the privilege of discussing and voting on all matters before AAPAC. The Vice-Chair shall assume the duties of the Chair in the Chair’s absence.

Section 3. When an office becomes vacant before the expiration of the current term, the vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as full-term offices and the new officer shall serve the remainder of the term. Should an officer resign or be removed from AAPAC, or otherwise become unable to fulfill his/her official duties before the expiration of his/her term, a replacement officer shall be elected at the next regularly scheduled meeting and shall serve for the remainder of the term. The replacement officer shall be elected in the same manner as for full-term officers. The Vice-Chair may be elected as replacement Chair, in which case a replacement Vice-Chair shall be elected at the same time.

Section 4. No individual may hold more than one (1) office at a time.

There was some discussion about the role of the chair in light of the public art administrator that will be hired – the search process for that part-time job is underway. Parker again emphasized that the duties of the chair were manageable, and could be flexible.

Zuellig noted that it didn’t appear there would be a resolution to the question that evening, and said she supported rotating the chair each month until they can find a solution.

Chamberlin then volunteered to chair the January meeting. Commissioners agreed to review the previously proposed three-tier organizational structure and discuss it in January.

AAPAC Discussion Rules

The meeting started with Parker reminding commissioners that at an organizational meeting this summer, they had discussed ways of running the meetings more efficiently by taking a more formal approach, using Robert’s Rules of Order. Specifically, she proposed adopting Rule 8 of the Ann Arbor city council rules regarding conduct of discussion and debate:

  1. No member shall speak until recognized for that purpose by the Chair.
  2. The member shall confine comments to the question at hand and avoid personality.
  3. A member shall not speak more than two times on a given question, five minutes the first time three minutes the second time, except with the concurring vote of 3/4 of the members present.
  4. A motion to call the previous question (call for cloture) immediately ends all discussion and shall be out of order until all members have had an opportunity to speak twice to the question on the floor, and shall require a concurring vote of 3/4 of the members present.
  5. A motion to lay on the table shall be out of order until all members have had an opportunity to speak once to the question on the floor.

Marsha Chamberlin said she felt these rules were more formal than they needed to be. Cathy Gendron agreed that the rules seemed too formal and restrictive. Several commissioners cited concerns with the limit of two speaking turns, and of imposing time limits.

Parker noted that AAPAC meetings often turned into debates, and can become raucous. She said she noticed that at city council meetings, councilmembers simply made their statements – it wasn’t a debate. She expressed preference for this approach, saying that discussions can happen at the committee level.

Commissioners ultimately reached consensus to adopt the first three rules, modifying the third rule to eliminate a time limit for speaking turns, and giving some flexbility to the number of speaking turns.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously adopted a modified version of the city council’s rules of conduct for discussion and debate.

Project Updates: Fuller Road Station, Municipal Center

Commissioners received updates on two major projects during the Dec. 14 meeting: Fuller Road Station, and the nearly completed municipal center, also known as the police/courts building.

Project Updates: Fuller Road Station

Fuller Road Station is a proposed parking structure, transit center and possible train station located on Fuller Road, near the University of Michigan medical complex. It’s a joint project between UM and the city, to be located on city-owned property. The project includes $250,000 earmarked for public art through the Percent for Art program.

For several months, the projects committee has reported that their attempts to contact city staff for Fuller Road Station have been unsuccessful – phone calls and emails hadn’t been returned. On Tuesday, Connie Brown said that she and Cathy Gendron had finally met with the Fuller Road Station project manager, Dave Dykman, as well as with his UM counterpart, Doug Koepsell. Katherine Talcott, who’s coordinating the public art piece for this project, participated via conference call.

Fuller Road Station schematic

AAPAC commissioner Marsha Chamberlin looks over a design for the public art installation at Fuller Road Station.

Designs are in the construction phase, Brown reported – she passed out copies of schematics for the sections of the building that would incorporate public art. The architects have already identified locations for the artwork, she said, and have also determined what kind of art they’d like. Originally, they had indicated the art would be large fritted glass panels with images imprinted on them of bikes, buses and trains. Now, the plan is to have the images inserted between two panels of laminated glass, Brown said.

The task force to select artists for the project hasn’t yet been finalized, she said. When asked by Margaret Parker about a timeline for the whole project, Brown said they’d likely select an artist or artists in the spring, with designs ready by the summer.

Gendron noted, however, that the city council hasn’t given final approval to Fuller Road Station. [A city council work session originally set for Dec. 13 was cancelled.] She said that was one reason why they weren’t moving ahead more quickly with the public art component.

Project Updates: Municipal Center

Parker said she didn’t have any update on the progress of the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture, located outside of the municipal center on Huron Street. But she did give a report on additional artwork that a task force is recommending for that new building.

The task force, which Parker chairs, got a walk-through of the municipal center in November. She reported that task force members later voted unanimously to recommend installing the nine-panel, 27-foot-wide mosaic murals by artist Gerome Kamrowski in the atrium area of the building, on the west wall. [Task force members attending the Nov. 8 meeting were Parker, Ray Detter, Laura Rubin, Elaine Sims, Margie Teall and Spring Tremaine.]

The mural is a perfect fit for that location, Parker said, and would be more visible from that site, compared to its previous location on an exterior outside of city hall. AAPAC needed to vote that evening in order for construction workers to have time to reinforce the walls to hold the mosaic’s weight, she said.

Outcome: AAPAC voted unanimously to approve installation of the Kamrowski murals in the municipal center’s atrium. The as-yet-undetermined cost of installation and of reinforcing the wall will come out of the building fund, according to Parker.

Parker also reported that the task force had discussed potential artwork for the court lobby of the municipal center. In the lobby’s southwest corner – near the intersection of Huron and Fifth – there’s a ceiling area about 8 feet by 20 feet that’s wired for electricity and that can bear a lot of weight, she said. The task force felt that some kind of artwork suspended from the ceiling there would be appropriate.

The task force recommended that the city put out a request for qualifications (RFQ) for Michigan artists. They further recommended that up to six finalists be selected from respondents – those finalists would then be asked to submit a proposal. A stipend of $500 to $1,000 each would be provided to cover the cost of the proposal.

Parker said the task force had several questions about how to proceed:

  • Would the task force also serve as the jury for this piece, or should a separate jury be formed?
  • What fund will pay for the administrative and project management fees, and for installation and lighting costs?
  • What should the budget be?

In total, AAPAC had budgeted $250,000 for public art at the municipal center, above the amount budgeted separately for the outdoor sculpture by Dreiseitl, which cost nearly $750,000. The funding is allocated from the city’s Percent for Art program.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission reached consensus that the task force should follow up on answering these questions and make a recommendation to AAPAC on how to proceed.

Public Relations: West Park

AAPAC’s first project funded through the Percent for Art program – an outdoor installation of stylized metal trees at West Park – has been completed. [See Nov. 12 Chronicle coverage: "Mural Project OK'd, West Park Art Installed"]

During her report on the public relations committee, Cathy Gendron said that the city had issued a press release about the project, but she described the PR effort as “not the smoothest I could imagine.” The story got out before the formal press release, she said, in part because the press release needed multiple reviews by city staff, and needed to be sent to city council before being issued. Also, the artist, Traven Pelletier, issued his own press release about the project before the city’s release was sent out. He had received permission from the city to do this, she said.

Elaine Sims suggested including an item in future contracts with artists about how publicity would be handled.

Jim Curtis said it was nice that the community is interested in the work. His sense is that the overall perception of the sculpture is favorable.

Annual Report FY2010

During her report from the chair, Margaret Parker noted that AAPAC’s 2010 annual report has been posted on the commission’s website. It will be presented to the city council at their Dec. 20 meeting.

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Jim Curtis, Cathy Gendron, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Cheryl Zuellig. Others: Venita Harrison, city management assistant.

Absent: Jeff Meyers, Malverne Winborne.

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


  1. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 17, 2010 at 6:37 am | permalink

    “Parker noted that AAPAC meetings often turned into debates, and can become raucous.”

    That is called democracy Ms. Parker. Good luck in your retirement.

  2. By Chelsea
    December 18, 2010 at 10:55 am | permalink

    What good are the commissioners if they won’t take responsibility? Are they only interested in the kudos but not the work? I say, tap into some student leaders, and kick anyone off the board who isn’t willing to step up in one way or another. Move the unhelpful to an Advisory Board where they can be consulted as needed, get the kudos they want, but not get in the way. M Parker has done a fabulous job so far, too bad she doesn’t have the support that she deserves.

  3. By Junior
    December 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm | permalink

    “For several months, the projects committee has reported that their attempts to contact city staff at the Fuller Road Station have been unsuccessful – phone calls and e-mails hadn’t been returned.”

    This is appalling.

    I hope someone is looking into this and that corrective action is taken against city employees who are not doing their job.

  4. By Steve Bean
    December 20, 2010 at 9:58 am | permalink

    @#3, If they were trying to contact city staff “at” FRS, it’s no wonder no one answered.

  5. By Bug
    December 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm | permalink

    So many wrongs here:

    1. The Commission Nobody Wants (to Chair).
    How do you get on this “Commission” anyway? If the Chair must come from the committee, and no one wants the job, then the whole body need to be purged and replaced until they can do the job effectively, of even just electing a chair. Pathetic. What hope is there that they can select good public art?

    2. Good Riddance Margaret.
    In six years you have managed to install only one work of art, West Park. and only just barely this year. Oh, you did have your own work installed at Vets pool, does that count? Then you blew the budget of a decade ($750,000) for a single work, which nobody is a advocate for, except the club members of Mallet’s Creek.

    3. Fuller Road Transit Center (to Nowhere)
    Merely a parking structure for the U Hospital, it serves no City-wide purpose at all. There is no transit center in reality as nothing but Hospital traffic will go there, now or in the future. The City ought to kill this idea. I suspect that’s why there no emails returned – the project is DOA.

    On the bright side, at least you took my advice about re-installing the Kamrovski Mural. I’m available to chair this committee BTW.

  6. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2010 at 6:39 am | permalink

    Bug, in order to be appointed it helps to have zero background in art and and share office space with Leigh Greden at Eastern Michigan University.