What’s Next for Public Mural Program?

Also, nominations sought for Golden Paintbrush awards

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (April 27, 2011): Commissioners were taken aback at their April meeting when told by city staff that a mural program – one that’s been in the works for months – might need to be delayed.

Tree sculpture and band shell in West Park

One of two metal tree sculptures near the band shell in West Park, funded by Ann Arbor's Percent for Art program. The tree sculpture stands about 10 feet tall, and is located on tiered seating that's built into the hill across from the band shell. (Photos by the writer.)

At issue was the fact that the 2011 annual public art plan, which includes the mural pilot program, was never officially approved by Ann Arbor city council. Though the plan was approved last year by AAPAC and forwarded to city staff, it was never placed on council’s agenda.

Some commissioners questioned whether approval of the plan is needed, noting that the West Park public art project – which was also in the 2011 plan – moved ahead and was actually completed last fall. Ultimately, it appears the mural program can move forward with plans to hold public meetings regarding proposed sites in Allmendinger Park and along Huron Parkway, but no contracts can be signed with artists until the council approves the newest annual plan – for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1. AAPAC approved that plan at the April 27 meeting.

In other business, the West Park art project was brought up again as a separate item of discussion – commissioners learned that the project had incurred $5,438 more in expenses than had been budgeted, because of unanticipated administrative costs.

The commission also got updates on: (1) the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture, which is expected to be installed in front of the municipal center in August; and (2) public art being planned for the proposed Fuller Road Station.

Commissioners also discussed promoting the annual Golden Paintbrush awards – nominations are being sought to recognize local contributions to public art. Nomination forms can be downloaded from AAPAC’s website, and are due May 30.

In its final action of the meeting, AAPAC elected Marsha Chamberlin as chair, though she did not attend the meeting. She has served as acting chair for several months, and had agreed to step into the permanent role.

Mural Program: What’s the Plan?

During an update on the mural pilot program, which AAPAC approved at its Nov. 9, 2010 meeting, Jeff Meyers noted that the commission had held a special meeting and approved the budget and two sites recommended by the mural task force. [See previous Chronicle coverage: "Art Commission Votes Again on Mural Sites," "Public Art Group Picks Two Mural Sites" and "Public Art Mural Program in the Works"]

Meyers reported that he had made a presentation about the project at the April 26 meeting of the city’s park advisory commission, because the proposed sites – on a building in Allmendinger Park and on a retaining wall along Huron Parkway, near Huron Hills golf course – were either in or adjacent to city parks. Public meetings on May 18 and May 25 are planned to get community input, he said, and then the task force will move to the request for qualifications (RFQ) stage to start the artist selection process. [No additional details about the times or locations of those meetings are yet available. Update: A meeting for the mural proposed at Allmendinger Park’s shelter structure will be held on Wednesday, May 18 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Allmendinger Park shelter. A meeting for the northern retaining wall on the east side of Huron Parkway will be held Wednesday, May 25 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Huron Hills Golf Course, 3465 E. Huron River Drive.]

Meyers asked about who would take responsibility for the RFQ. When told the task force would need to handle it, Meyers said it seemed untenable that if you championed a project, you’d need to write the RFQ. Cathy Gendron offered the West Park RFQ as a template.

Cheryl Zuellig noted that when the city hires a public art administrator, the task force would coordinate with that person on the RFQ. [The city is in the process of hiring a public art administrator. That part-time job has been vacant since mid-2010.] The administrator would put together the RFQ with input and feedback from the task force. It would ultimately be approved by AAPAC before being issued.

At this point Venita Harrison – a management assistant who works for Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator, and who currently serves as support staff to AAPAC – mentioned that there might be a problem with the mural program. The city council had never officially approved the 2011 public art plan, she said – until that happened, her understanding was that the project couldn’t move forward.

She said the process of getting city council approval likely fell through the cracks during the transition last year, after former public art administrator Katherine Talcott stepped down from that role. More recently, a councilmember had read media reports about the mural program and raised questions about who had authorized it, Harrison said. They tried to find a record of when the city council had approved the 2011 annual plan – which included the mural program – but the plan didn’t turn up in records of council proceedings.

Harrison noted that McCormick had sent an email to her and to Marsha Chamberlin, acting AAPAC chair, earlier that day to explain the situation. [.pdf of McCormick's email]

Several commissioners then questioned whether city council approval of the plan was needed in order for a program like this to move forward. Cheryl Zuellig noted that the plan serves as a guideline, but doesn’t prevent them from taking on other projects. Meyers pointed to the West Park public art project, which was also in the 2011 plan and had already been completed.

Elaine Sims observed that the mural projects also fell below the $25,000 threshold required for approval by the council.

Harrison said the only thing that might change is the timeline for the mural program, which might have to be pushed back until after the council approves AAPAC’s 2012 annual plan in June or July.

Meyers replied that he didn’t feel they needed to delay, and that he’d move ahead with the public meetings for the mural sites unless he received a directive from the city not to do that. If it turns out that AAPAC can’t move ahead on projects until the council approves AAPAC’s next annual plan, they might as well not meet again until that happens, he said. Zuellig agreed.

Malverne Winborne, one of the newer commissioners, suggested that they develop a flow chart to outline these processes, including the annual plan and a separate annual report that’s also required under the Percent for Art ordinance. “I’m totally confused now,” he said.

Meyers noted that it seems like at every turn, there’s new information that prevents projects from moving forward. Noting that they volunteer their time as commissioners, he indicated that at some point, it wouldn’t be worth the time if they can’t get anything accomplished.

The relevant section of the city ordinance establishing the Percent for Art program, approved by the city council in 2007, states:

1:837 – Oversight body.
(1) The oversight body shall be the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission as established by section 1:238 of chapter 8.
(2) The oversight body shall:
(A) Promulgate guidelines, subject to the approval of city council, to implement the provisions of this chapter, including procedures for soliciting and selecting public art and for determining suitable locations for public art;
(B) By April 1 of each year, submit to city council a plan detailing potential projects and desirable goals to be pursued in the next fiscal year;

[.pdf file of Public Art ordinance]

Zuellig said it seemed like the role of the board chair to get further direction from McCormick on this issue. Meyers again wondered how the mural projects differed from the West Park project, which had been allowed to move forward.

Margaret Parker

AAPAC commissioner Margaret Parker: "It's public art – it's not fast art."

Margaret Parker, who had served as AAPAC chair until December 2010, noted that the public art in West Park had been a small part of a much larger effort – a major renovation of the park. In the case of the murals, it was a totally new program, she said, and the city council hadn’t been informed of it. She said she wanted to plead for patience, and an understanding that things don’t always happen as they’d like. “It’s public art – it’s not fast art,” she said.

Zuellig observed that the mural program has been discussed at public meetings for months. The Fuller Road Station project is in the same situation, she said. She offered to communicate with Chamberlin – the acting AAPAC chair who did not attend the meeting – and ask her to seek clarification from McCormick.

Gendron noted that if the mural task force has to wait until June or July to put out an RFQ, that will essentially postpone the whole project an entire year.

Meyers agreed, adding: “This is the hardest $20,000 we’ve ever spent.” [AAPAC has budgeted $10,000 for each mural site.]

The following day, Chamberlin sent an email to commissioners and The Chronicle, saying that she had spoken to McCormick and they had agreed on the following:

If the mural project was included in the 2011 plan, that plan was never presented to council and therefore not approved. That process should have occurred last June/July, BUT it is water over the dam.

We have a plan that you all approved last night, and it will go to council very soon. Council could approve or postpone the approval of the plan. Sue feels the latest it will be approved is June 6, but let’s let the process take its course.

In the meantime, all activity in support of the mural project can move forward – we just cannot get contracts until after the plan is approved.

2012 Annual Art Plan

In introducing the topic of the annual plan after discussion of the mural program, Cheryl Zuellig described it as the “now-more-important-than-ever 2012 public art plan.” [.pdf of draft FY2012 annual plan at start of AAPAC's April 27 meeting]

The plan was developed at an AAPAC retreat in March, facilitated by Connie Pulcipher of the city’s systems planning staff. What emerged from that discussion was a list of 11 projects, which were supported by those who attended the retreat, Zuellig said. Jeff Meyers clarified that they couldn’t have voted on the plan at that March retreat because it wasn’t a regular meeting of the commission.

The group then did a fair amount of wordsmithing on the items. They kept all but one from the original draft. In general terms, the projects in the plan are:

  1. Exterior art at the justice center/city hall
  2. Interior art at the justice center/city hall
  3. Re-installation of the Kamrowski mural in the justice center/city hall
  4. Public art project at the Fuller Road Station
  5. Mural pilot program
  6. River Art Trail, including the Gallup Canoe Livery and Argo Headrace
  7. Mural on the Manchester Road elevated water tank
  8. Public art at Stadium Bridges
  9. Sun Dragon repairs/replacement at Fuller Pool
  10. Public art at bus stops, in collaboration with AATA
Wiltrud Simbuerger

Wiltrud Simbuerger, AAPAC's newest commissioner.

Commissioners voted unanimously to eliminate an 11th project from the list – to explore project opportunities at County Farm Park, focusing on an educational/interpretative project. Several commissioners said they couldn’t remember discussing this project at the retreat.

Commissioners also designated a “champion” for each project – someone who’ll guide it through the planning process.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the 2012 annual public art plan. It will now be submitted to the city council for approval.

Budget Report: West Park

Unanticipated expenses for the West Park public art project led to a discussion on Wednesday about how the budgeting process works.

Two metal tree sculptures installed last fall in West Park – the first project completed under the city’s Percent for Art program – incurred $5,438 more in expenses than had been budgeted, according to a budget report discussed at AAPAC’s meeting. [.pdf file of Percent for Art budget as of April 1, 2011] AAPAC was asked to approve the transfer of funds from the parks millage Percent for Art budget line to the West Park project budget line.

The project had a budget of $10,000. A budget report provided at the Nov. 9, 2010 meeting – after the sculpture by artist Traven Pelletier had been installed – indicated that expenditures for the project were $14,890 at that time.

Connie Brown, chair of AAPAC’s projects committee, told commissioners on Wednesday that the extra charges had been a surprise. They were related to hours logged by Katherine Talcott, the city’s former public art administrator who now works as a project manager for the city. Brown said AAPAC had been under the impression that project management for the public art would be handled by Amy Kuras, a city parks planner who was project manager for the recent renovations at West Park.

Several commissioners expressed concern that they hadn’t been informed by city staff to expect these expenses. Cheryl Zuellig said there needs to be an understanding of what will be charged to the project when the budget is set. Otherwise, there’s no accountability and “that’s not a great situation.”

Jeff Meyers agreed, saying there need to be clear budget parameters for each project. For the mural program that he’s leading, Meyers said he was told by Sue McCormick to build in 50% of the budget for project management expenses. But it’s still not clear who’ll be doing the work, he said. For example, when they hire a new public art administrator, does that person’s salary cover project management – or is that an additional expense? [The Percent for Art budget includes a separate line item for administrative expenses.]

View of tree sculpture in West Park

View of a metal tree sculpture in West Park.

Meyers said they need to clearly define the art administrator’s duties, to ensure that Percent for Art projects aren’t charged for tasks that should be done by the administrator – otherwise, he said, it seems like double-dipping.

Malverne Winborne suggested asking city staff to report to AAPAC if anything pushes expenses over the amount budgeted for a project. He asked how administrative costs have been handled in other projects, like the work by Herbert Dreiseitl. Zuellig told him it’s been handled differently for each project – that’s why there’s confusion.

Margaret Parker made a motion to transfer the funds from the parks millage Percent for Art budget to the West Park budget. Meyers asked whether the funds had to come from the parks budget. Strategically, he said, perhaps they should consider whether it’s possible to take the funds from a larger pot.

[The Percent for Art program captures 1% from the budget of all city capital projects, to be set aside for public art. As stipulated by the ordinance that governs the Percent for Art program, art projects must relate to the capital projects from which funding is drawn – for example, public art funded by parks must have a parks theme, or be located in a park.]

While the Percent for Art parks millage fund has a remaining balance of $17,479, some of the other funds have a considerably higher balance. The balance for the street millage Percent for Art fund is $409,844, for example.

Connie Brown noted that some of those balances don’t reflect funding that has already been earmarked for other projects. Meyers replied that it’s difficult to plan without knowing what those earmarks are.

Elaine Sims wondered what would happen if they simply didn’t approve the transfer. She said she wasn’t advocating for that, but was curious. Brown noted that the money had already been spent, so the funds needed to be transferred.

Outcome: AAPAC voted unanimously to transfer $5,438 from the parks millage Percent for Art budget to the West Park budget.

Project Updates – Dreiseitl, Fuller Road Station

Commissioners got updates on two major projects during the April 27 meeting: the water sculpture at the city’s new municipal center, and public art at the proposed Fuller Road Station.

Project Updates: Dreiseitl

AAPAC received a written report about the water sculpture they commissioned in 2009 by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, to be installed in front of the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron.

Herbert Dreiseitl

Herbert Dreiseitl, right, with one of the polystyrene forms that will be used to make sand molds for the sculpture's bronze castings. The sculpture will be installed in front of Ann Arbor's municipal center later this year. To the left is Rick Russel of Future Fence, the company that's fabricating the sculpture. This photo was included in a written report on the project by Ken Clein of Quinn Evans Architects.

The report was submitted by Ken Clein of Quinn Evans Architects, the building’s project manager. [.pdf of full report]

In his report, Clein described how polystyrene forms to make sand molds for the sculpture’s bronze castings have been completed. They were made at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design Fabrication Lab, where Dreiseitl is working as a Loeb Fellow. Other work being done includes final engineering for the sculpture support structure, and preparing a construction bulletin for modifications to plaza lighting and electrical systems.

Clein’s report stated that the sculpture was on track to be in stalled in August. Last year the city council approved a budget of $737,820 for the piece.

Dreiseitl’s sculpture will be on the exterior of the municipal center – the term used to describe the city hall building and the adjacent justice center, which recently opened and houses the Ann Arbor police department and 15th District Court.

At AAPAC’s April 27 meeting, Margaret Parker reported that the city attorney’s office is reviewing language in a request for qualifications (RFQ) that the municipal center public art task force plans to issue for artwork in the lobby of the justice center.

Project Updates: Fuller Road Station

AAPAC commissioners Connie Brown and Cathy Gendron serve on a task force for public art at the proposed Fuller Road Station, a joint city of Ann Arbor/University of Michigan parking structure and bus depot that officials hope will eventually become a train station as well. Although the project has not yet received final approved by the city council, staff from the city and university are moving ahead with the design, including plans for public art. As a capital project, Fuller Road Station includes $250,000 set aside for public art.

Brown provided a written report from the last meeting of the task force. [.pdf of Fuller Road Station public art task force report] The report includes a proposed timeline, which Brown noted will likely be pushed back – they’re waiting for the city attorney’s office to vet the language of a request for qualifications (RFQ) that will be issued for the public art component.

The timeline in the report is as follows:

  • May 16, 2011: Call for artists/RFQ issued.
  • June 6, 2011: Artists’ RFQ responses due.
  • June 30, 2011: RFQ response reviews completed/Notification out to small pool of 3-5 artists. Artists to be paid stipend for proposals.
  • July 13, 2011: Informational meeting for small selected pool of 3-5 artists. Artists asked to submit proposals. Artist proposals to include: (1) visual description; (2) demonstration of knowledge of materials and technical competency; (3) cost estimate.
  • Aug. 17, 2011: Proposals due/Interviews and artists’ concept presentations.
  • Sept. 14, 2011: Artist selected by task force.
  • Sept. 28, 2011: Selected artist and proposal presented to AAPAC for vote.
  • Oct. 17 or Nov. 7, 2011: AAPAC-approved candidate forwarded to city council for approval.
  • December 2011: Negotiate contract.

Gendron showed commissioners a series of slides indicating the potential location for public art at the parking structure. It’s proposed for the north side of the structure, facing Fuller Road, and could include artwork in a landscaped area in front of the building, on glass panels lining the lower level, or in a space above the entrance.

Public art at Fuller Road Station

A slide shown at the April 27 meeting of the Ann Arbor public art commission indicates the potential location of public art at the proposed Fuller Road Station. (Links to larger image.)

In light of AAPAC’s earlier discussion regarding administrative costs, Jeff Meyers asked about the budget for this project. Brown said they were backing out administrative costs to arrive at an amount available for the artist – because of that, the actual amount for art would be lower than $250,000, she said. The task force had discussed whether to find additional funding for the artist, she said, possibly from other funding sources in the Percent for Art program.

Cheryl Zuellig clarified that there would potentially be three sites for public art. Brown said those sites would be available, but that the artist could potentially select just one or two of them.

Zuellig said AAPAC learned a lesson from the municipal center project, and that even if an artist proposes three pieces, the artist might not realistically be able to deliver that within the available budget. [Herbert Dreiseitl had originally proposed three thematically-related pieces for art at the municipal center – one exterior, and two interior – but went significantly over budget. Ultimately, AAPAC rejected his two interior pieces, which he had modified to cut costs.] Zuellig felt that they should limit the location to one site.

Meyers said he worried about limiting the artist too early in the process. Brown said there were still a lot of uncertainties regarding the project.

PR Committee: Golden Paintbrush, AAPAC Website

During her report from the public relations committee, Cathy Gendron touched on two major projects: the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, and an overhaul of AAPAC’s website.

Golden Paintbrush Awards

Gendron told commissioners that a press release would be going out the next day to seek nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which recognize local contributions to public art. Nomination forms are available on AAPAC’s website, and the deadline for submission has been pushed back to May 30. [.pdf file of Golden Paintbrush nomination form] Gendron reported that they have three nominations so far.

Gendron reported that in preparing a flier to publicize the call for nominations, Janet Milhem – a PR committee member – proposed including a QR code to direct people to AAPAC’s website for more information. Before being distributed, the flier needs to be approved by city staff, Gendron said.

Margaret Parker expressed concern, noting that the nominations being put out were later than usual. She asked for an explanation of a QR code – a marking similar to a bar code, which can be read by smart phones – and said she thought AAPAC should see the fliers for approval too. Since AAPAC is responsible for everything that goes out under its name, she said, they should see it so that no one is surprised. Several commissioners disagreed, with some saying they didn’t want to micromanage the committee’s work. In arguing for the work to be delegated to the committee, Connie Brown noted that this wasn’t a policy decision, nor was money being spent out of Percent for Art funds.

AAPAC Website Redesign

Gendron also gave commissioners a preview of a redesign of AAPAC’s home page, which is part of the city of Ann Arbor’s website. The new page isn’t live yet, but is “very close to launch,” she said. It’s been a work in progress for more than a year.

Cathy Gendron

AAPAC commissioner Cathy Gendron, who's been leading an effort to redesign the group's website. She previewed the redesign at AAPAC's April 27 meeting.

Gendron noted that they were somewhat constrained because they are limited to using the city’s template, and must keep all the information on one page. Within that page, visitors to the site will be able to use navigation bars to go directly to information lower on the page, she said.

The page will include information about the city’s Percent for Art program, AAPAC, current and completed projects, and a link to photos on Flickr. You’ll also be able to download .pdf files of the Percent for Art ordinance, nomination forms, artist submission forms, AAPAC’s annual plan, and other reports, she said. There will also be a link to AAPAC’s Facebook page.

Wiltrud Simbuerger asked whether they’d be able to update the content. They can change parts of it on a limited basis, Gendron said, by giving direction to city staff.

Gendron received a round of applause from commissioners for her work.

Projects Committee: Managing Projects

Malverne Winborne, who serves on the projects committee chaired by Connie Brown, presented the latest versions of forms they’ve developed for project tracking, artist selection and artist requests-for-qualifications (RFQ) protocol. He had previously introduced drafts of these forms at AAPAC’s March 1, 2011 meeting.

After reviewing the forms, commissioners expressed general enthusiasm for bringing consistency to the process of tracking AAPAC’s various projects, providing status updates and improving communication. He received a round of applause.

Board Chair Elected

In their last action of the evening, commissioners elected Marsha Chamberlin as chair. She has been acting chair for several months, but did not attend the April 27 meeting. Cheryl Zuellig, who chaired the meeting and nominated Chamberlin, said they had talked and Chamberlin agreed to take on the role. Chamberlin is president of the Ann Arbor Art Center.

The group also discussed who might serve as vice chair, but no one was willing to commit to the job at this point.

Former chair Margaret Parker, who still serves on the commission, stepped down from the job in December 2010. Parker had attempted to relinquish the job for more than a year, but no one wanted to fill that role. The vice chair position has been vacant since December 2009.

Outcome: Marsha Chamberlin was unanimously elected chair of AAPAC.

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Cathy Gendron, Jeff Meyers, Margaret Parker, Wiltrud Simbuerger, Elaine Sims, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Zuellig.

Absent: Marsha Chamberlin.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, May 25 at 4:30 p.m., in the basement conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [confirm date]


  1. By cosmonıcan
    May 2, 2011 at 7:46 am | permalink

    Maybe I’m just being cranky, but $25,000 seems like an awful lot of the city’s petty cash for anyone to be palming off with, without oversight, especially for a group that can’t control overruns on a project of over 150%.

    They seem overly concerned too, with how much “art” they can get for X-amount of dollars. That seems to be a misplaced priority; if you really care about the art itself, the art should come first, then figure out where it should go and what it will cost, then, it’s a matter of if you can afford it and is everyone else on board.

    If you want a mural that costs exactly $10,000, then just paste dollar bills to the wall and be done with it.

  2. By Alan Goldsmith
    May 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm | permalink

    “Connie Brown, chair of AAPAC’s projects committee, told commissioners on Wednesday that the extra charges had been a surprise. They were related to hours logged by Katherine Talcott, the city’s former public art administrator who now works as a project manager for the city.”

    Surprise, the interactions between AAPAC, City Manager in waiting Sue McCormick and everyone involved in this series of fiascos just keeps getting more and more surreal with cost overruns, confusion, missed communications and mistakes. Not surprised money is being skimmed to cover Katherine Talcott’s paycheck but it’s probably time to abolish this group, burn it to the ground and give up on the idea anyone in the city or this art community has the skills and vision required to manage the Per Cent For Art scam. Enough.

  3. By Alan Goldsmith
    May 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm | permalink

    And, surprisingly enough, the Herbert Dreiseitl ‘molds’ look like some cheap crap you’d pick up at Home Depot. This mess bringing in busloads of tourists is rolling on the floor laughable.

  4. By Tom Whitaker
    May 2, 2011 at 11:06 pm | permalink

    “…if you really care about the art itself, the art should come first, then figure out where it should go and what it will cost…”

    Problem is, the City Council is walking a very thin line here by taking money raised from millage funds and user fees and applying it to a use (art) not either expressly provided for in the millage language, or directly related to the service the fees were collected for (like water and sewer). Seattle lost a lawsuit over this and were forced to remove a number of art pieces from locations that were not very specifically tied to the essential purpose the funds were raised for.

    How thin of a line are they walking? The City Attorney has chosen to keep his opinion on the matter a secret instead of filing it with the City Clerk as required by the Charter. Council Members won’t say because of “attorney-client privilege.” I can only assume they are not very confident in their position. As usual, it will probably take a lawsuit to get to the bottom of it.

  5. By cosmonıcan
    May 2, 2011 at 11:50 pm | permalink

    re #4: Point well taken that the decorations, if I may call them that instead of art, must fit a specific narrative. That can be addressed in the planning stages, the designer should not necessarily be tied to a specific media though, in modern art it not always easy to tell when the painting stops and the sculpture begins.

    My main point in comment #1 is the lack of financial oversight and discipline. The other point that I have a problem with is the age-old dilemma even among artists, as to what is fine art versus commercial or applied art, and does this committee even have a clue or a stance on the difference?

  6. May 3, 2011 at 5:57 am | permalink

    I support a vibrant arts sensitivity leading to public involvement in art, like FestiFools, Fool Moon, and Water Hill Musicfest…oh whoops, no tax dollars involved in those.

    Mayor Hieftje initiated this program and the Council has been too intimidated to question it, instead mouthing platitudes about Ann Arbor’s soul, etc. But I don’t think that they are really serving the purpose that they espouse. Surely now with all the financial challenges we face, it is time to rethink this program. How do we truly encourage a public understanding of art – and support local artists? Can institutionalized art really serve this purpose?

  7. By Alan Goldsmith
    May 3, 2011 at 8:29 am | permalink

    “I support a vibrant arts sensitivity leading to public involvement in art, like FestiFools, Fool Moon, and Water Hill Musicfest…oh whoops, no tax dollars involved in those.”

    Bingo! But don’t forget the AAPAC wanted to give funds to Festifools from the Per Cent For Art Fund, but couldn’t. That’s the major problem with this entire mess. If you questions money being wasted, you’re called a Tea Party, anti-art low life. Give me back my tax dollars and I’ll give directly to local artists like I have for years. Art by committee never works–it only profits artists who are connected to the committee.

  8. By Rod Johnson
    May 5, 2011 at 11:22 am | permalink

    On the assumption that we don’t do what Alan suggests and continue to do public art, what should arts support be like? Let’s say there was a significant pool of public resources to support art (or “the arts” or “a vibrant arts sensitivity,” I like that) in Ann Arbor, but it wasn’t for… whatever it is AAPAC is doing now. What’s an alternative vision?

    I think most people agree that grass-roots things like Festifools and Water Hill Music Fest are good things. I think throwing money at them, if it means having some kind of official oversight, would largely stifle them, but they deserve to be supported somehow. We have a bunch of similar institutions, like the Art Center and the Neutral Zone and the old Performance Network space and the Yellow Barn and the Blue House, that are kind of quasi-public and that act as incubators. I’d like to see more of that. Promoting an environment to make art in–spaces, organizations, communities, education–rather than buying big-ticket art showpieces, feels like a way forward to me.

    The top-down approach of buying installation art…well, it’s nice that artists can get paid–though paying some guy in Germany doesn’t feel like the right use of local funds–but people are going to make art whether they get paid or not. I’d like to facilitate that aspect of “public art.”

  9. By Alan Goldsmith
    May 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm | permalink


    I agree with you about local incubators. It would have been nice if the locals arts community had stood up to the million dollar German art project and pushed for more ‘localism’ at the time, but they didn’t. They were more than happy to march lock-step along with AAPAC, expecting who knows what, I can’t read minds, but assuming anyone spoke out in the local arts community against the water fountain fiasco, do you honestly expect they would be doled out City Per Cent Art Funds in the future? That was a turning point for me–the parade of support from the same groups that wanted City funding makes me not at all inclined to have my tax dollars go to them now. I’d rather continue to spend my own money and not have it passed out the the clique of usual suspects who are looking for their share of the public pie. It’s like Mavis Staples and The Ark fundraiser and $500 ring side seats white wine and table clothes. I’d much rather, with all due respect to The Ark, go to see a fifty different local musician at ten bucks a ticket than Ms. Staples once. Same this with a German water fountain. But I don’t trust the process The Mayor and Council has put into place to do any better in the future.

  10. May 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm | permalink

    I was mulling over similar questions when I was running for Council in 2008. I never did send in the questionnaire that asked whether I supported spending public money for art. (It was obvious that there was only one correct answer.) Anyway, I asked someone who had been involved in the arts community for a long time what the single greatest obstacle for local artists was. His answer was – high rents.

    The Art Center proposal for 415 W. Washington (which is unfunded, to my knowledge) calls for studio space to replace in concept the old cheap rundown Technology Center (where the new Y now resides). I wonder whether they would plan to make those studio spaces available at low rents or whether they would have to pay for themselves.

    I’ve also wondered (but have no information) about how easily low-budget local artists can sell at any of the Art Fairs. Of course we have many very successful local artists who do.

  11. By Rod Johnson
    May 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm | permalink

    Alan, I agree. I’m not trying to fix AAPAC or suggesting that the current council is likely to get this right. I’m just pondering what the “right” way to arts funding is, if we decide to do it.

    And it’s true about rents. That’s why places like the East Village (or Ypsilanti) become such potent places. Artists follow cheap rent and communities follow artists (and then hipsters and yuppies follow them and the rent is no longer cheap). Maybe it’s a dream to think A2 can ever play that role again.

  12. By Tom Whitaker
    May 6, 2011 at 8:40 am | permalink

    I drove that stretch of Huron Parkway yesterday, and I gotta say, it looks fine the way it is. There is concrete, steel, block and timber, yes, but there is a “natural,” background look to these materials that causes them to blend in well with the surrounding trees and green spaces. Murals here will only cause these retaining walls to stick out like sore thumbs. I think they should stick to beautifying ugly urban landscapes–like the walls of the downtown railroad underpasses that have been beautifully done with murals in recent years.

    Also, I would hope that some of this funding could be put toward restoration of the better existing murals (and replacement of those of lower quality), or some of the cool old painted advertising signs that seem to be disappearing right and left from downtown. Many were art in their own right.

    Seems ironic that with the looming lay offs of police and firefighters, and our deteriorating streets, that we have a committee trying so hard to find ways to dole out this huge pile of money that was taken from multiple other City “buckets.”

  13. By Rod Johnson
    May 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm | permalink

    It’s true, now that you mention it, that’s one area that doesn’t need a lot of improvement. Art there could really be a… dehancement.

  14. By Mary Morgan
    May 13, 2011 at 9:34 am | permalink

    The city has released more details about public meetings for the two proposed murals. A meeting for the mural proposed on concrete pillars at Allmendinger Park’s shelter structure will be held on Wednesday, May 18 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Allmendinger Park shelter. A meeting for the northern retaining wall on the west side of Huron Parkway will be held on Wednesday, May 25 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Huron Hills Golf Course, 3465 E. Huron River Drive.

  15. May 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | permalink

    I agree that placing a mural on the retaining wall on Huron Parkway is basically a defacement. Let’s keep this out of the areas where we should simply be enjoying nature. Murals are ok in a busy urban setting but don’t belong in parks.