Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (May 25, 2011): Wednesday’s AAPAC meeting began with introductions – commissioners were meeting the city’s new public art administrator, Aaron Seagraves, for the first time.
Seagraves, who started his job earlier this month, had already attended a neighborhood forum for a proposed mural project at Allmendinger Park – five residents showed up, he reported.
That low attendance reflected one theme touching several topics throughout this month’s AAPAC meeting – the need to get the word out about various public art projects. Three nominations had been received so far for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, with a deadline of May 30. And only two people had responded to a request seeking artists for public art in the lobby of the city’s new municipal center, at the corner of Fifth and Huron. A deadline for submission has been extended through mid-July, in hopes that additional artists will respond.
Commissioners also got updates on the Herbert Dreiseitl sculpture – expected to be installed in front of the renovated city hall in August – and on plans for public art in the proposed Fuller Road Station. Though Fuller Road Station hasn’t been formally approved, a task force is working on placing public art at the structure. The station will be a large parking facility, bus depot and possible train station that would be jointly built by the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.
Finally, commissioners wrapped up the meeting with their only action item: Electing Malverne Winborne as vice chair.
New Public Art Administrator
The part-time position of public art administrator has been vacant for almost a year, after Katherine Talcott, who was hired in early 2009, took the job of art project manager for the city.
Aaron Seagraves signed a one-year contract last week for the job, which will average about 20 hours per week.
Seagraves grew up in the Manchester/Clinton/Irish Hills area, and graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2000 with a bachelors degree in drawing and painting. He attended graduate school at the University of Oregon, and in 2009 received a masters degree in arts administration. While working on his graduate degree, Seagraves was the visual arts coordinator for the student union. He joined AmeriCorps in October, working on a children’s health insurance enrollment initiative at the community health center in Jackson, where he lives.
Commissioners welcomed him enthusiastically – at previous meetings, they’ve frequently talked about the need for someone to fill that position.
Annual Public Art Plans: 2011, 2012
At their April meeting, AAPAC had approved its 2012 annual art plan. On Wednesday, Marsha Chamberlin, the commission’s chair, checked to make sure it had been sent to the city council. She was checking because AAPAC was told last month that the city council had never officially approved the 2011 annual art plan. The plan is a document that outlines the year’s anticipated projects funded by the city’s Percent for Art program – by ordinance, it must be submitted annually to city council.
Last year, AAPAC had turned the plan over to city staff, but it never appeared on the council’s agenda. The fact that the city council never acted on the 2011 plan resulted in a lengthy discussion at AAPAC’s April meeting about what that meant for ongoing projects. [See Chronicle coverage: "What's Next for Public Mural Program?"]
On Wednesday, Venita Harrison, a city management assistant who’s been a liaison between AAPAC and the city’s administration, reported that both the 2011 and 2012 annual plans were submitted for initial consideration at the council’s June 6 meeting, with a vote expected on July 6.
Chamberlin asked what the expectations are of AAPAC – should representatives attend the council meeting? Margaret Parker, the commission’s previous chair, said it would be good to attend, in case there are any questions. It’s perhaps even more important to attend, because at least one councilmember has raised questions about the new mural pilot program, she said. Chamberlin suggested that Seagraves also attend the city council meeting, to introduce himself in person to councilmembers.
Public Relations: Golden Paintbrush, Townie Party
Cathy Gendron gave a report from the public relations committee. AAPAC’s redesigned website, long in the works, has been launched, she said. It prominently features an image of a QR code – a marking similar to a bar code, which can be read by smart phones – that directs people to AAPAC’s website. That same image is used in fliers that will be going up around town – “although the rain has been a bit of a problem,” Gendron said. She credited Janice Milhem and Annie Wolock, who serve on the PR committee, for designing the fliers. She also thanked Nancy Stone of the city’s communications staff for assisting with the website redesign.
The website highlights nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which recognize local contributions to public art. [.pdf file of nomination form] So far, there are only three nominations, Gendron said, with one more likely to come. The deadline to apply is May 30, but since that’s the Memorial Day holiday, they’ll accept nominations on May 31, Gendron said. She urged commissioners to get the word out about the nominations.
Elaine Sims asked whether artwork that’s been commissioned through the Percent for Art program can be nominated – what if someone from the public nominates a piece? Commissioners weren’t sure, but said it was something they should discuss.
Margaret Parker questioned how the voting would work. Gendron explained that commissioners would vote through an online poll, as they did last year. Parker wondered whether that was appropriate – shouldn’t the vote on the awards happen at a public meeting? After some discussion about whether picking the Golden Paintbrush winners via an online vote might violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, commissioners asked Venita Harrison, a liaison with the city administration, to check and report back to them about it.
Gendron reported that the PR committee is planning for a table in the “Creative Commons” section of the July 18 Townie Party, an event for local residents held by the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. The party takes place before the official start of the Ann Arbor art fairs. This year, the art fairs run from July 20-23. Commissioners discussed the need to do something more engaging at AAPAC’s table this year, and floated the idea of creating large cutouts of art in which people could insert their faces and be photographed.
The committee is also working on the dedication of a sculpture at West Park, which will be held in conjunction with the park’s re-opening on June 19 from noon-4 p.m. West Park recently received extensive renovations, and the Percent for Art program funded public art there – two metal tree sculptures by Traven Pelletier, located in the new tiered seating near the band shell. Gendron said it would be good if commissioners could attend – Marsha Chamberlin will likely make some brief remarks.
Margaret Parker asked who’s working on a dedication for the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture, to be installed in front of the renovated city hall and new justice center at Fifth and Huron. Gendron noted that there’s not yet a firm date for the sculpture’s installation – the date keeps getting pushed back, and is now expected to occur in August. Chamberlin said she thought a dedication might happen this fall.
Projects: Dreiseitl, Justice Center, Fuller Road, Murals
Commissioners reviewed a new project tracking chart that Malverne Winborne developed, and discussed the logistics of how it would be updated each month. They also got updates on several public art projects.
Projects: Fuller Road Station
Connie Brown, who chairs the projects committee, gave an update on the public art task force for Fuller Road Station, a joint project between the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan to build a large parking structure, bus depot and possibly a train station on Fuller Road, near the UM medical campus. [For a recent status report on the overall project, see Chronicle coverage: "PAC Gets Update on Fuller Road Station"]
Brown said the task force has been working on a budget, looking at what would remain for the artist after subtracting administrative fees, contingencies and other items. As a capital project, the budget for Fuller Road Station includes $250,000 set aside for the city’s Percent for Art program, to pay for public art on the site. Brown said additional funding for public art will be provided by UM.
Responding to a query from Elaine Simms, Brown listed members of the task force: Brown and Cathy Gendron (AAPAC members), Doug Koepsell (UM project design manager), Larry Cressman (UM representative and former AAPAC member), Connie Pulcipher (city of Ann Arbor staff), Dave Dykman (city of Ann Arbor staff, Fuller Road Station project manager), and Angela Pierro (public representative).
Brown said that before they issued a statement of qualifications (SOQ) for the project, she wanted to know if there were any lessons they could learn from the recent SOQ issued for artwork at the municipal center. It hadn’t received much interest – only two artists responded.
Projects: Justice Center
Margaret Parker, who heads the task force for the municipal center public art, pointed out that the new building next to city hall was now being called the “justice center.” She wanted to know why the city issued an SOQ, rather than an RFQ (request for qualifications). Venita Harrison said that it’s standard for the city – the West Park public art project had been issued as an SOQ too, she noted.
Several commissioners said they hadn’t encountered the term before, and wondered whether the artist community was familiar with it. Harrison said the city followed the same procedure as they did for the West Park public art project, regarding terminology and distribution. [The SOQ form can be downloaded from AAPAC's website.]
After additional discussion, the group decided to extend the deadline from May 31 to mid-July.
Parker was also concerned that no selection committee has been set up for the project – she thought the city would be taking over. “I don’t know who expects whom to do what,” she said. The general consensus from other commissioners was that it’s the role of the task force, which Parker chairs, to handle the selection process.
There was some discussion about whether to stagger the issuance of the SOQ for Fuller Road Station, now that the deadline was pushed back for the justice center. In determining a timeline, Harrison advised factoring in a month for the city attorney’s office to review the SOQ.
Parker asked Seagraves to write an email that could be sent out with the justice center SOQ for broader distribution, one “that’s appealing and in language that’s not acronyms.” He agreed to do that.
Parker expressed uncertainty about whether the task force should serve as the selection committee, or whether a separate selection committee should be recruited. Other commissioners advised her to reconvene the task force and allow that group to decide whether they want to take on that job. Parker agreed to update AAPAC at the June meeting.
A written update from Ken Clein on the Herbert Dreiseitl project was included in the May meeting packet, but received little discussion among commissioners at the meeting. Clein is a principal with Ann Arbor-based Quinn Evans Architects, the building’s project manager. [.pdf of full report]
Casting of the bronze sculpture is expected to occur during the first week of June. The walls that will support the sculpture will be done in early June, with installation of the work anticipated for August.
This was the first major project commissioned by the city through the Percent for Art program, which sets aside 1% of all capital projects – up to a cap of $250,000 – to be used for public art. Last year, the city council approved a budget of $737,820 for the piece. The city had previously paid Dreiseitl $77,000 in preliminary design fees.
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.
Parker asked for an update on the mural project being led by Jeff Meyers, who did not attend the meeting – a neighborhood forum for one of the two proposed mural sites, on Huron Parkway, was being held that same evening.
Seagraves reported that he had attended the neighborhood forum for the other proposed site, at Allmendinger Park. Five residents had attended, and he said they were very positive about the project. He reported that the turnout was likely low because postcards mailed to residents announcing the May 18 forum weren’t sent out in time – there’d been a problem with the printer.
Election: Vice Chair
The meeting’s one action item was to elect Malverne Winborne as AAPAC’s vice chair. The position has been vacant since December 2009.
Marsha Chamberlin had been elected chair at AAPAC’s April meeting after serving as acting chair for several months. Former chair Margaret Parker, who still serves on the commission, stepped down as chair in December 2010. She had attempted to relinquish the job for more than a year, but no one wanted to fill that role, or the role of the vice chair.
At this month’s meeting, Chamberlin introduced the topic by saying she’d heard that Winborne had agreed to take the job of vice chair. “Where’d you hear that?” he teased. After Chamberlin noted that she’d been elected at a meeting she didn’t attend, Winborne laughed and said, “I’ll do it!” He received a round of applause.
Winborne, an Ann Arbor resident, is director of Eastern Michigan University’s Charter Schools Office. He was appointed to AAPAC in October 2010.
Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to elect Malverne Winborne as vice chair.
Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Margaret Parker, Elaine Sims, Malverne Winborne. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public arts administrator, and Venita Harrison, a city management assistant.
Absent: Jeff Meyers, Wiltrud Simbuerger, Cheryl Zuellig.
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, June 22 at 4:30 p.m., in the basement conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [confirm date]
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