Art Commission Preps for Dreiseitl Dedication

Also: Public art for Kingsley rain garden, East Stadium bridges

Ann Arbor public art commission (Sept. 28, 2011): Commissioners spent a portion of their monthly meeting discussing details of the Oct. 4 dedication of Herbert Dreiseitl’s bronze sculpture, the city’s largest public art project to date funded from the Percent for Art program.

Herbert Dreiseitl with design team in front of city hall

On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 2, Herbert Dreiseitl (center, in maroon cap) meets in front of city hall with the design/fabrication team for his sculpture. To the right is Rick Russel of Future Group, the Warren firm that fabricated the bronze sculpture. To the left of Dreiseitl is Patrick Judd of the Ann Arbor-based Conservation Design Forum, which helped with the design. In the background, electrician Jim Fackert hooks up wiring to operate the blue lights embedded in the bronze. (Photos by the writer.)

The installation was still underway – blue glass lights embedded in the elongated metal panel hadn’t been wired, and water wasn’t yet flowing over the sculpture. But those elements are expected to be in place by Tuesday evening, when the German artist will be among those gathering on the plaza in front of city hall for the dedication ceremony. [Dreiseitl and members of the design/fabrication team have been testing the lighting and water flow, but it will be formally "turned on" at the dedication ceremony.]

The Percent for Art program was also a topic of discussion at AAPAC’s Sept. 28 meeting, in light of recent proposed action by the city council. A council resolution sponsored by councilmember Sabra Briere – who attended AAPAC’s meeting but didn’t formally address the group – would explicitly exclude sidewalk and street repair from projects that could be tapped to fund public art. Briere’s proposal would also require that any money allocated for public art under the program be spent within three years, or be returned to its fund of origin. The council ultimately postponed action until their second meeting in November, following a working session on the Percent for Art program that’s scheduled for Nov. 14.

In the context of those possible changes, Margaret Parker made an impassioned plea for her fellow commissioners to increase their efforts at public outreach. Many people didn’t know about all the work that was being done through the Percent for Art program, she said. By not getting their message out, she cautioned, ”that can be the undoing of all the work that we’ve done.”

Updates on several projects were given during the meeting, and commissioners took one formal vote – giving approval to set up a task force that will select public art for the East Stadium bridges project. Other projects in the works include a mural at Allmendinger Park, artwork in the lobby of the new justice center, a possible partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program, and public art for a rain garden to be created at the corner of Kingsley and First.

Parker also made a pitch for a possible way to fund temporary art – such as performances or short-term exhibitions – that can’t be paid for by the Percent for Art program, as stipulated by city ordinance. Rather than describing it as temporary art, she said, perhaps AAPAC could characterize such temporary work as promotion for public art in general, or tie it to promotion of a permanent piece, like the Dreiseitl sculpture. There was no action taken on this idea, other than an apparent consensus to explore that possibility further.

Dreiseitl Dedication

Commissioners discussed plans for the Tuesday, Oct. 4 dedication of the sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl, being installed this week in the plaza in front of city hall. The event will take place from 7-8 p.m. in the plaza, or inside the building’s atrium if it’s raining.

Connie Brown reported that the dedication will include performances by Jazzistry, and remarks by Dreiseitl, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje, and Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the public art commission. Margaret Parker, a current commissioner and former AAPAC chair who was instrumental in starting the city’s Percent for Art program, will also be part of the program. Light refreshments will be served, and a display with photos of other public art in the city will be set up in the city hall atrium.

Brown said she’s been assured that the sculpture’s lights and water will be functional by Oct. 4. Blue glass bulbs are embedded in the bronze sculpture, over which water will flow. [On Friday, a Chronicle Stopped.Watched observer reported that the water flow was being tested for the first time.] Commissioners discussed the importance of highlighting how the sculpture contributes to the site’s stormwater management system. The site also includes a rain garden.

Dreiseitl Sculpture blue lights

On Sunday evening, Oct. 2, tests of the light and water system of the Dreiseitl sculpture were undertaken.

There will also be “a little bit of silliness” injected into the event, Brown said, involving blue beach balls, blue “glow necklaces,” and glow-in-the-dark buttons.

The building’s design team will be hosting a private reception after the dedication – commissioners will be invited to attend, Brown said.

The group also discussed how to promote the event. Malverne Winborne is contacting public radio stations – including WEMU, WUOM and WDET in Detroit. Wiltrud Simbuerger is designing a flyer and brochure, which will also be distributed at the dedication. She said she incorporated a simple description that Margaret Parker had used to describe the Percent for Art program at a recent city council meeting – a penny of every dollar for public art.

When Parker suggested modifying it to “every capital improvement dollar,” Simbuerger said she was trying to make it catchy, and not include every detail. Winborne added:  ”I have a new saying – ‘The more you explain, the less they get it.’”

The Dreiseitl piece was the first one commissioned by the city using Percent for Art funds. Last year, the city council approved a budget of $737,820 for the piece, including design and construction costs. The city had previously paid Dreiseitl $77,000 in preliminary design fees for three pieces, but two of those pieces did not move forward because of budget constraints and aesthetic considerations. Funding for the sculpture comes in part from the Percent for Art stormwater funds, because the sculpture is designed as part of the site’s stormwater management.

City Council, Percent for Art Ordinance

Margaret Parker gave a report on the Sept. 19 city council meeting, when she and other supporters of the city’s Percent for Art program spoke during public commentary. Her comments at AAPAC’s meeting developed into an impassioned plea for the commission to devote more resources to promoting its work.

The attendance by Parker and other public art advocates at the Sept. 19 council meeting was prompted by a resolution to revise the city’s public art ordinance. The resolution – which council ultimately postponed until its Nov. 21 meeting – would explicitly exclude sidewalk and street repair from projects that could be tapped to fund public art. It would also require that any money allocated for public art under the program be spent within three years, or be returned to its fund of origin.

The resolution was sponsored by councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) – she attended AAPAC’s meeting on Wednesday, but did not formally address the commission.

The timing of the ordinance change was related to two proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot: (1) renewal of a 2.0 mill tax to fund street repair; and (2) imposing a 0.125 mill tax to fund the repair of sidewalks – which is currently the responsibility of adjacent property owners.

At Wednesday’s AAPAC meeting, Tony Derezinski – a city councilmember who was recently appointed to serve on AAPAC – noted that some councilmembers wanted to table the resolution and not consider it at all. But postponing it seemed like the best option, he said, and will give AAPAC time to prepare for a Nov. 14 council working session.

Commissioners agreed to spend part of their next meeting – on Wednesday, Oct. 26 – prepping for the working session presentation. A few of them plan to meet with Derezinski before the Oct. 26 meeting to draft a plan for the presentation.

Later in the meeting, Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, gave a handout to commissioners with information about how the Percent for Art funding might be affected if the proposed ordinance changes take effect. [.pdf of Percent for Art handout] On average, money coming from street millage capital projects account for about 38% of total Percent for Art funds. For fiscal years 2011 and 2012, it represented even more of the program’s total revenues – about 55%.

Seagraves also provided a chart that showed how fund balances would be affected if the proposed three-year time limit went into effect during the current fiscal year. However, Briere clarified that the ordinance change would start the clock going forward, beginning when the ordinance is adopted – that is, the calculations would not be retroactive and would not impact funds that have previously been allocated to public art.

Seagraves noted that the largest pool of unspent Percent for Art funds has come from the street millage, which has a balance of $555,248. The total balance from all funds – parks, solid waste, water, sewer, energy and airport – is $1,229,705. When Seagraves suggested that commissioners might want to consider projects that could tap these street funds, Parker noted that the upcoming East Stadium bridges project would fall into that category. [Percent for Art projects must relate in some way to their funding source. For example, because the Dreiseitl sculpture is connected to the stormwater management system at the new municipal center, it was paid for primarily partially from stormwater Percent for Art funds.]

Parker said it’s important to note that no general fund dollars are used for the Percent for Art program. [The city's ordinance does not prohibit spending general fund dollars directly on the Percent for Art program. In actual practice, however, capital improvement projects are typically not paid directly out of the general fund.]

Percent for Art: Public Outreach

Parker said that as she’s been talking with people about the Percent for Art program, they seem totally surprised that AAPAC is doing anything. The commission is not getting its message out, she said. “That can be the undoing of all the work that we’ve done.”

Wiltrud Simbuerger, Connie Brown

At AAPAC's Sept. 28 meeting, Wiltrud Simbuerger holds a flyer she's designing to promote the Oct. 4 dedication of the Herbert Dreiseitl sculpture. Next to her is Connie Brown.

Commissioners need to redouble their efforts at outreach, Parker said, adding that the Dreiseitl dedication is important for that reason. She expressed dismay that AAPAC didn’t have promotional materials at the recent Convergence event, a day-long conference for the Washtenaw County arts community. If commissioners want AAPAC and the Percent for Art program to continue, she said,  “we need to tell people what we’re doing in an effective, repeated, committed way.”

Parker also expressed frustration that more information isn’t posted online – such as AAPAC’s project tracking spreadsheet – in advance of their monthly meetings. It’s important to include as much information as possible in the city’s Legistar system, she said, so that the public can be informed about what AAPAC is doing.

Derezinski agreed. “The medium is the message,” he said, adding that by posting on Legistar, they’ll be communicating that AAPAC is open and transparent.

Derezinski offered some other suggestions for getting the word out. There are spots on the agenda of council meetings for councilmembers to give liaison reports, he noted, and he could update the council about AAPAC’s activities then.

Other options for making presentations include being a guest speaker at the weekly Ann Arbor Rotary Club lunch, he said, or meetings of the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue group and the Main Street Area Association. He also noted that Rotary might be interested in partnering with AAPAC on a project to beautify entrances to the city.

Cheryl Zuellig suggested doing more outreach each year after the annual art plan is completed. It’s really about increasing AAPAC’s network, she said. That’s time consuming, but now that Seagraves has been hired and is picking up administrative tasks, commissioners should have more time to do outreach, she said. Parker added that going out to business associations and other groups could also be an opportunity to ask for input about what types of public art projects people are interested in pursuing.

There was some discussion about whether any funds are available from the Percent for Art program for public relations and promotion. Seagraves indicated that some funds tied to specific projects, like the Dreiseitl sculpture, could be used for that purpose.

Percent for Art: Temporary Installations as Promotion?

Later in the meeting, Parker floated an idea that evolved from discussions she’s had about the Dreiseitl dedication. Several people have talked to her about projects related to the theme of water, she said. Mary Steffek Blaske, executive director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, mentioned that AASO had commissioned a piece titled “Watershed,” by Evan Chambers, and that it could be performed by a quintet rather than the full orchestra. There’s also a book titled “H2O” with water-related work by artists, and a local group that’s developed dances with water themes.

Parker also mentioned FestiFools, which has previously approached AAPAC about funding. FestiFools is still interested in publicly displaying the large puppets that its participants construct for the annual Main Street parade, she said.

All of this got her thinking about how to tap this interest, while taking advantage of city hall’s new atrium space, Parker said. She thought that perhaps the atrium could be used for displays and events, and portrayed as a way to promote public art. It would not be expensive, she said, but it would be a way to work with other parts of the arts community under the constraints of the Percent for Art program.

Connie Brown pointed out that AAPAC had previously been interested in temporary installations like the FestiFools proposal, but had been told by the city attorney’s office that temporary work couldn’t be funded by the Percent for Art program. [This issue has been discussed at several AAPAC meetings. In November 2010, commissioners noted that Mark Tucker, founder and creative director for FestiFools, had sent a letter to mayor John Hieftje, asking that the city consider having an installation of FestiFool puppets in the justice center lobby.]

Brown wondered whether the Percent for Art could fund a permanent gallery, but with temporary installations. They’d have to figure out how to make it work to conform to the Percent for Art ordinance, she said.

By way of background, the Percent for Art ordinance defines public art in this way:

Public art means works of art created, purchased, produced or otherwise acquired for display in public spaces or facilities. Public art may include artistic design features incorporated into the architecture, layout, design or structural elements of the space or facility. Public art may be any creation, production, conception or design with an aesthetic purpose, including freestanding objets d’art, sculptures, murals, mosaics, ornamentation, paint or decoration schemes, use of particular structural materials for aesthetic effect, or spatial arrangement of structures. [.pdf of Percent for Art ordinance]

Parker acknowledged that commissioners keep trying to find a way to work around the ordinance, so that temporary work could be included. She said they could start small, perhaps by holding events on Sundays that link to the Dreiseitl sculpture and water-related themes. It could be presented as a way to promote the Dreiseitl piece, or the newly renovated city hall, or public art and the region’s arts community in general, she said. They wouldn’t characterize it as temporary installations, but rather as promotion for the city’s permanent artwork.

There was some discussion about whether funds for the city’s public art program, given by donors and being held by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, could be used. It might also be possible to set up a new fund to accept donations for this kind of project. Commissioners reached consensus that Seagraves would look into it further, consulting with the city’s CFO, Tom Crawford, as well as with Sue McCormick, the city’s public services administrator who oversees the Percent for Art program.

Southwest corner of the Ann Arbor justice center lobby

Looking at the southwest corner of the Ann Arbor justice center lobby, facing Fifth Avenue – the old fire station, now the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, is visible across the street. A public art installation is being commissioned for that corner of the lobby. (Links to larger image)

Artwork for Justice Center Lobby

Margaret Parker is leading a committee to select art for the lobby of the justice center, a new building next to city hall at Huron and Fifth that houses the 15th District Court and Ann Arbor police department. At Wednesday’s AAPAC meeting, Parker reported that the committee received 96 responses to the most recent request for artist statement of qualifications (SOQ). [The deadline for submissions had been extended, because few responses to the initial SOQ had been received.]

The 10-member committee has winnowed down the finalists to four, Parker said. The artists’ recommendations will be checked, and they’ll be invited to attend a walk-through of the lobby on Oct. 7. Proposals will be due on Dec. 1, after which the committee will review the proposals and interview finalists before making a recommendation. That recommendation will then be forwarded to AAPAC for a vote.

The budget for this project is $250,000, with funds coming from the municipal center building project.

New Projects: East Stadium Bridges, Rain Garden, DIA

Commissioners discussed two projects that are in the initial phases of planning, as well as a potential partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

New Projects: East Stadium Bridges

Cheryl Zuellig reported that she and Wiltrud Simbuerger had met last month with Michael Nearing, project manager for the East Stadium bridges replacement. They discussed the feasibility of including public art in the project.

Nearing is enthusiastic and willing to participate, Zuellig reported, though he’ll likely be too busy to serve as project manager for the public art component after construction of the bridges gets underway. There are lots of details to be worked out, she said, including identifying a funding source. But it’s a project that’s in AAPAC’s 2012 annual art plan and is consistent with AAPAC’s mission, so the planning committee – which Zuellig chairs – is recommending that the project move forward by forming a task force.

Tony Derezinski asked about the project’s timetable, and Zuellig said the bids for reconstruction of the bridges are expected to go out later this year, with work to start after the University of Michigan football season ends. The project would likely be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.

Derezinski noted that it’s a high-impact location, especially with many of the 100,000-plus UM football fans passing through that stretch.

In a written report prepared by the planning committee, several possible locations for public art were identified:

  • walls under the South State Street bridge
  • staircases from South State Street up to the bridge
  • a rock wall between Rose and White streets (with the possibility of connecting Rose White park to the project)
  • walls along the field hockey area
  • walls on the upper part of the bridges, with sidewalks
  • a possible light project on the bridge
  • a possible mural project

Potential task force members include a representative from the Lower Burns Park Neighborhood Association. Zuellig said the planning committee talked about the importance of public engagement, and noted that the East Stadium corridor “is not unknown to public involvement.”

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to create a task force for an East Stadium bridges public art project.

Kingsley & First

A vacant house on this city-owned lot at Kingsley & First will be demolished with funds from a federal grant. The city is contracting with Conservation Design Forum to build a rain garden in that corner lot, which will also incorporate public art.

New Projects: Rain Garden

Seagraves reported that a rain garden will be constructed on two city-owned parcels: 215 and 219 W. Kingsley. The city has awarded the contract for construction to Conservation Design Forum (CDF) of Ann Arbor, which has also been involved in the new municipal center project and the Dreiseitl sculpture.

The site is located in a floodplain, and a vacant house is located on one parcel. The city received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to demolish the house and stabilize the site – as part of that, the rain garden is intended to minimize or prevent flooding.

CDF has requested a public art component for the rain garden, Seagraves said. He plans to submit a proposal to the projects committee to start the selection process. It’s likely that funding would come from the Percent for Art program’s stormwater fund, which has a current balance of $28,823. The process would entail setting up a task force to solicit proposals from artists and make a recommendation to AAPAC, which would in turn make a recommendation to the city council.

New Projects: Detroit Institute of Arts

Seagraves reported that he and Derezinski met earlier this month with representatives from the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA is interested in partnering with the city on the Inside|Out project, he said. The project installs reproductions from the DIA’s collection at locations on building facades or in parks. Seagraves noted that the DIA did this on a small scale in Ann Arbor previously, and it doesn’t involve any cost to the city.

[An installation on the outside wall at Zingerman's Deli – “Young Woman with a Violin” by Orazio Gentileschi – was recorded in a Chronicle Stopped.Watched. observation a year ago. Another reproduction at that time was installed on the Borders building on East Liberty.]

There may be other partnership possibilities with the DIA, Seagraves said. DIA staff will be invited to attend the Oct. 26 AAPAC meeting, he said.

Derezinski added that the DIA wants to do regional outreach, and that Ann Arbor residents are already a strong part of DIA’s membership. It seems like a natural partnership, he said.

Project Updates: Murals, River Walk, Kamrowski

Throughout Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners and staff gave updates on several ongoing projects.

Project Updates: Mural at Allmendinger

Wiltrud Simbuerger has taken over leadership of a mural pilot program, in the wake of Jeff Meyers’ resignation this summer. Meyers had initiated the program. Originally two mural locations had been selected by a mural task force – on a building at Allmendinger Park, and on a retaining wall along Huron Parkway. But the task force later decided to focus only on Allmendinger for now, following some negative feedback from residents about the retaining wall proposal.

A draft request for statements of qualifications (SOQ) to seek artists for the Allmendinger mural has been in review by the city attorney’s office. Seagraves said it’s likely to be ready for release soon. [The city's open bids and proposals are posted online.]

Project Updates: River ArtWalk

As the next step in a possible art installation along the Huron River, Parker and Winborne have met with Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council. In a brief written report, Parker indicated that Rubin was enthusiastic about the idea of placing artwork at highly used sites along the river. [The possible project was discussed in more detail at AAPAC's Aug. 24, 2011 meeting.]

There is no formal proposal at this point. Parker plans to attend the Oct. 18 meeting of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission, to discuss the idea with that group.

Project Updates: Kamrowski Murals

Mosaic murals by the artist Gerome Kamrowski, which were previously located on the outside of city hall prior to the building’s renovation, have been installed in the enclosed atrium between city hall and the new justice center. The nine panels were installed by John Tucker, Kamrowski’s stepson.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Seagraves showed commissioners the plaque that had previously been mounted next to the murals, but which was now outdated – for one thing, the artist has passed away, he noted. [Kamrowski died in 2004.] The re-installation was paid for as part of the building renovation, not with Percent for Art funds.

A new plaque is needed, Seagraves said. Connie Brown volunteered to help with the design. It will likely not be paid for with Percent for Art funds.

When Malverne Winborne asked for more information about Kamrowski, Margaret Parker explained that the artist had been part of the abstract expressionist movement in New York City, but had later taught at the University of Michigan school of art & design. He’s one of the artists that Ann Arbor should be bragging about, she said.

Project Updates: Annual ArtWalk

Seagraves reminded commissioners that the 2011 ArtWalk, which is organized by the Arts Alliance, is set for Oct. 21-23. The Dreiseitl sculpture in front of city hall will be one of the featured pieces. Seagraves passed out postcards promoting the event, and urged commissioners to take additional ones to distribute.

Public Commentary

Three members of the public attended Wednesday’s meeting, but only one – Bob Miller – spoke during public commentary at the end of the meeting. He has previously expressed interest in volunteering for the public art program. He said that as a citizen, he’s interested in seeing more public art at the gateway entrances to Ann Arbor. He was curious about whether there could be a permanent outdoor space in which different two-dimensional artwork could be rotated.

Regarding the possible DIA partnership, Miller said he hoped it would evolve into more than just a one-time project.

Responding to Miller’s comments, Malverne Winborne said that from a marketing perspective, having a rotating display of artwork at the city’s entrances would give visitors something to look forward to and anticipate when they come to town.

Commissioners present: Connie Rizzolo-Brown, Tony Derezinski, Margaret Parker, Wiltrud Simbuerger, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Zuellig. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Absent: Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, Elaine Sims.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [confirm date]

Purely a plug: The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of publicly-funded programs like the Percent for Art, which is overseen by the Ann Arbor public art commission. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.


  1. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 3, 2011 at 6:22 am | permalink

    “Many people didn’t know about all the work that was being done through the Percent for Art program, she said. By not getting their message out, she cautioned, ”that can be the undoing of all the work that we’ve done.””

    Ms. Parker. You and your group are getting your ‘message’ out loud and clear. Trust me.

  2. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 3, 2011 at 6:28 am | permalink

    “The 10-member committee has winnowed down the finalists to four, Parker said.”

    From, none of the four are from Michigan?

  3. By Joan Martin
    October 3, 2011 at 10:11 am | permalink

    The man in the photo identified as “an electrician” is Jim Fackert who found creative ways to make Mr. Dreiseitl’s design function. He is receiving the 2011 national Parnelli Visionary Award, which “acknowledges his universal influence on the live event industry.” His company, CAE inc [link], is a well known supported of Ann Arbor non-profits, including the ARK and the Huron River Watershed Council.

  4. By Mary Morgan
    October 3, 2011 at 11:03 am | permalink

    Joan, thanks for providing that missing information about Jim Fackert, and for highlighting his Parnelli award. For anyone who’s interested, the award will be presented on Oct. 29 at a ceremony in Orlando, Fla. [link]

  5. By Rod Johnson
    October 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm | permalink

    It seems a bit facile to characterize Kamrowski as “part of the Abstract Expressionist movement.” He certainly had ties with several of the early abstract expressionists, but he is mainly associated with Surrealism. He’s one of those people, like Baziotes, Matta and Gorky, who were at the cusp of that change, but he never really abandoned representation and never really worked in an “expressionist” mode, I don’t think–he was too quirky and witty and… fun for that. He’s not easily categorized, but if Parker’s description is any indication, I’m a little sad that this town is starting to forget him.

  6. By Mary Morgan
    October 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm | permalink

    Re. “none of the four are from Michigan?”

    Margaret Parker didn’t discuss details of the finalists at last week’s AAPAC meeting, but I’ve confirmed with her that none of the finalists being considered are from Michigan.

    In addition to Parker and her fellow AAPAC commissioner Elaine Sims, members of the selection committee for art in the justice center lobby are: Sue McCormick, the city’s public services area administrator; Spring Tremaine of the Ann Arbor police department; Bob Grese, director of the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum; Ray Detter of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council; Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council; Karl Daubmann, UM associate professor of architecture; Maureen Devine, art coordinator for UM’s North Campus Research Complex; and Homayoon Pirooz, head of project management for the city.

    As with any project of this size, the committee’s recommendation would also be voted on by AAPAC, and then would need final approval from city council.

  7. By abc
    October 3, 2011 at 9:14 pm | permalink


    Is it possible to find out if the selection process was blind or were the locations of the applicants known to the selection committee. Obviously if it is an agenda item (and I am not saying that it is, as I have never seen it delineated as such)to select local talent then one must know somehow where each artist is located. If it is indeed not an agenda item then how can it be made to be one?

    Interestingly, a the very local artist, Lynda Cole, who is a top ten finalist at ArtPrize did apply and did not make the cut. A permanant version of her piece ‘Rain’ would be kind of cool in there. And I think rain is related to water too.

  8. By Mary Morgan
    October 3, 2011 at 11:43 pm | permalink

    Re. blind selection process – I don’t think it was a blind selection process, but I’ll find out.

    At AAPAC’s March 2011 meeting, there was an extensive discussion about a draft artist “evaluation rubric” developed by commissioner Malverne Winborne. It proposed assigning points in 10 different categories, including whether the artist was local. (Other proposed categories included “proven ability to work effectively with the community” and “experience working in public settings.”) In presenting his draft, Winborne said that if there were two artists of equal quality, “I think we should give it to the local person.” After the discussion, Winborne planned to bring back a new draft, but I don’t believe that ever happened. I’ll follow up to see where it stands.

    Re. Lynda Cole: Info on her ArtPrize entry is here: [link] It’s being shown at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Her work is also exhibited at the WSG Gallery at 306 S. Main in Ann Arbor, where she’s a partner.

  9. By Stew Nelson
    October 4, 2011 at 8:53 am | permalink

    Winborne added: “I have a new saying – ‘The more you explain, the less they get it.’”

    That statement pretty well sums up how they got into this mess in the first place!


  10. By abc
    October 4, 2011 at 10:03 am | permalink


    Thanks for the link back to the March meeting where an ‘evaluation rubric’ was presented. I went back and looked at the ten points of the rubric and have a real hard time reconciling this with selecting an artist or a work of art. I certainly do not go through a thought process anything like that when I decide what I want to buy or whose work I admire and respect. Then it struck me, if Maya Lin had been subjected to this rubric the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial she designed could not have been selected. She was a 21 year old undergraduate who had built nothing and had no experience or proven abilities. Her presentation was weak, but the idea was strong.

    I am also not clear as to the distinction being made between rubric points 6 and 7 nor am I sure what points 8 and 9 even mean.

    I also could not find reference to the promised follow up by Mr. Winborne in April. Was there any follow up? Was this ‘rubric’ officially adopted?

  11. By Mary Morgan
    October 4, 2011 at 10:34 am | permalink

    Re. “I also could not find reference to the promised follow up by Mr. Winborne in April. Was there any follow up? Was this ‘rubric’ officially adopted?”

    There’s been no substantive follow up at subsequent AAPAC meetings, and I’ve attended them all. I also just went back and reviewed the commission’s meeting minutes for the months of April through September – there’s a brief mention of it in minutes for AAPAC’s June meeting, stating that the rubric is still being developed. As I said in my earlier comment, I’m following up with Malverne Winborne to see where that stands. I’ll post more information as soon as I get it – ideally, that will be later today.

    Enough time has passed since that March meeting that my recollection of their discussion is pretty foggy. For other readers following this thread, here’s an excerpt from the Chronicle report of that meeting, laying out the proposed artist selection and interview criteria (the first draft presented by Winborne):

    The artist selection criteria consisted of 10 items, each evaluated on a scale of 0 (did not meet the requirement) to 2 (exceeded the requirement):

    1. Quality of presentation and artistic merit.
    2. Technical abilities.
    3. Strength of past artworks.
    4. Proven ability to work effectively with the community.
    5. Proven ability to work effectively as a team member within an architectural context.
    6. Experience working in public settings.
    7. Experience fabricating and installing permanent artwork working in public settings.
    8. Reflects the city’s commitment to diversity and cultural richness.
    9. Suitable for the site policies.
    10. Local artist.

    The category of local artist would be scored with yes (2 points) or no (0 points) in the selection criteria.

    Winborne proposed six categories for the artist interview protocol, each ranked from 1 (poor) to 4 (superior). In addition, each category was given a weighted percentage:

    1. Statement of understanding of the site and its constraints (10%)
    2. Ability to translate and create (50%)
    3. Willingness/ability to work collaboratively (15%)
    4. Effective work style/plan (15%)
    5. Previous experience (10%)
    6. Local artist (10% bonus points)

  12. By Rod Johnson
    October 4, 2011 at 11:08 am | permalink

    It’s an interesting draft for a rubric. It lacks what I would consider essential to a workable rubric, namely a sense of relative importance. It’s hard to accept that “artistic merit” should count for no more than “effective team member” in the selection of art. Or to put it another way, the fact that one is an effective team member should not make bad art an acceptable choice.

    And as ABC points out, someone without a track record would have trouble overcoming that, even if he or she had a strong idea and plan. I would say 3 through 7 represent a variety of ways to assess the question of how likely it is that this artist will be able to successfully carry out a project in a public/organizational setting. This would obviously be a good thing to assess, but I don’t think this rubric gets at it. A new artist might have a strong idea and a solid plan.

    I’d reduce this to a slightly different set, focused more on the work than the artist:

    * Artistic merit of the work (including appropriateness to site context)
    * Feasibility of the plan (technically, financially, but for initial installation and over the life cycle of the work)
    * Supportive of organizational goals (like diversity, accessibility, sustainability, connection to some specific content area)
    * Qualities of the artist (like being local, but there’s also room for things like a young artists program)

    Obviously all of these would have to be fleshed out some, and that might vary from project to project. I don’t think a one size fits all approach works, but each project out to have a fairly clear set of criteria and a transparent process of deciding.

  13. October 6, 2011 at 10:15 am | permalink

    I think Rod is onto something here–and should probably offer to join the AAPAC to help them draft such a rubric.

    Just to clarify, according to what the Mayor said in his recent speech at the Dreiseitl unveiling, it is not possible for any public artwork to be chosen (utilizing Percent for Arts funding) which uses a selection process that discriminates between local, out-of-state, or foreign artists. (This is my recollection of what he said, not his exact words). Prior to hearing this, I was chagrined to find out that a local artist had not been chosen as well–I’m still not elated, but at least I understand why.

    Also, it’s important to make a distinction between Wilborne’s two sets of protocols. The first (#1-10) are presumably used for selecting the artists (who were invited to submit RFQ’s) and the second (#1-6) were proposed to be used for evaluating the artist interview process for the four finalists. So perhaps the first question to ask is were Wilborne’s proposed protocols used in this artist selection process? It seems like they would first have had to have been discussed and ratified by the entire committee prior to use. (Perhaps someone from the AAPAC could weigh in here.)

    If these protocols were used then there is a clear disconnect between #5 in the artist interview protocols (awarding only 10% to previous experience) and the amount of weight given to an artists’ previous experience in the “Request for Qualifications” protocols–particularly numbers one through seven. Somehow only experienced artists given this set-up are likely to end up as a finalist, yet their previous experience is downplayed when it comes time to interview the artist. Seems like the reverse would allow for the possibility of more local artists to get a chance to be interviewed. (After all, without a Percent for Art program existing in Michigan previously, the chance that a local artist
    would be experienced in large-scale permanent public art diminishes significantly compared to an artist who works in a municipality or state (or country) that already has such a program in place.

  14. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 6, 2011 at 11:36 am | permalink

    “Just to clarify, according to what the Mayor said in his recent speech at the Dreiseitl unveiling, it is not possible for any public artwork to be chosen (utilizing Percent for Arts funding) which uses a selection process that discriminates between local, out-of-state, or foreign artists.”

    Beautiful. The Mayor and the AAPAC, just don’t get it.

  15. By abc
    October 6, 2011 at 11:53 am | permalink

    “Just to clarify, according to what the Mayor said in his recent speech at the Dreiseitl unveiling, it is not possible for any public artwork to be chosen (utilizing Percent for Arts funding) which uses a selection process that discriminates between local, out-of-state, or foreign artists. (This is my recollection of what he said, not his exact words). Prior to hearing this, I was chagrined to find out that a local artist had not been chosen as well–I’m still not elated, but at least I understand why.”

    I heard the Mayor say something like this also, but I am still left with why. I went to Chapter 24 of the city’s ordinances titled ‘Public Art’. I could not find anything in that chapter that says the selection process could not be limited. So does this interpretation come from some other ordinance or protocol? Or does it come from a state statute?

    I admit to having a tough time with this idea. Are all city expenditures subject to this concept? Could the building department’s secretarial staff be replaced by telephone operators and typists in Bangalore if it were cheaper and deemed equal? I am not saying that that is reasonable I am just trying to think of a part of the government that could be outsourced overseas and that’s the best I can do right now. Maybe one of you can think of another.

  16. By Mary Morgan
    October 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm | permalink

    I also attended the Dreiseitl dedication, and was puzzled by John Hieftje’s remarks regarding the illegality of favoring local artists. This hasn’t been discussed at AAPAC.

    If it’s an opinion generated from the city attorney’s office, that could explain why the selection rubric that Malverne Winborne drafted never resurfaced. (And could also explain why the topic hasn’t been discussed publicly, other than in Hieftje’s speech this week.) We’re trying to find out the origin and basis for that statement, and have contacted the mayor, Winborne, and Aaron Seagraves, the city’s new public art administrator.

  17. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm | permalink

    Again, a legal written opinion on this new twist and the actual legality of the arts program from the City Attorney should be something The Mayor should be championing instead of these vague campaign-like statements, especially since he’s not an attorney. The longer this doesn’t happen makes it look like the Mayor and Council are trying to run out the clock and dump as many of the current unspent dollars before there is a ruling against the program. Sounds like the Mayor is a hater of the legal process?

  18. October 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm | permalink

    “I heard the Mayor say something like this also, but I am still left with why.”

    Let’s hope the reason why local artists can’t be favored is simply the by-product of a “blind” selection process (although many on the committee probably can tell who the local “players” are simply by recognizing the work submitted). After all, many years from now, I imagine we’d like to be proud owners of the best art produced by the best artists available at the time–as the artwork ages, where the artist came from, will seem far less significant.

    A selection process which chooses its artists based on past work and/or projected designs, without regard to any of the other proposed qualifications (such as whether or not they can” work effectively as a team member” or whether they live in Ann Arbor, etc.) is probably the most egalitarian way to accomplish the mission of acquiring the best art for our city in the long run. However, initially, it will be very difficult to get the public (with public funds) to endorse any public art chosen if the art isn’t created by someone from our community. So, should the selection process be amended to take local artists into consideration even though that will, by definition, narrow the field of competition? My vote, although bitter in the short run perhaps, would be to keep the competition open to as many artists as possible hopefully allowing for the best possible art to surface. If someone local gets chosen it should be because they were the best artist, with the best projected design, at that particular time, anywhere.

  19. By Mary Morgan
    October 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm | permalink

    We just received this response in an email from John Hieftje:

    The concern is a possible violation of the Privileges & Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Attorneys have no doubt that the ability to travel to another state to do business (to create a work of art and be compensated for it) would be considered by a court as a privilege subject to constitutional protection against discrimination, i.e., a prohibition against out of state artists. (Earning a living is uniformly held to be a privilege.)

    An in-state (or local) preference might be justified if there is an identified evil that the restriction is narrowly tailored to address. Not referring to the devil or such, but using language from one of the leading US Supreme Court decisions on the issue) that a local preference is intended to remedy. We can’t just have a preference for Michigan (or local) artists because we feel like it.

    To respond to the question about proof, any kind of preference will require proper proof – and can lead to fraudulent claims by someone that they qualify. There may need to be investigations to confirm that an artist or team of artists qualifies, which will require additional staff time, etc.

    There might also be an Equal Protection challenge, based on residence as opposed to a “suspect” class (e.g., race, gender, national origin). The test to uphold discrimination or discriminatory impact against a non-suspect class is less stringent than for discrimination against a suspect class, but it still would have to be justified in the same manner as for the Privileges & Immunities Clause.

    Although the City would not violate the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution if it limited art projects funded solely with City money – or with City and other money in which use of only Michigan artists was explicitly authorized – to only Michigan artists. But that is a different analysis than, and does not trump, the Privileges & Immunities Clause or Equal Protection Clause analysis.

  20. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm | permalink

    It this a written legal opinion from the City Attorney’s office? If so, will the Mayor be sharing the full opinion with the citizens of this City? If not a written legal opinion, what exactly is this, since the Mayor’s background was a selling houses, not in the legal field? His own legal opinion? And if it IS, while he was chatting with the City Attorney Office did he also ask for a written legal opinion on the Arts Tax Program too? If not, why?

  21. By Mary Morgan
    October 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm | permalink

    Re. Is this a written legal opinion from the City Attorney’s office?

    I’ve asked that question and am waiting for a response.

  22. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm | permalink

    Thanks Mary. It didn’t sound like the words of an ex-real estate agent but you never know.

  23. By abc
    October 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm | permalink

    So the mayor’s response got me thinking. These are federal statutes he is referencing and clearly Ann Arbor’s program is newer than others so I thought I would see how other programs handle this.

    From Ohio’s Percent for the Arts program (begun in 1990):

    “The Ohio Percent for Art Program is open to artist’s nationwide, but it is the determination of the Percent for Art Advsiory Selection Committee, in consultation with the Ohio Arts Council, whether a project will be open to artists nationwide or Ohio only.”

    From Phildadelphia’s Percent for the Arts program (begun in 1959):

    “The Percent for Art program issues a “Call for Artists” application for each eligible project, which outlines the project details and submission procedures. General requirements include submitting images of past work, resume(s), and a statement of intent. All Percent for Art projects are open to professional artists and/or artistic teams. Residency requirements vary by project.”

    From Montana’s Percent for the Arts program (begun in 1983):

    “Please note: Unfortunately, the Montana Arts Council does not have the capacity to accept applications from, and contract with, artists living outside of the United States and therefore these artists are not eligible for Montana Arts Council Percent for Art projects.”

    However Montana’s Percent for the Arts program FAQs had this …

    “If my proposal is successful, how do I prove Montana residency? A list of acceptable documents for proof of Montana residency is available from the Department of Justice.”

    … so I looked for a sample application and found this:

    “Montana Tech Natural Resources Building (MBMG-Petroleum Engineering Bldg, Montana Tech) Butte.
    While the application deadline is now past, information about the application process for this project is offered below for reference.
    Eligibility: The call for artists was open to all Montana residents. “

    I am now a bit confused. This also begs a question. Did Mr. Dreiseitl reach out to AA because he saw this great opportunity being advertised or did AA reach out to him?

  24. By Russ Miller
    October 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm | permalink

    It’s an interesting discussion and I appreciate having a written opinion (from whatever source) to make the arguments concrete. I hope this kind of examination isn’t the reason we don’t see many opinions from our city attorney.

    The goal posts are moved a bit in the firstand last paragraph of Mayor Hieftje’s response by consideration of an outright prohibition of non-local artists. I can’t recall anyone suggesting more than a preference for qualified local artists. City code specifically allows local preference in procurement and contracting:

    “The City may establish and maintain a bid discount process for the procurement of goods or services based on locality or environmental policy.” ch14 1:322

    I imagine there might be reasons that art selection and typical procurement activities differ legally, but the clearest restrictions against local preferences based on the three constitutional concerns seems (after some quick googling) to be in the area of hiring. We’re clearly not hiring artists as city employees for percent for art projects – we’re contracting for services. The preference in scoring proposed by Mr Winborne’s rubric seems to me like the sort of contractor selection device that has been allowed by courts to promote some local benefit and is analogous to the bid discount concept of the city code. Of course, it would be great to hear from someone with actual legal knowledge:)

  25. October 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm | permalink

    Lynda Cole of Ann Arbor took third place in ArtPrize this year. [link]

    A very competitive contest.

  26. October 6, 2011 at 9:02 pm | permalink

    Re: Lynda Cole. She’s a member of the Washington Street Gallery (on Main Street).

  27. By Steve Bean
    October 7, 2011 at 8:58 am | permalink

    “Attorneys have no doubt that the ability to travel to another state to do business (to create a work of art and be compensated for it) would be considered by a court as a privilege subject to constitutional protection against discrimination, i.e., a prohibition against out of state artists.”

    This (and not only this) part of the mayor’s email certainly sounds like a legal opinion. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing that the rules are supposed to apply to those in power, even at the local level. What they can get away with on behalf of those whom they truly serve, they do. What they can’t, they change the rules to allow. No different than the Obama/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Reagan/etc. administrations.

    But public art is such an innocuous issue, right? Complacency is inculcated during the practice runs.

    Mary, if you haven’t already, please ask the mayor WHICH “attorneys”. Just for fun, of course. Thanks.

  28. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 11, 2011 at 6:52 am | permalink

    No response yet from the Mayor?

  29. By Mary Morgan
    October 11, 2011 at 10:20 am | permalink

    Re. “No response yet from the Mayor?”

    My apologies. John Hieftje sent this brief email last week, in response to my query about the origin of his previous email (see above comment #19) outlining the basis for not giving preference to local artists in Percent for Art projects:

    Originally yes, it was from the attorneys office. The analysis is nothing new, it has been around for years. I modified it slightly for a resident who wrote specifically about art.

    It’s puzzling that the mayor describes the analysis as nothing new. The Chronicle has covered all monthly meetings of the public art commission for three years, as well as some of their retreats, and this has never been mentioned – even during discussions specifically about whether to give preference to local artists.

    I also talked with Malverne Winborne about the artist selection rubric he’s working on (see comment #11). He sent me updated drafts of both the artist RFQ (request for qualifications) review protocol, and the artist interview protocol. [.pdf of RFQ protocol] [.pdf of interview protocol]

    The recent versions of these documents – which he plans to present at an upcoming AAPAC meeting – don’t include any criteria for local artists. He told me that this was based on feedback from other commissioners at the March 1, 2011 meeting. He didn’t get the sense that a majority of commissioners supported including that category in their selection. He had not been informed about any legal issues related to it.

    So if an opinion from the city attorney’s office on the legality of giving preference to local artists is “nothing new,” it appears there’s been only a very small circle of people who knew about it. And for some reason, no one felt this information was important to share directly with the public art commission – the people who are charged with recommending artists for Percent for Art projects. As I said: Puzzling.

  30. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 11, 2011 at 11:35 am | permalink

    “I modified it slightly for a resident who wrote specifically about art.”

    Wow, an City Attorney(?) answer to a quetion not related to the Arts program is rewritten by the Mayor, a former real estate agent, as a justification and in reply questions surrounding the Arts issue? Wow, did the City Attorney give him a fill-in-the-blanks form to use? Did he look it up on some internet legal advice site? So the answer is, no, the City Attorney hasn’t written any specific legal guidance for the Ann Arbor Arts program vis a vis local artists then. Why not? Maybe it’s time to examine the number of highly paid staff in the City’s Attorney’s office then if the Mayor has to recycle. Lol.