City Council OKs Justice Center Art

At its May 7, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved the use of $150,000 for a public art project in the lobby of the new municipal building called the Justice Center – located on the northeast corner of Huron Street and Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The money will pay for a sculpture called “Radius” by Ed Carpenter of Portland, Oregon. The resolution passed over dissent from Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

The Justice Center, a new building next to city hall, houses the 15th District Court and the Ann Arbor police department. Previously council had postponed the approval of public art funds at its April 2, 2012 meeting.

Because it houses the district court, the building features airport-style security measures at the entrance, and visitors must surrender electronic devices like cameras and cellphones to be locked in cubicles during their visit to the building. Concern about accessibility by the public to the public art was the subject of councilmember deliberations that led to the postponement on April 2.

The council expressed interest in using the delay to explore the possibility of moving the security screening to a point well past the entrance in the interior of the building. The visibility of the proposed sculpture from outside the building was also a point of discussion at the April 2 as well as at the May 7 meeting.

At its Jan. 25, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission had unanimously recommended selecting Carpenter for the $150,000 project. A task force had recommended the selection of Carpenter’s proposal from three finalists.

Carpenter plans to create a hanging sculpture of dichroic glass, aluminum, stainless steel and lighting, including LED spot and flood lighting. Among the reasons for recommending Radius, the task force cited the sculpture’s metaphor: That the activities in the Justice Center have a “rippling” effect throughout the community, which echoes the water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl that’s located in the plaza outside the building.

Ann Arbor’s public art funds come from the application of the city’s Percent for Art ordinance, which requires that 1% of all capital projects (up to a limit of $250,000) be set aside for public art.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]