Questions Raised over Dreiseitl Sculpture

Commissioner wants report "with all of its glory ... all of its warts"

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (June 27, 2012): A written report from the public art administrator – explaining why there’s been no water in the Dreiseitl sculpture in front of city hall – led to a broader discussion at AAPAC’s June meeting about that signature piece of public art.

View of the water sculpture by Herbert Dreisietl, looking down from the sixth floor of city hall

View of the water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl, looking down from the sixth floor of city hall on June 27. There was no water running on this particular day. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioned by the city from German artist Herbert Dreiseitl and dedicated in October of 2011, the work was designed to use rainwater collected from the roofs of city hall and the adjacent Justice Center. But water has flowed through the fountain only sporadically. The original water pumps clogged and malfunctioned, and are being replaced with a new pump. Yet even when that new pump is functioning, the two tanks, which can hold a total of 2,300 gallons of water are currently dry, and no water is available at this point to run through the sculpture.

Saying that people have asked him why the fountain isn’t working, commissioner John Kotarski asked whether Dreiseitl intended the sculpture to reflect the seasonal rain cycle. Kotarski said he previously hadn’t heard that narrative applied to the sculpture, until it was mentioned in the report by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. Kotarski was appointed to AAPAC well after the sculpture was approved.

Cathy Gendron, who was serving on AAPAC when the project was recommended for approval in 2009, said her expectation had been that water would be a standard part of the piece. She wondered whether something had changed during the engineering process. She noted that it was the first project undertaken by the commission after its formation as part of the city’s Percent for Art program. [It is also the city's largest public art expenditure to date, costing over $750,000.]

Kotarski praised the project, calling Dreiseitl a world-renowned sculptor and noting that Ann Arbor now has something in its public art collection that other cities would love to have. But he called for a full report of the project ”with all of its glory and all of its warts,” so that AAPAC could find out and learn from what has happened.

Commissioners agreed to compile a list of questions to be forwarded to the project’s design team. There was no formal action taken regarding the kind of report that Kotarski requested.

Later in the meeting, commissioners did take action on two items related to AAPAC’s mural program: (1) approval of the final design for a mixed-media mural at Allmendinger Park; and (2) approval of a statement of qualifications (SOQ) to seek potential artists for future murals.

Also at the June 27 meeting, AAPAC vice chair Malverne Winborne made a strategic planning proposal that he had first floated at the commission’s retreat in February. The idea is to approach a plan for public art by looking at quadrants of the city, to help guide the selection of projects and ensure that all parts of the city are represented. Commissioners were supportive of the general concept, but ultimately tabled the item for further discussion at their July 25 meeting.

Two other items were tabled until that July meeting: (1) a discussion on a possible endorsement policy for privately funded art projects; and (2) action on two new proposed public art projects, at the Forest Avenue Plaza in the South University area, and at the future roundabout at South State and Ellsworth.

Commissioners also discussed plans for AAPAC’s participation in the July 16 Townie Street Party. The event is hosted by the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair as a kickoff to the annual art fairs, which run this year from July 18-21. AAPAC has a table in the “Creative Connections” tent. Hannah Nathans, a University of Michigan student intern with the city, has painted a five-foot-tall poster evoking a well-known mural on East Liberty Street by Richard Wolk. It’s intended to be an interactive feature – people can poke their faces through cut-out holes and get their pictures taken.

Dreiseitl Sculpture: When the Water Runs Dry

As part of the June 27 AAPAC meeting packet, Aaron Seagraves – the city’s public art administrator – included an update on the water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl, which is not yet completed. From the written report:

Administrator met with the sculpture design team and Project Manager on May 24th to address the completion of sculpture water feature. The design team was charged with the completion of the entire water feature. Water feature was fully functioning for about two weeks in June. Then, the micro-water pumps providing water to the “glass pearls” at the top of the sculpture clogged and malfunctioned. The water feature will be redesigned to eliminate the chance of further clogging. A larger single water pump will replace the micro-pumps – the new pump is on order.

Due to the rate of evaporation that has been observed, and the water tank capacity, it is very likely the water feature will not be flowing following extended dry, hot conditions. The flow of the water feature will mimic the rainfall in the area, as rainwater is the only source of water for the feature. To increase the supply of water to the sculpture, a supply connection between the sculpture’s water tanks and the much larger rain garden cistern is being investigated by city staff. The sculpture was not designed to intake rainwater from the cistern.

During the June 27 meeting, John Kotarski – who joined AAPAC this January – told commissioners that he had some questions about the Dreiseitl fountain, and that other people had been asking him questions, too.

Responding to Kotarski, Seagraves explained that stormwater is collected from the roofs of both the city hall and the new Justice Center building, and stored in two water tanks that hold a total of 2,300 gallons. That water is filtered and pumped through the Dreiseitl fountain.

John Kotarski

Public art commissioner John Kotarski.

Kotarski asked whether the artist intended for the fountain to be dry during the warmest summer months. Seagraves replied that it’s certainly designed to be that way, but he didn’t know the artist’s intent. [Seagraves was hired about a year ago, after the project was well underway.]

AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin said that question had never addressed, as far as she knew. Cathy Gendron, another commissioner who was serving on AAPAC when the project was approved in October of 2009, said she also didn’t know. She had emailed former AAPAC chair Margaret Parker about it, but hadn’t yet received a reply. [Parker was also chair of the task force that recommended selection of Dreiseitl for the project. It had then been recommended for approval by AAPAC, and ultimately was authorized by city council.]

Bob Miller asked about leaks in the tanks – because he’d heard that was a problem. Seagraves reported that no leaks have been found. He confirmed for Miller that evaporation might account for the fact that there’s no water at this point.

It’s one thing if the narrative of mimicking the seasonal rain cycle is intentional, Kotarski said. But he’d never heard that narrative before. Chamberlin said she didn’t think the commission had known to ask that question – it hadn’t been raised.

Theresa Reid asked Kotarski: In what spirit are his questions being raised now? Kotarski replied that people are asking him questions like “What’s wrong with the fountain?” and Why isn’t there any water?” He said he’s not sure it makes a lot of sense to people.

Kotarski then praised the project. Dreiseitl is a world-renowned sculptor, he said, and Ann Arbor now has something in its public art collection that other cities would love to have. It’s the best example of local sourcing for a major piece of art that he’s ever seen, with a lot of Michigan artists involved and a lot of money spent in Michigan. [The fabrication of the sculpture was handled by a Michigan firm, and Quinn Evans Architects – project managers for the new Justice Center building and city hall renovations – also oversaw the design and construction of the Dreiseitl work.] All of that is very good, Kotarski said.

But there are some troubling aspects that he’d like to get cleared up. “I’m wondering if it would be possible to do an investigation and report on this,” he said.

Chamberlin replied that she and Gendron shared his interest, and they’d pursue it with Parker. However, she said she chafed a little at the word “investigation.” No one had tried to be deceptive, she noted.

Kotarski said he simply wondered whether best practices were followed, or whether they could have done better. Malverne Winborne, who also joined AAPAC after the Dreiseitl project had been approved, framed it this way: As part of the commission’s learning process, what could be improved? Gendron noted that Dreiseitl had been the commission’s first project – and the largest one to date – since the Percent for Art program was established.

Kotarski stressed that he wasn’t trying to lay blame. But he does think there needs to be a written report that looks at what happened, good and bad. The sculpture is a conceptual work about the preciousness of water, he said – it’s not just decorative. But they need to be truthful about all aspects of the project, he added.

Cathy Gendron

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Cathy Gendron.

Winborne suggested that commissioners identify specific questions that they would like to have answered. He volunteered to collect those questions and forward them to Seagraves and the design team.

Gendron said she’d like to know if the artwork is actually designed to be dry during part of the summer. If so, the city should find out what its options are to remediate or change the piece. When the project was presented to AAPAC, she said, it never occurred to her that the fountain would be dry part of the summer. She assumed a water sculpture would have water. Perhaps something transitioned during the engineering process, she said.

It had been a highly technical project, Chamberlin observed, so it’s possible that the engineering changed at some point in the process. But there are documents from early on in the development of the project that should clarify the original intent, she said.

Reid noted that if the water sculpture is dry in the summer and doesn’t run water in the winter because of the freezing temperatures, “that’s a little disappointing.”

Kotarski reiterated his view that it’s a great project, and there’s an opportunity to look at it ”with all of its glory and all of its warts.” Such a report would show that AAPAC is learning. It would be a mistake not to do that, he said.

By way of background, Dreiseitl had made a presentation to Ann Arbor city council in July of 2009, prior to the project’s approval. From The Chronicle’s report of that presentation:

The sculpture would consist of a large, upright piece made of two rectangular metal plates standing close together, facing Huron Street. Water would flow down the front piece, which would be concave at the top and transition to a convex shape at the bottom. The water would flow from the top and drain out the back, continuing on toward the building like a river. Tanks connected to the center’s rain garden would store and filter water so it could be circulated through the sculpture repeatedly.

Dreiseitl’s models showed a bridge over the river-like part of the sculpture, as well as a couple of benches alongside it. He explained that he wanted to integrate his work with the surrounding architecture and landscape.

There were references to the sculpture’s water element throughout that presentation. For example: ”Some wanted to know if it would be possible to climb the large vertical piece. The answer seemed to be no, as Dreiseitl explained it would be too steep and the water cascading down it would complicate things (although he joked that a practiced rock climber might be able to scale it).”

The water element is also key to the project’s funding. The Percent for Art ordinance designates 1% of each city government capital project be set aside for public art, up to a cap of $250,000 per capital project. The ordinance also stipulates two ways that public art funds can be used. Art can be funded if it’s integrated into or stands on the site of some capital improvement project – but the Dreiseitl work isn’t funded that way. Another way to fund art with Percent for Art money is with “pooled” money from capital projects with locations that don’t lend themselves to siting art. But art that’s funded that way must relate in some fashion to its funding source. The Dreiseitl sculpture had a $750,000 budget created from pooled funds from other capital improvement projects: drinking water ($210,000), sanitary sewer ($510,000) and stormwater ($30,000) funds.

Outcome: This was not an action item, so there was no vote taken. Next steps involve commissioners sending questions about the Dreiseitl project to Malverne Winborne, AAPAC’s vice chair, who will then forward those questions to the project’s design team.

Mural Program

Two agenda items related to AAPAC’s mural program: (1) approval of the final design for a mixed-media mural at Allmendinger Park; and (2) approval of a statement of qualifications (SOQ) to seek potential artists for future murals.

Mural Program: Allmendinger Park

AAPAC originally selected Ann Arbor muralist Mary Thiefels of TreeTown Murals for the Allmendinger Park mural at its Jan. 25, 2012 meeting. It’s the first mural in a pilot program that was spearheaded by former AAPAC member Jeff Meyers and approved by the commission in November 2010, with the intent of creating at least two murals per year in the city.

Illustration by Mary Thiefels of her proposed mural at Allmendinger Park.

Illustration by Mary Thiefels of her proposed mural at Allmendinger Park, provided in AAPAC’s June 27, 2012 meeting packet.

The final design has been changed from Thiefels’ original proposal, based on feedback from a mural task force, and is more abstract than the original. [.pdf of final mural design]

Thiefels’ project includes working with students at Slauson Middle School and incorporating their work into her design – more than 60 students created self-portraits that will be part of the mosaics on pillars of the building at Allmendinger Park. The mosaics will also feature other found objects relevant to the community – examples include keys, pottery shards, animal bones, and fossils – and pieces of colored glass. Commissioners will take part, too. They had received a letter from Meg Crawley, a member of the mural task force, asking for their own donation of objects for the mural.

An initial $10,000 budget for the mural later had been increased to $12,000, with $7,200 of that amount to be paid for with a grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

The commission’s annual art plan for fiscal year 2013 – which begins July 1, 2012 – allocates an additional $40,000 to fund two more murals. No locations or artists have been selected for those projects.

At the June 27 meeting, there was minimal discussion about the Allmendinger mural. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin described the vote as a formality, noting that commissioners had previously approved the budget and overall concept. This final design had been vetted by the mural task force, she said, and Thiefels has already signed a contract for the work with the city.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the final design for the Allmendinger Park mural. It does not require city council approval.

Mural Program: Creating a “Pool” of Muralists

In a separate item, commissioners were asked to approve a statement of qualifications (SOQ) that will be issued by the city. [.pdf of mural SOQ] The objective, as stated in the SOQ, is to “find professional muralists and other artists whose work meets a set of standards and to pre-qualify them for City of Ann Arbor mural projects to be contracted in 2012 to 2014.”

General expectations cited in the SOQ include: (1) work experience in mural artwork, or other media of a similar type; (2) proficiency in 2-D or surface mounted media and art fabrication; (3) the ability to work together with oversight bodies, project managers and city staff; and (4) the ability to work on location and complete an artwork installation in a timely manner.

Marsha Chamberlin

Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission.

The idea is to pre-select a pool of potential muralists, to expedite the process for choosing an artist for mural projects in the next two years. Requests for proposals (RFPs) for specific mural projects would be sent only to a subset of the artists in the pre-selected pool.

Some commissioners advocated soliciting artists more frequently than a two-year period, and suggested having a “rolling registry” for artists. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin cautioned that this could delay the selection process – the intent is to shorten the timeline. She noted that each time an SOQ is issued, it needs to be vetted by the city attorney’s office, and that can take several months. The city attorney’s office also vets each request for proposals (RFP), which will be required for each specific mural project.

Malverne Winborne supported the proposed SOQ. As an argument against having a rolling registry or more frequent SOQs, he noted that it takes staff and commission time to process responses, and their resources are limited. ”We have to merge the creative process with public financing,” he said.

After additional discussion, Cathy Gendron proposed directing Aaron Seagraves – the city’s public art administrator – to investigate refreshing the pool annually with the same SOQ. Seagraves said he’d have to check with the city’s procurement staff to see if it’s possible to issue the same SOQ without running it through the city attorney’s office again.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the initial SOQ, and directed Seagraves to investigate the possibility of refreshing the pool of artists annually, using the same SOQ.

Strategic Planning

At AAPAC’s four-hour planning retreat in late February, Malverne Winborne had suggested dividing the city into zones or quadrants, to help guide the selection of projects and ensure that all parts of the city are represented.

Winborne made a more formal proposal on June 27. He proposed using the four quadrants that are designated in the city’s master plan “land use elements” section: west, central, south and northeast. [.pdf of quadrant map] There are nine commissioners, including Tony Derezinski, who also represents Ward 2 on Ann Arbor city council. Excluding Derezinski, the other eight commissioners would be “champions” of a quadrant – two per quadrant.

Malverne Winborne

Public art commissioner Malverne Winborne.

He also proposed that the Percent for Art budget be divided so that funding would be available for projects in each quadrant.

In the past, AAPAC has appeared to be doing projects out of convenience, Winborne said. This would be a way to make sure that each section of the city is represented, in terms of public art.

Specifically, he proposed two goals: (1) in the next three years, each city quadrant shall have, at a minimum, one new public artwork; and (2) one new public art program will be developed that will result in public art in each of the city areas; or one artist will be selected to produce a public art design, or public art series, that can be produced in each of the city quadrants. [.pdf of full proposal]

Bob Miller wondered how this approach would impact the availability of funds for larger projects – that was a concern for him. Winborne suggested that AAPAC should remain flexible, but that the quadrant approach could serve as the general guideline for developing projects. The important thing would be that AAPAC didn’t override the guidelines too often, he said, or it would defeat the purpose of having an egalitarian approach.

Cathy Gendron pointed out that this strategy would entail saying “no” to the city – she noted that most proposals are driven by city staff and relate to specific capital projects, like the Justice Center, East Stadium bridges, and Argo Cascades.

Marsha Chamberlin told commissioners that she, Winborne and Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, had discussed this proposal for over an hour before the AAPAC meeting. She said the major issues that it addresses are: (1) making sure the public art program is implemented citywide; (2) ensuring that Percent for Art funds are spent; and (3) ensuring that neighborhoods are represented. Commissioners who are assigned to specific quadrants can develop relationships with neighborhood associations and other organizations, to get input on priorities for those areas, she said.

John Kotarski called it a brilliant idea, but he wondered why funding had to be allocated specifically for each quadrant. He liked the idea of commissioners having to pitch projects for their quadrants – it would force them all to be engaged in bringing forward the best ideas.

Chamberlin noted that allocating funds for each quadrant would ensure that each area gets funding. Winborne added that if residents know that money is available, it sends them a message that they “can play too,” he said.

Miller said he’d like to get input from other commissioners who weren’t at the June 25 meeting, including Derezinski. He moved to table the proposal and bring it back for discussion at AAPAC’s meeting in July.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to table the quadrant proposal. They will reconsider it at AAPAC’s July 25 meeting.

Endorsement Policy

At AAPAC’s April 25, 2012 meeting, Dave Konkle and Tim Jones had spoken during public commentary regarding a large Whirlydoodle installation they hope to build. Jones had invented the devices as miniature wind generators, with LED lights that vary in color depending on wind speed. About two dozen are currently placed around the downtown area. A large-scale installation would help people to visualize wind currents and prompt a discussion about alternative energy, he said.

Theresa Reid

Public art commissioner Theresa Reid.

Konkle is the city’s former energy coordinator who now does consulting work for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority as energy programs director. On April 25, he told commissioners that a display of 1,000 Whirlydoodles – possible at the former landfill at Platt and Carpenter – would result in Ann Arbor having more wind generators than any other city in the world, and would bring the city national attention. The two men asked AAPAC to endorse the proposal, but commissioners did not act on it or discuss it in depth at that meeting.

The issue of whether AAPAC should develop an endorsement policy was an agenda item at the June 27 meeting. Theresa Reid said she felt it would be more trouble than it was worth for AAPAC, and she made a motion stating that AAPAC’s policy would be not to endorse or otherwise recommend private projects.

John Kotarski noted that the city’s public art ordinance recommends the promotion of private projects, and suggests that AAPAC seek donations or encourage the private sector to support public art. From the ordinance [.pdf of Ann Arbor's public art ordinance]:

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:

(E) Raise funds above and beyond the funds for public art that are included as part of a capital improvement project or that are in a pooled public art fund, interact with donors of funds or art works on behalf of the City, and foster public/private partnerships to support public art;

(I) Provide advice to and assist both potential donors of art and other governmental entities regarding possible public locations for placement of art when such art cannot be placed on any City property or incorporated into a capital project of the City.

Rather than rejecting the idea of endorsements immediately, Kotarski said he’d feel more comfortable thinking through the ramifications of endorsements and making a policy that’s consistent with the ordinance. It might be that they end up deciding not to make endorsements, but he wanted to think it through more thoroughly.

Other commissioners expressed agreement, and Reid withdrew her motion. She made another motion to table the discussion until AAPAC’s July 25 meeting.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to table discussion of an endorsement policy until their July meeting.

Townie Street Party

Part of the June 27 meeting was spent discussing plans for AAPAC’s participation in the July 16, 2012 Townie Street Party.

Sign for the Ann Arbor public art commission Townie Street Party booth

This poster, standing about five feet high, was painted by Hannah Nathans, a University of Michigan undergraduate who’s working as an intern with the city. It’s based on a mural by Richard Wolk on East Liberty near State Street. The poster will be part of the Ann Arbor public art commission’s booth at the July 16 Townie Street Party.

The event is hosted by the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair as a kickoff to the annual art fairs, which run this year from July 18-21. AAPAC has a booth in the “Creative Connections” tent. Hannah Nathans, a University of Michigan student intern with the city, has painted a five-foot-tall poster evoking a well-known mural on East Liberty Street by Richard Wolk. The poster is intended to be an interactive feature – people can poke their faces through cut-out holes and get their pictures taken. [Wolk's original mural was painted for David's Books, formerly located at South State and Liberty. The mural features stylized portraits of Woody Allen, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Hesse, Franz Kafka, and Anaïs Nin.]

John Kotarski, who serves on AAPAC’s PR committee, noted that they had a $250 budget for the Townie Street Party, and he suggested using a portion of that to pay Nathans for her work. There was discussion about whether this would be allowed under terms of her internship. Marsha Chamberlin, AAPAC’s chair who is also president of the Ann Arbor Art Center, said her understanding is that it’s not allowed – based on the art center’s experience using UM interns, who receive college credit for their work.

Cathy Gendron, who chairs the PR committee, was concerned about setting a precedent with other volunteers who contribute significant time and effort. She wondered if there would be another more appropriate way to thank Nathans.

Malverne Winborne suggested holding a volunteer appreciation event in the future. Other commissioners seemed enthusiastic about that general approach.

Kotarski also noted that he had proposed asking people at the Townie Street Party to sign a petition in support of public art, but that Gendron had felt it would be too confrontational. Chamberlin said she appreciated the intent, but noted that they had run into problems previously when a commissioner sent out emails urging friends to take action.

A commissioner is a public official, Chamberlin said, and needs to take a balanced approach. A petition has a kind of political implication to it. Kotarski said he felt it would be like signing a birthday card, or putting a button on that says “I support public art.”

Commissioners discussed other alternatives, such as collecting email addresses for people to receive newsletters from AAPAC.

Outcome: There was no action item on this issue.

New Projects

Project intake forms – the first formal step in the process to seek funding – have been submitted for two proposed public art projects: (1) at Forest Avenue Plaza, next to the Forest Avenue parking structure near South University; and (2) at a future roundabout at Ellsworth and South State.

Both projects are being proposed by city staff, as part of broader projects. The Forest Avenue Plaza proposal was submitted by Amy Kuras, the city’s park planner, and Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The city has held two public meetings to seek input on improving the small plaza, and has about $40,000 in funding for the project. The intake form stated that the city would like additional public art funding – suggested at between $10,000 to $20,000 – for artwork to be placed in the plaza.

The roundabout is a major capital project at one of the busiest intersections south of town, with construction planned for the summer of 2013. Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, told commissioners that there’s some interest from one of the local Rotary clubs in partnering with the city to add public art and landscaping to the roundabout.

These items came up on the agenda near the end of AAPAC’s June 27 meeting. Theresa Reid felt there weren’t a sufficient number of commissioners present to have a meaningful discussion. [At this point, only five of the nine commissioners were present.] She also felt that new projects should also be discussed in the context of the proposed quadrant approach to selecting public art locations. She moved to table action on the items.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to table the proposed new projects at Forest Avenue Plaza and the Ellsworth/State roundabout.

Communications, Updates

Several items were brought up during the meeting in the category of updates or general communications from commissioners and Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Communications, Updates: DIA Inside|Out Program

John Kotarski reported his communications with Kathryn Dimond, community relations manager at the Detroit Institute of Arts. By way of background, a DIA representative had met with AAPAC in October 2011 regarding a partnership with Ann Arbor for the institute’s Inside|Out program. The program involves installing framed reproductions from the DIA’s collection at outdoor locations on building facades or in parks. The original proposal was for Ann Arbor to participate this year, but it’s now likely to happen in 2013.

Kotarski said he had proposed getting schools involved in helping select the artwork that would be installed locally. At the June 27 meeting, he told commissioners DIA officials liked that idea, but wanted to coordinate it themselves, possibly with an online contest on the DIA website.

A community is selected to participate in the program during one of two three-month periods each year: From April through June, or from July through September. Kotarski said he had suggested the July through September timeframe. Other commissioners felt that wouldn’t be the best period for students to be involved, since they’d be out of school most of that time. Kotarski said he’d contact Dimond again and convey a preference for the April through June period instead.

Bob Miller wondered what it would take for Ann Arbor to start its own version of this program. Kotarski expressed enthusiasm for that idea, and commissioners indicated they would take it up at a future meeting.

Communications, Updates: Public Commentary, Minutes

At the beginning of the June 27 meeting, commissioners discussed some housekeeping items. Theresa Reid suggested that Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, take less detailed minutes “for [his] own sanity.” She indicated that a greater level of detail can lead to more conflict, with commissioners potentially disputing what’s recorded.

AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin said Seagraves has been getting varied advice about the level of detail that’s needed. It would certainly make it easier if only motions and votes were recorded, she said.

Raising a separate issue, John Kotarski said he’d like to add a slot on the agenda for public commentary at the end of each meeting, in addition to the time that’s available at the beginning of the meeting. That would be consistent with the practice of the city council and other commissions, he said. It’s the chair’s prerogative, he said, but he didn’t think it would take that much more time in the meeting. [Kotarski is correct – the city council and most city commissions offer opportunities for public commentary at the start and end of each meeting. The standard time per individual is three minutes.]

The intent is for people to have the opportunity to give input prior to a decision by AAPAC, then to provide feedback after that decision is made, he said. Bob Miller suggested that Seagraves find out what other commissions do in terms of time limits and other rules, then report back to AAPAC.

No one from the public attended the June 27 AAPAC meeting.

Communications, Updates: State Street Corridor

Aaron Seagraves asked if any of the commissioners wanted to be part of the city’s State Street corridor study. [For background, see Chronicle coverage: "South State Corridor Gets Closer Look"]

Marsha Chamberlin wondered what the role of a commissioner would be. Seagraves indicated it would be to provide input as the group develops recommendations for improving the corridor. Responding to other questions, he said he wasn’t sure of the project’s timeframe, or how it fits into the city’s North Main corridor task force.

Bob Miller indicated that he’d be willing to get involved with the State Street project.

Communications, Updates: Other Projects

In the written report from Aaron Seagraves, updates were given on several ongoing projects:

  • Justice Center: The contract with artist Ed Carpenter is complete, and Carpenter will be working on a final design. [Chronicle coverage: "City Council OKs Justice Center Art"]
  • Argo Cascades: A task force has completed review of a draft statement of qualifications (SOQ), which was sent to the city attorney’s office for legal review on May 25. [Chronicle coverage: "Art Commission OKs Argo Cascades Project"]
  • East Stadium bridges: Seagraves is working to request the completion of legal review for the artist request for proposals. AAPAC had approved the RFP and a $400,000 project budget in April. [Chronicle coverage: "RFP for E. Stadium Bridges Art Approved"]
  • Kingsley & First rain garden: The project’s task force met in early May. A public forum will be planned after the building on the property is demolished, likely at the end of July or later. Input from that forum will be used in developing the SOQ draft. [Chronicle coverage: "W. Kingsley House Finally To Be Demolished"]

The status of additional projects was provided in a two-page “project tracker” spreadsheet, but not discussed at the meeting.

Communications, Updates: Budget

Also provided in written form, but not discussed, was a summary of funds available in the Percent for Art program. [.pdf of budget summary]

Of the $1,367,148 in available funds, $851,233 has been earmarked by AAPAC for future projects, including artwork for East Stadium bridges ($400,000), Argo Cascades ($150,000); and the Justice Center ($147,468).

That leaves $515,914 for additional projects. The majority of that amount is in “pooled” funds from sewer projects ($358,345) and the streets millage ($129,251).

Commissioners present: Marsha Chamberlin, Cathy Gendron, John Kotarski, Bob Miller, Theresa Reid, Malverne Winborne. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Absent: Connie Rizzolo Brown, Tony Derezinski, Wiltrud Simbuerger.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [Check Chronicle events listing to confirm date]

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  1. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm | permalink

    “When the project was presented to AAPAC, she said, it never occurred to her that the fountain would be dry part of the summer. She assumed a water sculpture would have water.”

    Or frozen in the winter? Congrats–all of the critics’ fears have proven correct.

  2. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm | permalink

    “Reid noted that if the water sculpture is dry in the summer and doesn’t run water in the winter because of the freezing temperatures, “that’s a little disappointing.””


  3. By Bob Elton
    July 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm | permalink

    Call me anal & compulsive (without the hyphen), but there are a bunch of questions I would have asked about the details of this project.

    Such as:

    1. Why are (were) several smaller pumps used instead of 1 large pump with control valves as necessary?

    2. How are the pumps protected when run dry? (pumps are often lubicarated and cooled with the fluid they are pumping)

    3. How are the pums protected during freezing temperatures? Temperature controlled water shutoff? How is water drained from the pumps and lines to protect them from cold weather operation?

    4. What corrosion protection method is applied to internal compoents like pumps, bvalves and piping?

    5. How are the pumps primed? Are they submerged, or do they rely on a standpipe and priming system? What is the backup if a standpipe system runs dry during a drought?

    6. Are the electrical controls and connections water and weather proof for the Michigan climate?

    7. Are the fasteners made from stainless steel or other corrosion proof material?

    And so on.

    I’ve made too many things to ignore basics such as these.

    Bob Elton

  4. By abc
    July 2, 2012 at 4:44 pm | permalink

    There are many definitions of art. One that I like is, ‘art makes the strange familiar; and the familiar strange.”

    It seems to me that a fountain that provides no relief from the hot dry streets, a fountain that demonstrates what we all already know, which is namely that the summer is dry, is art that makes the familiar… just more familiar.

  5. By glenn thompson
    July 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm | permalink

    “Kotarski praised the project, calling Dreiseitl a world-renowned sculptor”

    Whoa . . Lets have a reality check. Dreiseitl is the leader of a German landscape architectural firm. It is not clear he ever did a ‘sculpture’ before the Ann Arbor failure.

  6. July 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm | permalink

    If other cities would love to have the Dreiseitl thing, then why not send it to them?

  7. By George Hammond
    July 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm | permalink

    @Glenn Thompson, judging by their website, lots of the Dreisetl designs made before ours have sculpture in them. Why do you claim otherwise?

    It’s worth considering that in the last two months, we’ve had less than a third of our average rainfall, and most of that in May.

    It shouldn’t be hard to fill the 2300 gallon supply. On average we get more than 3 inches of rain each month in the summer. Even a quarter inch of rain falling on 16,000 square feet would more than fill the tanks, and the city hall roof is bigger than that.

  8. By James Jefferson
    July 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm | permalink

    I have been trying with no luck to get anyone from this group to return my call. I am an environmental artist and muralist and I represent a group of local artists who want in on the future of Ann Arbor public art. We spent how much? On this piece that doesn’t work? I can think of a few prime questions. Have we paid in full or is there some trouble with the contract that is keeping this unfinished?

    And why are calls, emails and other attempts to have input or even contact with this commission not returned? To whom do these people answer? If anyone knows, please let me know, because that is the next person I will contact. Thank you. I can guess the reason there was no public attendance at the meeting is that it was almost impossible to find out the when or why of this committees doings.

  9. By George Hammond
    July 3, 2012 at 12:54 am | permalink

    “it was almost impossible to find out the when or why of this committees doings.”
    Really, because the Commission’s webpage seems pretty straightforward:
    “AAPAC monthly meeting are open to the public and held the fourth Wednesday of every month, 4:30 p.m. Location: 301 East Huron St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104″

    It looks like the person you should talk to is Aaron Seagraves, the Public Art Coordinator. His email and phone, and the email address of the Commission Chair, are on the page too: [link]

    It looks to me like the Public Art Commission is in the Public Services area. The city website say sCraig Hupy is the Acting Administrator. Contact information for him is here: [link]

    You might just try contacting your City Council reps: [link]

  10. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 3, 2012 at 6:20 am | permalink

    “You might just try contacting your City Council reps: [link]”

    Nice idea in theory but I live in the 4th Ward.

  11. By Me
    July 3, 2012 at 8:53 am | permalink

    Fill the storage tank with water!!!!

  12. By abc
    July 3, 2012 at 10:06 am | permalink

    I could not help but to go back and re-read how this was sold to the city. The following is from an article published on 22 July 2009 by The Chronicle.

    On a personal level, Dreiseitl said water connects to spirituality and humanity. He discussed how tears can convey different emotions – joy or pain – and how water helps people “to relax and be open.”

    Since his sculpture would also be near the court and police station, Dreiseitl said it would help people put their individual problems in perspective.

    “What happens to this entrance here?” Dreiseitl said. “People come with different expectations. The city hall is something bringing the community together. Also, very personal decisions are done at the court.”

    Seeing the sculpture and watching the water will hopefully remind them of something larger than they are, Dreiseitl said. As his PowerPoint stated, “Water and rain are beautiful symbols that connect us to the world outside ourselves.”

    From a technical point of view, I am shocked. Our rainfall is a matter of public record and when one designs anything they factor for contingencies. So if this is a mistake in calculating either the amount of rainfall, or the evaporation within the system, or whatever, it is a design mistake.

    I also cannot help but to reflect on the above with respect to a fountain; if it is actually dry by design. If “water connects to spirituality and humanity” what connections are to be made with a dry fountain; except frustration and despair.

  13. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 3, 2012 at 10:51 am | permalink

    “Fill the storage tank with water!!!!”

    With imported German bottled water perhaps? Seems to be the only remaining piece lacking in the comedy of incompetence.

  14. July 3, 2012 at 11:03 am | permalink

    A better name for this cursed project would be “The Dryseitl”.

  15. By James Jefferson
    July 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm | permalink

    Yes, Mr. Hammond, It would be nice if it were as easy to get a response as it is to look up some info online. I might point out that the AAPAC page has substantially changed since I last viewed it in June.

    I work and care for my family, and cannot take off work for a 4:30 afternoon meeting. I have emailed and called Mr. Seagraves with no response. I have emailed and called my first ward reps, one of which responded, (guess which one) and told me that I might not hear back from anyone, as “they are pretty busy”. I was not aware that there was an oversight administrator, I guess I will try that route. All I am trying to do is stay informed, and not miss any deadlines for RFPs, so that myself and other qualified local artists have a fair shot of getting some local work.

    As far as this project goes, believe me, if Mr. Dreiseitl lived in the area this fountain would be working. It’s unfinished state is shameful, and challenges his apparent reputation as a professional artist. He needs to take personal responsibility for the successful completion of his project, of course that very thing is sorely lacking in this city.

    I think Mr. Cahill’s suggestion of naming the fountain is a good one. Might I suggest “The Hieftje”, which would serve the dual purpose of satisfying the mayor’s ego which I believe is behind much of the excessive building spending by council; and forever linking his name with that same excessive spending.

  16. By glenn thompson
    July 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm | permalink

    Actually a great deal of information is available on line. For example, Google ‘Dreiseitle sculpture’ and see how many pages of hits you need to review before finding something that is not related to Ann Arbor or something that Mr. Dreiseitle has posted.

    As a second check, Google ‘Dreiseitle sculpture –Ann Arbor’ and see how many other sculptures by Mr. Dreiseitle you can find. My statement that Mr. Dreiseitle is known as a landscape architect, not as a sculptor is well documented on the web if you are willing to look at more than Mr. Dreiseitle’s own site.

  17. By George Hammond
    July 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm | permalink

    There was water running through the sculpture today, maybe the rain filled the tanks.

  18. By George Hammond
    July 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm | permalink has a big interview today with the technician who is working on the water sculpture. It answers some of the questions raised here about what the problem has been with the sculpture. I get the impression from it that maybe Dreisetl isn’t to blame for all the technical problems, that it was a local company that did that design. [link]

  19. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm | permalink

    If there was a textbook definition of ‘softball question’ here you go:

    “ Based on a conversation you and I had before, I know you believe Ann Arbor residents should be very proud to have a work by Herbert Dreiseitl in their community. Remind me why you think that is and why we should feel that way.”


    You would think being such a hack and spewing this candy coated PR would be embarrassing. Apparently not.

  20. By Zeke Mallory
    July 14, 2012 at 11:23 am | permalink

    Let’s see….a dry water sculpture….a pool of muralists…alphabet soup of this that and the rest….what a goat rodeo…Zeke Mallory