Public Art Commission Supports Millage

At a special meeting on Aug. 15 called for the sole purpose of responding to a public art millage proposal, the Ann Arbor public art commission passed a resolution in support of putting the millage on the Nov. 6 ballot. The unanimous vote followed extensive public commentary, including several leaders of the arts community who expressed concern about the process and timing of the vote, though they supported the concept of a millage.

Ann Arbor city councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) also attended the meeting and answered questions from the commission. He had unexpectedly proposed the millage at the council’s Aug. 9 meeting, although action was postponed until Aug. 20.

The resolution would ask Ann Arbor voters to pay a 0.1 mill tax for four years to support public art. The public art commission oversees the current Percent for Art program, but had not previously been consulted about the proposal. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin had only been informed of it a few days prior to its presentation to the council. [See Chronicle coverage: "Public Art Millage Mooted, Postponed," "Ballot Questions: Parks, Public Art Funding," and "Column: Two Questions on Public Art."]

The ballot question would read: “Shall the Charter be amended to limit sources of funding for public art and to authorize a new tax of up to one-tenth (0.10) of a mill for 2013 through 2016 to fund public art, which 0.10 mill will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $459,273?”

The public art millage would at least temporarily replace the city’s current Percent for Art program, which was approved by the council in 2007, but has been controversial. The program requires that 1% of the budget for any capital improvement project be set aside for public art – up to a cap of $250,000 per project. For the current fiscal year, it’s estimated that $320,837 in new revenues will be made available through this funding mechanism. That’s in addition to about $1.367 million in unspent funds that have accumulated from previous years.

This brief was filed from the basement conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron, where the public art commission meeting was held. A more detailed report will follow: [link]