Art Commission Updated on Program Revamp

Also: Huron River Watershed Council plans public art project for stormdrains; another commissioner resigns, leaving 3 vacancies

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Feb. 27, 2013): Much of this month’s public art commission meeting was spent discussing the work of a city council committee that’s developing recommendations for changes to Ann Arbor’s public art program.

Marsha Chamberlin, Deb Gosselin, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, and Deb Gosselin, who handles the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP). Gosselin attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting to talk about the CIP process, which the commission is using as a planning tool for future public art projects. (Photos by the writer.)

Sabra Briere, who’s one of five city councilmembers on the committee, updated AAPAC on possible revisions to the city’s public art ordinance, as well as more general recommendations that are being prepared for the full council. Those proposed changes are likely to include eliminating the Percent for Art funding mechanism, creating a structure to solicit private donations and grants to support public art, directing staff to “bake in” artwork and architectural enhancements as part of overall city capital projects, and providing more administrative support – perhaps by contracting out those services.

AAPAC members had questions about the possible new approach, including questions about the commission’s own role. Briere advised them to continue working on existing projects that are funded through the Percent for Art approach, but noted that they should focus on future opportunities that don’t rely on Percent for Art funds.

The council committee continues to meet, and will eventually deliver recommendations and draft ordinance changes to the full council. This Chronicle report includes highlights from the committee’s most recent meeting on March 1. The committee next meets on March 15, before the council’s March 18 meeting. A moratorium on spending unallocated Percent for Art dollars expires on April 1.

In other action at AAPAC’s February meeting, commissioners heard from Jason Frenzel, stewardship coordinator for the Huron River Watershed Council, about a project that would raise awareness of how the city’s stormdrain system connects to the river. The project is proposed in two stages, starting with a chalk art contest at the June 14 Green Fair, during which artists would draw images and messaging around stormdrains on Main Street.

Commissioners also discussed how to move forward with a proposed memorial to Coleman Jewett – a bronze Adirondack chair at the Ann Arbor farmers market. A private donor has already committed $5,000 to the memorial, but details are still being worked out about how to manage the project. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin indicated that she might call a special meeting in early March for commissioners to act on the proposal, which hasn’t formally been accepted by AAPAC. Update: The special meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, March 7 at 4:30 p.m. in the fifth-floor conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron.

Other project updates were made via a written report from Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. The report stated that a task force has selected four artists as finalists for artwork on the East Stadium bridges, and they have been invited to an April 1 site visit/open house. The finalists are: Volkan Alkanoglu, based in Atlanta, Georgia; Sheila Klein of Bow, Washington; Rebar Group of San Francisco; and Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. The project has a budget of $400,000.

Only four commissioners attended the Feb. 27 meeting, and when one commissioner left early, the meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum – before all agenda items were addressed. In part because of attendance issues, officer elections – which AAPAC bylaws state should happen in January – have not yet occurred. Ballots were mailed to commissioners last week, and results will be announced at AAPAC’s March 27 meeting. It’s expected that vice chair Malverne Winborne will be elected chair.

And although it was not discussed at the meeting, Cathy Gendron resigned from AAPAC in late February. She had been reappointed to AAPAC at the city council’s Jan. 7, 2013 meeting for a term through Jan. 20, 2016, but had not attended the commission’s January or February meetings.

Responding to a Chronicle query, Gendron stated in an email that she had agreed to stay on the commission through March, but would be unable to attend AAPAC meetings and decided to resign. ”It’s time for someone else to take my place.” There are now three vacancies on the nine-member commission.

Future of Ann Arbor’s Public Art Program

Ann Arbor’s public art program has been in limbo since Dec. 3, 2012, when the city council voted to halt the spending of funds accumulated through Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art program – except for projects that are already underway. The moratorium on spending lasts until April 1, 2013.

At that same Dec. 3, 2012 meeting, councilmembers appointed a council committee to review the public art program. Committee members are Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and Margie Teall (Ward 4). They’ve been meeting regularly to work through possible revisions to the city’s public art ordinance, as well as to make more general recommendations about the program. [For background see Chronicle coverage: "City to Seek Feedback on Public Art Program," "Council's Public Art Committee Begins Work," as well as an update on the committee's work provided in the report of AAPAC's Jan. 23, 2013 meeting.]

Sabra Briere, Ann Arbor public art commission, Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor city councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) is part of a five-member council committee that’s preparing recommendations on changes to the city’s public art program. She attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting to update commissioners on that work.

At the invitation of AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin, Briere attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting to talk about the committee’s work and to answer questions from commissioners.

Briere told commissioners that there’s a real philosophical difference among councilmembers on the committee regarding the current Percent for Art program. [That program sets aside 1% of each capital project, up to a cap of $250,000 per project, for public art. It's been the primary funding mechanism since the council enacted the public art ordinance in 2007. (.pdf of current ordinance)]

One councilmember, Briere said, is firmly opposed to the Percent for Art approach, especially the idea of “pooling” funds. Another councilmember is firmly committed to the idea and believes that 1% is probably inadequate, Briere added. [Based on The Chronicle's observations of discussions at these council committee meetings, Briere was referring to Kunselman and Teall, respectively.] The other three councilmembers are trying to find a middle ground that achieves the goal of government support for art in public places, she said, but that doesn’t rely solely on restricted funds to do that.

[The issue of using restricted funds relates to using money that was originally designated for infrastructure like roads or utilities, and setting aside some of those funds for public art. Because the money is taken from restricted funds,  a thematic link must exist between the funding source and the public art expenditure. Although the ordinance doesn't use the term "nexus," this is the word commonly used by councilmembers to refer to the concept of connecting public art projects to their source of funding.]

Briere reported that the committee has discussed whether public art funding should be taken from the city’s general fund. But that approach would pit public art against other general fund services, like police and fire protection. This is one of many issues that the committee is thrashing through, she said.

There seems to be general consensus for having artwork “baked in” to capital projects. Instead of transferring out 1% of a project’s budget into a separate public art fund, the money would be included in the capital project’s budget with a directive to incorporate artistic elements or architectural enhancements into the design. This would make administering the public art program less administratively burdensome, according to city staff, and ensure that public art wouldn’t be an “add on” after the capital project is finished.

A draft of possible ordinance changes is being reviewed by the city attorney’s office, Briere said, and will eventually be “coughed out like a hairball on the rug.”

Future of Public Art Program: AAPAC’s Role

Connie Brown wondered what AAPAC’s role would be, if these kind of changes are enacted. Briere said the council has discovered that a bureaucratic burden was created by the current ordinance, so the goal is to lessen that burden, not increase it. Also, there’s a desire to focus on projects generated and supported by the community, she said, not by city government. By way of example, Briere cited a chalk art project being proposed by the Huron River Watershed Council, that doesn’t require city funding. [A report on that effort is provided later in this article.]

Briere noted that the public art program had been set up in a way that focused on Percent for Art funding. Because of that, it restricted AAPAC in ways that weren’t intended, she said. So in the revised ordinance, councilmembers want to include funding mechanisms for art that “grows out of the community.”

Marsha Chamberlin asked if there will be a “nexus test” – a reference to the requirement that artwork must link thematically to its funding source. Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, responded: “If we do it right, it’s gone.” Chamberlin laughed, saying “Then let’s do it right!”

Briere advised commissioners to function as they are until the council provides further direction. She also encouraged them to focus on projects not funded by the Percent for Art mechanism – like the HRWC proposal, or a mural project at the farmers market, proposed by Linda Tenza at AAPAC’s Jan. 23, 2013 meeting. Commissioners should talk about opportunities that won’t rely on Percent for Art funds, she said.

Another such project could be artwork in the parking structure at the new City Apartments, being built at First and Washington. Though located on the lower levels of the building, it will become part of the city’s public parking system, which is managed by the Ann Arbor DDA under contract with the city. Briere noted that public art was supposed to be part of that project, “but everybody forgot that.” Chamberlin recalled that AAPAC had discussed the project years ago, but not recently. [The last time it was brought up publicly was at AAPAC's October 2008 meeting, in connection with a possible partnership with the DDA. Chamberlin is the only current commissioner who was also serving at that time.]

Briere expressed sympathy for the commission, noting that it’s an all volunteer group that’s been asked to manage a lot. However, she also pointed out that other city boards and commissions are also made up of volunteers, often with heavy workloads. She recognized that the public art program has struggled with staff support, and said that the council committee on public art plans to recommend that more staff support would be appropriate. [The current public art administrator's position, held by Aaron Seagraves, is a part-time job.]

AAPAC will likely continue to work in an advisory capacity, Briere explained. They’ll identify projects in the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP) that should incorporate public art or architectural enhancements, but they can also recommend other projects for the city to support – for example, artwork at “gateway” locations in the city. The council might decide to fund such projects, or to provide partial funding in conjunction with private donations, grants or other sources.

Malverne Winborne noted that from the commission’s standpoint, they’ll again be in uncharted waters. Although there won’t be restrictions like the those imposed by the Percent for Art approach, there also won’t be consistent, predictable funding sources.

Craig Hupy, Ann Arbor public services area administrator, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Craig Hupy, Ann Arbor’s public services area administrator, attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting.

John Kotarski expressed support for the changes, saying he felt AAPAC could serve well as an advisory group to facilitate projects. He didn’t think AAPAC should act as a gatekeeper, and felt that commissioners should advocate for as much community engagement as possible. He’d like people to come to AAPAC asking for advice, not permission.

Chamberlin and Winborne argued that being a gatekeeper had positive attributes, ensuring quality and safety, for example. Chamberlin gave the example of the proposal for murals at the farmers market, calling it an imaginative idea but adding, “I’m not anxious to see cucumbers painted by third-graders.”

Winborne pointed out that commissioners have a responsibility to the citizens of Ann Arbor, and there needs to be a thorough process to evaluate projects that will be located on city property. That process should apply to donated works, even if no city money is involved, he said. “We don’t want schlock.”

Connie Brown agreed, noting that AAPAC could also guide potential donors to private property owners that might be interested in artwork, if it’s deemed inappropriate for city property. Brown suggested that AAPAC will need to find a way to reconcile these differing views of its role.

Kotarski wondered how something like FestiFools would be evaluated, calling it a great civic project. Brown indicated that perhaps the puppet heads could be put on display as a collection – saying that might be an appropriate way for the city to support the event.

Future of Public Art Program: CIP and Annual Plan

Changes to the public art program were also part of a discussion related to AAPAC’s annual plan and the city’s capital improvement projects. Deb Gosselin, who handles the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting to review the CIP process. [.pdf of CIP for FY 2014-2019]

Required by state statute, the CIP must be developed and updated each year, looking ahead at a six-year period, to help with financial planning for major projects – permanent infrastructure like buildings, utilities, transportation and parks. It’s intended to reflect the city’s priorities and needs, and serves as a guide to discern what projects are on the horizon. The document must be approved by the city’s planning commission, not the city council. The planning commission approved the most recent CIP at its Dec. 18, 2012 meeting. The city council then uses the CIP in its budget planning process.

Gosselin described it as a “moving document,” with more than 300 projects. It includes projects that are funded as well as those for which funding hasn’t yet been identified. She told commissioners that Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, had looked through CIP to find those where it might be appropriate to incorporate public art.

Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor’s public art administrator.

The CIP has been important to AAPAC because funding for the Percent for Art program has come from the city’s capital projects – with 1% of each capital project, up to a cap of $250,000 per project, being set aside for public art. And even though it now appears that the Percent for Art funding approach could be eliminated, the goal will still likely be to start planning the public art component as early as possible, as part of the project’s design, rather than as an add-on.

Seagraves reported that he had identified 30 projects in the CIP as having longer-term potential. [.pdf of long-term capital projects for possible public art] He had also identified a smaller list of 12 projects that AAPAC might consider for inclusion in its annual plan for fiscal 2014. [.pdf of FY 2014 CIP projects for possible public art] Those near-term CIP projects include the replacement of street lights along Main Street, the creation of a park at 721 N. Main, and renovations at the wastewater treatment plant, among others.

Commissioners didn’t discuss either these potential CIP projects or the public art annual plan in detail. The plan is due to be submitted to the city council on April 1 and would cover activities that AAPAC intends to pursue in fiscal year 2014, which runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014.

Even though the program’s future is unclear, commissioners have been advised to move ahead with their work on projects that have already been approved for funding, as well as with general planning efforts.

Seagraves recommended that commissioners email him with feedback and suggestions for the annual plan, so that he can prepare a draft for AAPAC’s March 27 meeting.

Outcome: This was not a voting item, and no action was taken.

Future of Public Art Program: Council Committee

Two days after AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting, the five-member city council committee on public art met to continue their work on possible revisions to two city ordinances that affect the public art program – Chapter 8 (organization of boards and commissions) and Chapter 24 (public art).

The 90-minute discussion focused on draft revisions that will be reviewed by the city attorney’s office. Councilmembers were continuing the work based on draft ordinance revisions and a memo of recommendations originally presented at the group’s Feb. 14 meeting. [.pdf of Feb. 14 draft revisions and memo, prior to most recent revisions]

The March 1 session was attended by AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin and Shoshana Hurand, program manager at the Arts Alliance. Also attending the meeting were Ann Arbor CFO Tom Crawford; Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator; and Christopher Frost, assistant city attorney.

Based on draft revisions, the Percent for Art funding mechanism would be eliminated. After current funds in that program are spent, the city’s public art fund “would cease to exist,” Crawford said.

Christopher Taylor, Sally Petersen, Ann Arbor city council, public art, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor city councilmembers Christopher Taylor and Sally Petersen at a Feb. 14, 2013 meeting of the council’s public art committee.

Instead, funding for public art projects likely would be handled in multiple ways. It would be included as part of individual capital projects – “baked in” to a project as part of its budget, to pay for architectural enhancements or artwork. The hope is also to raise money through private donations and grants, which would be deposited in an existing “pass-through” account for public art that’s administered by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF).

At the March 1 council committee meeting, Chamberlin reported that AAACF charges a management fee of about 1-2%, but the infrastructure for managing private donations and other non-city funds is already set up. The account had been originally created before the city’s public art ordinance was enacted. Chamberlin noted that the pass-through account is different from the endowment accounts that AAACF also manages, which are more restrictive in terms of how and when funding can be withdrawn.

The city’s possible new approach to funding has implications for how to pay for a public art administrator. Currently, the part-time position is paid for out of Percent for Art funds, because the administrator works on projects related to projects that are funded by the Percent for Art mechanism. At previous council committee meetings, the idea had been floated to use remaining Percent for Art funds as “seed money” for a full-time public art administrator, until new funding sources are identified. But on March 1, Crawford said that wasn’t possible – because of the “nexus” requirement that Percent for Art expenditures be linked thematically to their fund of origin. He said one of the most difficult challenges in this transition will be to find a reliable funding source to pay for administration of the public art program.

Crawford also cited the difficulty of involving a city employee in private fundraising – as well as other restrictions that would be placed on city expenditures. For example, city funds couldn’t be used to pay for alcohol at a fundraising event. He discussed the possibility of contracting with an outside entity to administer the public art program, similar to the contract that the city has with The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that manages the city’s greenbelt and parkland acquisition programs. This approach would provide more flexibility, he said.

Briere mentioned the nonprofit Arts Alliance, headquartered in Ann Arbor, as a possible entity that could handle such a contract. Shoshana Hurand, program manager for the alliance, indicated that they’d be willing to discuss the possibility, if that’s the direction that the city wants to head. She noted that the alliance has been contracted to work on public art planning for the Washtenaw Avenue corridor, using funding received through a more general grant from the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development. The alliance is also working with a donor who’s interested in public art projects for downtown Ann Arbor, she said, so the group is already involved in efforts related to public art within the city.

Teall supported exploring this approach, noting that the alliance – and its previous president, Tamara Real – had been involved in the initial stages of setting up the city’s public art program. The idea of contracting with that organization for administrative services was appealing, she said. She added that it would be important to retain transparency, if that’s the approach the city takes. She pointed out, as full disclosure, that Hurand is her neighbor and a co-founder of FestiFools.

FestiFools also came up in the context of a discussion about performance art. Committee members have struggled to define performance art, and their views differed on the use of city funds to support it. One of the criticisms of the Percent for Art approach is that it does not allow for funding of temporary art like exhibits or installations, events, or performance art. The current draft revisions have eliminated reference to performance art, but would include the ability to fund either temporary or permanent art.

Teall wanted to leave the door open for flexibility, but noted that dealing with temporary art could be an administrative nightmare. Chamberlin suggested that temporary art could be defined as existing at least three months, giving the example of Patrick Dougherty’s large woven stick sculptures that were installed temporarily on the University of Michigan campus several years ago. She said even if temporary art isn’t defined in the ordinance, it would make sense to have an administrative policy about it.

FestiFools – an annual parade down Main Street featuring large papier-mâché puppets – would be considered temporary art, Hurand said. She cautioned against being too restrictive in defining the term, and noted that there are a variety of experiential opportunities that the city might want to support – like the kind of thing that the Ann Arbor Summer Festival brings to town. If one of the city’s goals is to use public art for place-making, she said, then these kinds of things should at least be considered, whether they last one day, one month or three months.

The committee’s next meeting is set for Friday, March 15 at 11:30 a.m. at city hall. After that, there’s only one regular meeting of the full city council – on Monday, March 18 – before the moratorium on Percent for Art spending expires. That happens on April 1, unless it’s extended by the council.

It’s expected that the recommendations and draft ordinance changes brought forward by the committee to the full council will be further amended during council deliberations.

Huron River Awareness Project

Jason Frenzel, stewardship coordinator for the Huron River Watershed Council, attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27 meeting along with Jennifer Lawson, water resources manager for the city of Ann Arbor. They came to talk about a project that would raise awareness of how the city’s stormdrain system connects to the river.

Jennifer Lawson, Jason Frenzel, Huron River Watershed Council, Ann Arbor water utilities, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jennifer Lawson, water resources manager for the city of Ann Arbor, and Jason Frenzel, stewardship coordinator for the Huron River Watershed Council.

The idea has been done in other communities, Frenzel said: A competition to draw images and messages on the street around stormdrains, highlighting connections to the river. The Ann Arbor project is proposed in two stages, starting with a chalk art contest at the June 14 Green Fair on Main Street. Artists would use chalk art to draw images around the stormdrains along Main Street between Huron and William, with the winner selected by people who attend the fair. Frenzel said that local artist David Zinn, known for his chalk art installations, is willing to help as a consultant, and mayor John Hieftje has also indicated support.

The second phase of the project would entail working with neighborhoods, as part of HRWC’s stormdrain awareness program, to create chalk drawings around street stormdrains throughout the city, on a volunteer basis. The intent is for artists from phase 1 to help guide the work by neighborhood volunteers.

Expenses would be paid for at least in part out of the city’s stormwater fund, which includes money for educational efforts. There’s potential for funding from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority as well. [.pdf of AAPAC intake form for this project]

Frenzel joked that he hoped to get “emotional support” from commissioners, as well as help in spreading the word to solicit artists through AAPAC’s network. The effort might also include some staff time from Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Huron River Awareness Project: Commission Discussion

Commissioners generally expressed enthusiasm for the project. John Kotarski suggested that AAPAC endorse it, but Marsha Chamberlin reminded him that the commission doesn’t do endorsements. [After a lengthy discussion at its July 25, 2012 meeting, AAPAC passed a resolution stating that the commission would not make endorsements. Kotarski had cast the lone dissenting vote.]

Malverne Winborne pointed out that Kotarski could endorse the project as an individual, but the commission had decided that it wasn’t appropriate for the group to make official endorsements. There was a consensus at the Feb. 27 meeting, however, that AAPAC could partner with HRWC in this effort.

Connie Brown wondered how much time Seagraves could spare for the work. She noted that his is a part-time position. Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, told commissioners that any additional hours that Seagraves might spend on this project could be paid for from the stormwater fund.

Matt Utsunomiya, one of three Skyline High School students who were attending the meeting as part of a class assignment, suggested that artists could draw outlines that kids could color in with chalk, as a way to encourage more participation. Frenzel gave him a business card, and Winborne jokingly cautioned Utsunomiya that when you come up with an idea, “you own it.”

Outcome: No formal vote was taken, but commissioners reached consensus to partner with HRWC on this project.

Memorial for Coleman Jewett

Near the end of the meeting, John Kotarski mentioned an email sent by Marsha Chamberlin with her thoughts on how to proceed with a proposed memorial to Coleman Jewett. [.pdf of Chamberlin's email] The proposal that’s been floated in the community is to create a bronze Adirondack chair, to be located in the Ann Arbor farmers market where Jewett, a long-time local educator who died in January, sold furniture after he retired. A private donor has already committed $5,000 to the project.

John Kotarski, Connie Brown, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor public art commissioners John Kotarski and Connie Brown.

Kotarski said his understanding is that Sarah Gay is willing to take on many of the issues that Chamberlin raised in her email. [Gay is an arts administrator who grew up in Ann Arbor. She has attended some of the meetings of the Ann Arbor city council committee that's working on revisions to the city's public art program.] He said Gay has already taken action, including talking with some councilmembers about the memorial project.

Chamberlin pointed out that Gay is taking action at Kotarski’s “instigation.” He acknowledged that he had talked to Gay about it, but said she was eager to take it on and has already talked to Jewett’s family, the Ann Arbor DDA, and the city’s parks staff, which oversees the market.

When Chamberlin replied that AAPAC still needs to consider whether to accept this as a project, Kotarski said he wasn’t sure they needed to do that. He didn’t want the commission to become an impediment. Chamberlin countered that she didn’t think AAPAC was being an impediment, but it’s necessary to bring the project through AAPAC’s formal process in order to solicit donations, she said. The funds would be held in an account managed by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

At this point Malverne Winborne, on the advice of city councilmember Sabra Briere, moved to adjourn the meeting, as there was no longer a quorum. [Connie Brown had left before the discussion began, leaving only three AAPAC members at the meeting.]

After adjournment, the discussion continued. Chamberlin indicated that after AAPAC accepts the project, they can contact Gay about managing it on a pro bono basis. Winborne supported that approach, noting that it’s important to follow the process that commissioners have set up, and it takes discipline to do that. He said he doesn’t want to be a bureaucrat, but does take his role as commissioner seriously.

Kotarski argued that bureaucracy is fine, as long as it serves a purpose. He said his understanding is that Chamberlin will contact Gay and let her know what to do next. Chamberlin responded that it’s not up to Gay to do anything, and Winborne noted that he didn’t even know who she is.

Chamberlin pointed out that there’s a lot of sentiment to move ahead on this, but that the horse got ahead of the cart. She said she had already been meeting with the community foundation, when the foundation was also being contacted by Gay – it had been confusing and uncoordinated.

Kotarski replied that if Chamberlin wanted Gay to stop working on this, all she had to do was to tell Gay that.

Officer Elections, Vacancies

At the end of the Feb. 27 meeting, Marsha Chamberlin told commissioners that they’d be receiving a ballot by mail to vote for AAPAC officers. AAPAC’s bylaws call for the commission to hold officer elections for chair and vice chair in January, by secret ballot. From the bylaws:

Article VI Officers
Section 1. The officers of AAPAC shall be a Chair and Vice-Chair. The officers shall be elected by secret ballot each year from among the voting members of AAPAC. The officers shall be elected for a one-year term by a majority of the voting members currently serving on AAPAC. No member shall serve more than three (3) consecutive one-year terms in one office. The term of the officers shall run from the date of AAPAC’s regular meeting in January to the date of AAPAC’s regular meeting in January of the following year. [.pdf of AAPAC bylaws]

But when the agenda item was reached at AAPAC’s Jan. 23, 2013 meeting, only four commissioners remained at the meeting, so no vote was taken.

At the Feb. 27 meeting, Kotarski said his understanding was that the vice chair would become chair. Chamberlin replied that it’s not written into the bylaws, but in the past, commissioners have felt that it’s a good idea for the vice chair to become chair. She reported that Malverne Winborne, AAPAC’s vice chair, had agreed to be chair, if elected, and that Bob Miller had indicated a willingness to serve as vice chair. Miller did not attend the Feb. 27 meeting.

Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, Aaron Seagraves – the city’s public art administrator – stated that the election results would be announced at AAPAC’s March 27 meeting.

Seagraves also confirmed via email that Cathy Gendron had resigned from AAPAC earlier in the week. There are now three vacancies on the nine-member commission. According to city records, Gendron had served two full terms. She was first appointed to the Commission on Art in Public Places (CAPP) in 2007. CAPP was the predecessor to AAPAC. She was then reappointed to AAPAC in 2010 for a term ending on Dec. 31, 2012. Most recently, she had been reappointed to AAPAC at the city council’s Jan. 7, 2013 meeting for a third term through Jan. 20, 2016, but she had not attended the commission’s Jan. 23 meeting.

In response to a Chronicle email, Gendron wrote that she previously had agree to stay on the commission through March of 2013, but would be unable to attend AAPAC meetings and had decided to resign. ”It’s time for someone else to take my place.”

Project Updates

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, provided updates in a written report. [.pdf of administrator's report] The items were not discussed during the meeting. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Justice Center: The Ed Carpenter glass hanging sculpture in the lobby of this building, next to city hall at the corner of Huron and Fifth, is set to be installed starting May 25, during Memorial Day weekend. About 20% of the project’s $150,000 budget is being paid to entities in the Ann Arbor region, according to Seagraves’ report.
  • East Stadium Bridge: A task force has selected four artists as finalists for artwork on the East Stadium bridge, and have been invited to an April 1 site visit/open house. Those artists are: Volkan Alkanoglu, based in Atlanta, Georgia; Sheila Klein of Bow, Washington; Rebar Group of San Francisco; and Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. The project has a budget of $400,000.
  • Rain Garden: Two finalists are being interviewed in early March for artwork in the city rain garden at First and Kingsley. A recommendation from the task force will be brought to AAPAC’s March 27 meeting for approval. The names of the two finalists have not been released.
  • DIA Inside|Out: Installation on the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program artwork will begin on March 29 at these locations: Justice Center (Fifth & Huron); downtown fire station (Fifth & Ann); Lena (Main & Liberty); Kerrytown Market & Shops (Fourth & Kingsley); Sculpture Plaza (Fourth & Catherine); Zingerman’s Deli (Detroit & Kingsley); and the Liberty Street alley near Main Street.

Commissioners present: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, John Kotarski, Malverne Winborne. Also Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Absent: Bob Miller, Wiltrud Simbuerger.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. in the fourth floor conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [Check Chronicle events listing to confirm date]

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  1. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm | permalink

    “Chamberlin gave the example of the proposal for murals at the farmers market, calling it an imaginative idea but adding, “I’m not anxious to see cucumbers painted by third-graders.””

    From many of the projects Ms. Chamberlin has supported in the past, this would be a refreshing improvement. She should immediately apologize to every third grade artist in the City.

  2. By TJ
    March 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm | permalink

    I wonder if it’s too late to get some third graders to paint a giant cucumber for Festifools?

  3. By John Floyd
    March 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm | permalink

    Like a hairball on a rug? Is this what they mean by “Performance Art”?

    The funds from which % for “Art” dollars have been taken are generally restricted to some specific activity. Take, for example, storm sewer funds. Four times a year each property owner is charged for the amount of runnoff his/her property theoretically dumps into the storm sewer system. These user fees are intended to cover the cost of draining rainwater/snowmelt away from foundations and out of streets. Council, in its infinite wisdom, have decided that it is OK to use these funds for something other than draining runoff i.e., “Art”. Their argument is that as long as the subject matter is correct, it is OK to take our sewer fees and use them for not-maintaining sewers. The legal justification for this has never seen the light of day. When you ask for it, the reply is something like “Oh, you must be an art-hating barbarian. Just trust us, barbarian: we know, and you don’t”.

    The claim was made that the city attorney wrote a memo detailing the legal justification for this diversion of restricted funds. Is there a reason that we, who paid for it, cannot see the memo? As a bonus, I’d like to see it without being called names by elected officials and their appointees.

  4. By Observatory
    March 5, 2013 at 4:57 am | permalink

    Welcome back, John Floyd!

  5. By john floyd
    March 6, 2013 at 12:39 am | permalink

    Thanks, Observatory!

    Vacation’s over. I’m back to work.

  6. March 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm | permalink

    It’s never too late for third graders ( or anyone else for that matter) to paint giant cucumbers for FestiFools!

  7. By suswhit
    March 7, 2013 at 8:12 am | permalink

    I think third graders (and their supporters) should get organized and start plastering giant fruit and vegetable paintings all over town. Fight the oppression people!! /sigh/ Third graders just aren’t the guerrilla activists they used to be…

  8. By John Floyd
    March 7, 2013 at 9:37 am | permalink


  9. By Tom Whitaker
    March 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm | permalink

    “Marion Delgado! Live like him!”

  10. By Roger Kuhlman
    March 9, 2013 at 11:05 am | permalink

    What is the point of closing the front door ending the Percent for Art Program if you open the back door wide open for taxpayer funding of Public Art by “baking in” Art in city projects? The City of Ann Arbor should not be in the business of forcing all taxpaying residents of the city to pay for Public Art. Those people who want Public Art should pay for it themselves.