Council Takes Step to Remove 1% Art Funding

The Ann Arbor city council has taken the initial step toward changing the city’s public art ordinance, so that capital improvement projects are no longer required to set aside 1% of their budgets for public art – up to a maximum of $250,000 per project. The action came on May 13, 2013 at a meeting that had started on May 6.

If the ordinance change is given final approval by the city council at a subsequent meeting, the way that public art is funded in the city – through a Percent for Art approach – would fundamentally change.

The main change is to eliminate in the ordinance any reference to a specific percentage for art in a capital project budget. Also, art funds would not be pooled as they are now – which entails setting aside money from projects into which it would be difficult to incorporate public art. Under the amended approach, city staff would work to determine whether a specific capital improvement project should have enhanced design features “baked in” to a project – either enhanced architectural work or specific public art. The funding for any of the enhanced features would be included in the project’s budget and incorporated into the RFP (request for proposals) process for the capital project.

At the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting, a vote was taken to extend a moratorium on spending of public art funds – through May 31. The council had originally enacted the moratorium on spending at its Dec. 3, 2012 meeting.

The action to impose a moratorium came in the context of a failed millage proposal in November 2012, which was meant to provide an alternative funding mechanism to the Percent for Art approach. The millage proposal was put forward in part in response to objections that voters had not explicitly approved the Percent for Art mechanism, which taps all capital funds – even those deriving from fees and millages designated for other purposes.

At the Dec. 3 meeting, a committee consisting of Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) was appointed to recommend amendments to the city’s public art ordinance. The committee has met several times and has made recommendations on revisions to the ordinance.

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]