Art Commission Supports “PowerArt” Project

Partnership with Ann Arbor DDA, Arts Alliance would put artwork on downtown traffic signal boxes; also, public art commissioners approve funding for Coleman Jewett memorial, Canoe Imagine Art project

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Sept. 25, 2013): The main item on this month’s AAPAC agenda was a request to partner with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority on a project called “PowerArt,” to be administered by the Arts Alliance.

Marsha Chamberlin, Devon Akmon, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor public art commissioners Marsha Chamberlin and Devon Akmon. Akmon is AAPAC’s newest member, and was attending his first commission meeting on Sept. 25. Chamberlin is the longest-serving commissioner. (Photos by the writer.)

The project would involve wrapping about 40 traffic signal boxes in the DDA district with vinyl printed replicas of artwork. The initial pilot phase would focus on 14 boxes at a total cost of $41,000, to be split between the city and the DDA. That cost includes a 30% administrative fee paid to the Arts Alliance, which is based in Ann Arbor. Another $80,000 would be needed for the final phases.

Deb Polich, executive director for the Arts Alliance, told commissioners that the DDA board is expected to vote on the project at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Commissioners were supportive of the project, but concerned about how to approach the funding, given constraints tied to the remaining Percent for Art funds. “I want to make sure we don’t step in something that we then get slapped for,” Marsha Chamberlin said.

Ultimately, commissioners unanimously voted to approve participating in the PowerArt project, contingent on the city’s legal review of potential funding sources.

AAPAC also authorized allocations for other projects that have been discussed for several months. They approved $10,000 for a community project called Canoe Imagine Art, and $5,000 for a Coleman Jewett memorial at the Ann Arbor farmers market. Both of these projects will rely on grants and private fundraising for the majority of their budgets.

Action on three other projects was tabled, as commissioners wanted more detailed proposals before allocating funds. Those projects were: (1) artwork for a roundabout at State & Ellsworth; (2) a community art project at Arbor Oaks Park, adjacent to Bryant Elementary School; and (3) a proposal for enhancing the fence along the south side of Scio Church Road, between Maple and Delaware.

These projects prompted some discussion about broader issues, included the process that AAPAC uses to vet proposals. Ashlee Arder, one of the newer commissioners, advocated for continuing to develop a more structured approach. “I do think we need to have a larger conversation or retreat about who we are and what we’re trying to do here,” she said.

The commission has been grappling with a transition to a new funding model for public art, after the city council voted to eliminate the previous Percent for Art mechanism this summer. That model set aside 1% of the budget for each of the city’s capital projects for public art – up to a cap of $250,000. Because that money was taken from restricted funds – such as millage funds for parks or street improvements –  a thematic link must exist between the funding source and the public art expenditure. About $840,000 in Percent for Art funds remain available for projects, but there will be no additional Percent for Art funding.

Instead, the city has adopted an approach in which city staff will work with AAPAC to determine whether a specific capital improvement should have enhanced design features “baked in” to the 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. There is also an increased focus on private fundraising and partnerships.

On Sept. 25, commissioners also received several updates from Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. He reported that a reception is planned for Thursday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. to dedicate the hanging sculpture Radius, located in the Justice Center lobby next to city hall. Oregon artist Ed Carpenter is expected to attend.

And two finalists for artwork at Argo Cascades – Jann Rosen-Queralt of Maryland and Mags Harries & Lajos Heder of Cambridge, Mass. – will be coming to town on Oct. 17 to present their conceptual designs to the public. A task force will make a recommendation to AAPAC on which of the artists to select for the project.

The Sept. 25 meeting was the first one for AAPAC’s newest member, Devon Akmon. Appointed by the Ann Arbor city council on Sept. 3, 2013, Akmon is director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

“PowerArt” Project

John Kotarski introduced a proposal by the Arts Alliance called “PowerArt.” [.pdf of PowerArt proposal] The city could be partnering with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority on this, he said. He introduced Deb Polich, executive director of the Arts Alliance, to provide more details.

Polich started by saying the Arts Alliance can’t take credit for this project, because it was proposed by the DDA, working with AAPAC chair Bob Miller. The DDA had asked the Arts Alliance to develop a proposal, she said.

The proposal calls for wrapping about 40 traffic signal boxes in the DDA district with vinyl printed replicas of artwork.

Deb Polich, Arts Alliance, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Deb Polich, executive director of the Arts Alliance, made a presentation to AAPAC about the proposed PowerArt project.

The city of Boise, Idaho was a case study for this project, Polich said. That city rolled out the project in phases, she noted, which heightened interest. Boise’s project also resulted in less graffiti on the signal boxes as well as in the surrounding area, she said.

The intent would be for the artists to retain the copyright to their work, she explained, and a licensing agreement would be negotiated to allow the Arts Alliance to use the work. It wouldn’t necessarily require an artist to create a new work, she noted – the image could be taken from an existing piece.

It’s also important to compensate the artists thoroughly, Polich said, so the payment proposed for the artist – $1,400 per box – is about twice the amount that the vendor would charge to make the vinyl replica and install it.

The proposal calls for three cycles, beginning with a pilot project. After review and evaluation, the project would move into the next two cycles over a three-year period. Beyond that, it’s possible that the project could be rolled out into other parts of the city, not just downtown.

Polich told commissioners that she’d made a presentation to the DDA’s operations committee earlier in the day, and that that committee plans to bring the proposal to the full board for a vote at its Oct. 2 meeting. [Polich's husband, Russ Collins, is a member of the DDA board.]

Depending on when the project is approved, the proposal lays out a six-month timeline for the pilot project. The pilot would be for 14 boxes in locations with high pedestrian traffic.

Regarding the budget, Polich noted that it includes $50 per box for maintenance, although she expects maintenance costs will be low, based on Boise’s experience. The licensing fee to artists would be $1,400 per box, with another $650 per box for printing and installation. The other major expense would be a 30% administrative fee for the Arts Alliance, which totals $9,100 for the pilot phase. Work would include negotiating licensing deals, marketing and other tasks. For later cycles, the administrative fee would be slightly lower, at 25% of the total cost.

The work would be selected by a jury, Polich said, which would include volunteers as well as people that she described as “fence sitters on the public art scene.” Engaging them in this kind of process might give them a different perspective on public art, she said. There would also be a crowd selection component for four of the boxes in the pilot phase, with artwork selected by an online vote of the public.

Polich noted that Ward 2 is the only one of the city’s five wards that isn’t part of the DDA district, but all other wards would be part of this project.

“PowerArt” Project: Commission Discussion

Bob Miller clarified that it’s not a city project, so AAPAC would just be deciding whether to provide financial support. Connie Brown wondered who would own the artwork, saying she’d like that to be clarified as the project moves forward.

Bob Miller, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bob Miller, AAPAC chair.

Marsha Chamberlin noted that the commission has previously discussed whether to endorse projects, noting that the issue arose when AAPAC was approached about endorsing a “whirlydoodle” project. The commission had decided not to make endorsements. On one level, Chamberlin said, AAPAC could be viewed as endorsing this PowerArt project. “We just need to know that this is something to address,” she said.

Chamberlin said she loved this project. But given the constraints that the city attorney’s office has put on AAPAC, “are we OK with putting city money into this?” she asked. For example, she said, the city attorney’s office has told AAPAC that it can’t limit the artist solicitations to local residents – the call for proposals must be open to artists nationally. Polich indicated that the Arts Alliance would be willing to accommodate that, if necessary, although the original proposal called for seeking Washtenaw County artists.

Kotarski said that in his view, AAPAC is selecting a sole source vendor – the Arts Alliance. The alliance would be picking the artists, not the city, he said. So he didn’t think the same constraints that Chamberlin described would apply.

Miller joked that “the nuts and bolts all kind of fell out of the engine, as Aaron [Seagraves] and I started talking about this.” City funding for this project doesn’t work, Miller continued, because the Arts Alliance didn’t win this project on a competitive bid, as the city requires. No request for proposals was issued. So the city can fund specific parts of the project, he said, such as the vendor who actually wraps the signal boxes, because that vendor would be selected through a competitive bidding process.

But the other part of the project can’t be funded through remaining Percent for Art funds, he noted. Instead, he suggested using unencumbered funds being held by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

Kotarski referenced a discussion that he and Miller had earlier in the day with Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator. Hupy had indicated that it would be possible to fund the project with remaining Percent for Art street funds, Kotarski said, but Hupy had planned to check with the city attorney’s office about it.

Boise, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Corrected after initial publication: Not an example of a vinyl-wrapped traffic box with artwork by David Spear. This image was included in the Arts Alliance proposal for the PowerArt project. This image was actually hand-painted by Spear.

Connie Brown clarified that the DDA is also a unit of the city. In that case, she said, she didn’t see why there are complications with the city funding the project, via AAPAC, while the DDA didn’t appear to have that same issue. Kotarski reiterated that Hupy didn’t think it should be a problem for the city to participate, but that Hupy wanted to doublecheck with the city attorney.

Brown didn’t think AAPAC should be put in a position to determine whether the funds could be used legally. She suggested that AAPAC could simply vote on the project, then let the city staff determine the appropriate funding sources.

Chamberlin said it’s a cool project, and AAPAC gains from having partners like the Arts Alliance and DDA. But given the delay of the Canoe Imagine Art and Coleman Jewett memorial projects – because of the time it takes for the city attorney’s office to review these projects – “I want to make sure we don’t step in something that we then get slapped for,” she said. She’d rather take the time to make sure it’s cleared with the city attorney’s staff, or to hear directly from Hupy that it’s fine to move ahead on this project.

Miller said he’d be comfortable with that approach.

Kotarski asked Polich if it would be a problem to table the proposal for a month until AAPAC’s Oct. meeting, in order to sort out the funding issue. That would be fine, Polich replied. “We’re ready to move whenever we need to move, but it’s not going to hurt us one way or another.”

Miller asked Seagraves to clarify with Hupy whether the project can be funded with remaining Percent for Art street funds.

Malverne Winborne made a motion to approve the PowerArt pilot project in partnership with the Ann Arbor DDA and the Arts Alliance, contingent on legal review regarding potential funding sources. Kotarski supported that approach, saying it would show the DDA that AAPAC is serious about the project.

Polich said the Arts Alliance has looked into this very thoroughly, but she recognizes that it’s still a proposal and there are a lot of moving parts. The alliance is willing to work with AAPAC and the DDA to make sure it all works smoothly, she said.

Kotarski hoped that the project could be limited to local artists, if at all possible.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the PowerArt project, contingent on legal review of potential funding sources. The pilot project would entail a $20,500 contribution from both the city and the DDA.

Canoe Imagine Art

Marsha Chamberlin gave an update on a community project called Canoe Imagine Art. At a special meeting on March 7, 2013, AAPAC had voted to participate in the project, but did not commit to providing any funding at that time. On Sept. 25, Chamberlin brought forward a proposal for AAPAC to contribute $10,000. [.pdf of project intake form]

Canoe Imagine Art, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Canoe Imagine Art logo.

The project will use 30 old aluminum canoes from the city of Ann Arbor’s Argo canoe livery, which 10 artists and 20 community groups will turn into artwork that will be displayed throughout the downtown in 2014. Partners in the project include the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Main Street Area Association (MSAA), the Arts Alliance, and the Huron River Watershed Council.

Chamberlin noted that AAPAC had “money in the bank” to fund this kind of project, and approving it would demonstrate the commission’s ability to mobilize and get things done, “because that’s certainly a criticism we’ve been subjected to,” she said. More importantly, Chamberlin added, this represents a large-scale, temporary type of project that many councilmembers have talked about wanting to see. The total budget will be about $100,000, including a lot of in-kind contributions. But organizers of the project also plan to apply for grant funding, she said, and it’s compelling to show that the project already has support from the community.

Connie Brown supported the project, describing it as a fun effort that involves partnerships with other community groups.

John Kotarski said he liked the project, but he wanted to see it presented as a more formal proposal, akin to the packet that had been prepared by the Arts Alliance for the PowerArt project. Chamberlin replied that she had previously provided a written proposal several months ago. [.pdf of canoe project memo presented in March 2013] She said she’d be happy to prepare an updated document, but organizers were applying for a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs that needed to be completed by Sept. 30.

Kotarski indicated that he understood the deadline, but hoped that Chamberlin could follow up with a proposal to AAPAC that used the Arts Alliance proposal as a model.

Brown noted that Kotarski was likely to make similar comments for all of the projects on the agenda. One-page intake forms had been prepared for each of the projects, but not more elaborate proposals. She wondered whether someone on the city staff – possibly public art administrator Aaron Seagraves – could assemble the kind of proposals that Kotarski wanted.

Chamberlin pointed out that several people on the commission were involved in the Canoe Imagine Art project, as were city staff, and she had thought that the previous material provided to AAPAC was sufficient. But she told Kotarski that she would help prepare a more detailed document, if that was what the commission wanted.

Seagraves noted that commissioners needed to discuss the source of funds for this $10,000. It could come from remaining Percent for Art pooled funds for parks, since some of the canoe art would be located in city parks. However, there is also about $10,000 in an account held by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, he said. It had been given by a private donor and intended for a project in 2001 that was never competed. In 2005, the money was made available for any public art project in downtown Ann Arbor, but it hasn’t yet been used.

If AAPAC decided to use these funds for the Canoe Imagine Art project, it would free up remaining Percent for Art parks funds for other projects, Seagraves said. The majority of the canoe art would be located along downtown streets, so Seagraves recommended using the community foundation funds.

Bob Miller indicated that other projects – like the PowerArt proposal – might make use of the foundation funds. He suggested voting to agree to spend $10,000 on this project, but not to identify a specific funding source at this time.

Seagraves said the commission could vote on a funding source at its October meeting.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to spend $10,000 on the Canoe Imagine Art project, with the specific source of funding to be determined later.

Coleman Jewett Memorial

Marsha Chamberlin also gave an update on the memorial for Coleman Jewett. [.pdf of Jewett memorial intake form]

At a special meeting on March 7, 2013, AAPAC had voted to accept developing the memorial for Coleman Jewett as an official AAPAC project. The original proposal was for a bronze Adirondack chair at the Ann Arbor farmers market. Jewett was a long-time local educator who died in January. After he retired, he made furniture that he sold at the Ann Arbor farmers market. A private foundation has committed $5,000 to create a memorial at the market, in the form of a bronze replica of one of Jewett’s Adirondack chairs.

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

From left: Public art administrator Aaron Seagraves and John Kotarski, a member of the Ann Arbor public art commission.

A memorandum of understanding has been negotiated between the Jewett family, the city, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, which will act as a fiduciary for fundraising. The plan now calls for two full-sized replicas in bronze, at an estimated cost of $15,000 each. Materials for fundraising have been developed, and about 300 personalized letters to potential donors will be sent out soon, Chamberlin said.

The donor who has indicated an intent to contribute $5,000 to the project had asked for a detailed proposal, Chamberlin said, adding that she had provided the proposal several weeks ago but hadn’t heard back from him. She recently learned that he’s out of the country, so the city still doesn’t have a formal commitment on those funds.

The total budget is estimated to be $30,000 to $35,000. Chamberlin proposed allocating $5,000 of AAPAC funds to help kick off the additional fundraising.

As he did during the Canoe Imagine Art discussion, John Kotarski said he’d like a more elaborate proposal for this and all projects that come to AAPAC for approval. He thought that the fundraising materials that Chamberlin had developed might serve that purpose.

Chamberlin pointed out that this project was approved about six months ago and has been discussed at virtually every meeting since then. “I just assumed people were up to speed on it,” she said.

Kotarski said his intent isn’t to get AAPAC up to speed. Rather, this kind of documentation will show the public that AAPAC was thorough in its work, before making decisions. He said he was critical of all the intake forms, and he’d emailed Aaron Seagraves with his comments. “I think our approach now is shoot, ready aim,” Kotarski said. “We are making decisions before we really, fully have a fleshed out concept and idea.” He’d like to change their approach, and said the Arts Alliance proposal provides a good model.

Chamberlin replied that the commission had developed the process of using project intake forms, so it should be a commission decision if they want to change that approach. These projects have been documented and presented to the commission at previous meetings, she noted.

Connie Brown felt that Kotarski was raising a broader issue, and she agreed that going forward, each project should have a more detailed packet of material. Bob Miller asked Seagraves to provide that type of packet in the future.

Chamberlin noted that this would dramatically change the process that AAPAC has developed. That process entails initial approval by AAPAC to move ahead on a project, followed by the formation of a task force to flesh out a more detailed proposal, on which AAPAC then votes.

After further discussion, commissioners reached consensus for Seagraves to compile more detailed proposals for AAPAC projects.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to allocate $5,000 from the remaining Percent for Art parks funds to the Coleman Jewett memorial.

Artwork in Arbor Oaks

At AAPAC’s June 26, 2013 meeting, commissioners approved setting up an exploratory task force for possible artwork in the Arbor Oaks Park, located in the Bryant neighborhood on the city’s southeast side. [.pdf of Arbor Oaks intake form] Task force members include public art commissioners Malverne Winborne and Nick Zagar; Derek Miller, deputy director of the nonprofit Community Action Network (CAN); and CAN board member David Jones, as well as local residents.

Malverne Winborne, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Malverne Winborne.

Public art administrator Aaron Seagraves reported that the task force met on Sept. 5, although neither of the public art commissioners could attend. The task force reviewed some examples of projects in other communities, he said, and talked about the kind of artwork they’d like to see in the park, which is adjacent to Bryant Elementary School. The project is envisioned as more of a community arts project, Seagraves said, similar to the mosaic mural that was completed at Allmendinger Park last year. It would involve an artist working with community members to design and create the artwork.

The request is to allocate $5,000 to the project from remaining Percent for Art parks funds. The idea is to raise private funds in addition to the city’s funding.

Connie Brown raised a broader issue, asking how AAPAC should decide whether to fund only a portion of a project, or to provide all the funding. She noted that AAPAC had funded the entire project at Allmendinger, and her inclination for the Arbor Oaks project is to fund more than just a small portion of it.

Marsha Chamberlin characterized it as a larger planning question. She noted that this project is very different from Canoe Imagine Art, where corporations will be approached for fundraising. It might be more appropriate for the city to fully fund projects like the one in Arbor Oaks, she said, and for AAPAC to develop criteria for that – like neighborhood participation.

John Kotarski wondered what would happen if no money were raised, and only $5,000 had been allocated to the Arbor Oaks project. “Are we setting it up for failure?” he asked. He said he’d be more comfortable having more description of the project, and a better sense of the budget. He pointed out that the Allmendinger Park mural was totally funded by the city, at $12,000.

Brown noted that the previous projects AAPAC had voted on during the meeting – Canoe Imagine Art and the Coleman Jewett memorial – were very well developed. She said she’s in favor of the Arbor Oaks project, but wants to make sure it’s funded appropriately.

Chamberlin pointed out that AAPAC has already accepted this as a project.

Bob Miller said there’s value in crowdsourcing, to engage the community. It’s worth investigating how that might happen. He asked Seagraves to develop a more detailed proposal, before AAPAC allocated any funding.

Chamberlin moved to table action on the funding allocation.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to table the funding proposal.

Scio Church Street Fence

Aaron Seagraves presented a proposal for enhancing the fence along the south side of Scio Church Road, between Maple and Delaware, including the I-94 overpass. [.pdf of fence intake form] The city is planning for installation of sidewalks along that stretch and will also be installing a fence there as part of that project.

The city staff was planning to install a standard kind of chain link fence, but Craig Hupy – the city’s public services area administrator – thought there might be an opportunity for something more creative, if AAPAC wanted to explore that possibility. The construction work would likely occur next summer. The budget for the fence enhancement was recommended to be between $40,000 and $80,000 from the remaining Percent for Art street funds.

Ashlee Arder, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Public art commissioner Ashlee Arder.

When Bob Miller asked for a more detailed proposal, Malverne Winborne pointed out that these projects begin with the initial step of an intake form, which gives a very brief overview of the concept. Devon Akmon observed that it seems like a two-step process, with this initial step simply confirming whether AAPAC wants to move forward with a project.

Commissioners again discussed whether they needed more information at this point in the process, and how to vet projects before investing significant time in developing a fuller proposal. Aaron Seagraves offered to put together a more detailed proposal for AAPAC’s October meeting.

John Kotarski explained to Akmon, AAPAC’s newest member, that the funds for this project would come from the remaining Percent for Art funds, which won’t be replenished after they’re spent. In the future, the funding will come from partnerships, fundraising and any money that the city council allocates to “enhance” capital projects. He noted that the remaining Percent for Art funds must be spent on projects that are tied thematically or physically to the funds of origin. “It’s an entanglement that the council felt was too much, and [the Percent for Art approach was] dissolved,” he said. “We’re trying to reinvent a ship that’s left port, and it’s challenging.”

Ashlee Arder supported a more organized proposal process. That will help everyone conceptualize the projects, she said, and will force the person who’s bringing forward the project to think about everything that’s involved in it, in terms of time and resources. Everyone has ideas, but do they have the capacity to implement them? “I do think we need to have a larger conversation or retreat about who we are and what we’re trying to do here,” she said.

Akmon suggested defining the parameters of the types of information AAPAC needs, in order to make decisions about which projects to move forward. Miller said it sounds like the idea is to make a template for making a proposal, so everyone knows what’s expected. He asked Seagraves to develop such a template.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to table the Scio Church fence project.

Roundabout at State & Ellsworth

Artwork for the new roundabout at South State and Ellsworth had been initially approved in concept by AAPAC, but without a budget attached to it. Aaron Seagraves reported that the roundabout will be finished soon.

Bob Miller noted that action had been suspended on this project because AAPAC had wanted to tie it into the city’s South State Street corridor plan. He wasn’t sure about the status of that plan, and said that if it’s not moving forward, then AAPAC should go ahead and take action on artwork for the roundabout. [By way of background, both the planning commission and city council have approved the South State Street corridor plan to be added to the city's master plan. The council took that action on June 15, 2013.]

Seagraves reported that although the plan has been approved, many of the recommendations won’t be implemented for several years.

John Kotarski suggested tabling it until AAPAC can get more information. He asked Seagraves to provide a report with some options about how to proceed.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to table action on possible artwork for the State & Ellsworth roundabout.

Forest Avenue Plaza

An item on the Sept. 25 agenda requested that AAPAC reallocate the previously approved budget for public art at the city’s Forest Avenue Plaza, putting the funds back into pooled Percent for Art parks funds. The action would also remove its status as an AAPAC project.

AAPAC had previously accepted this as a project at its Aug. 22, 2012 meeting, allocating between $10,000 to $35,000. The intent had been to work with the city’s parks staff and the Ann Arbor DDA to improve the plaza, which is located next to the Forest Avenue parking structure near South University.

Bob Miller said there had been buy-in on this project and several meetings were held over the past year, but when Percent for Art funding was suspended, the parks staff moved ahead with renovations there without incorporating public art.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to remove the project and return the allocation to the pooled Percent for Art parks fund.

Project Updates

Several other projects were discussed briefly during the Sept. 25 meeting, by way of updates. Additional information was also included in a written report by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. [.pdf of Seagraves' report] These projects were either already in progress when the city council temporarily halted spending on public art late last year, or don’t use Percent for Art funds.

Here are some highlights.

Project Updates: Annual Planning

The city is beginning its update of the capital improvements plan (CIP). Deb Gosselin, who manages the CIP process, will attend AAPAC’s Oct. 23 meeting to talk about how the process works. Gosselin had previously attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27, 2013 session, when she gave an overview of the CIP process.

Seagraves noted that under the city’s new approach to funding public art, the CIP process will directly affect the planning for public art. Projects in the CIP are eligible for public art “enhancements,” if approved by the city council.

The CIP will also start the process for developing AAPAC’s annual plan for the next fiscal year, which is due Feb. 1, 2014.

Project Updates: Radius Reception

A reception is planned for Thursday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. to dedicate the hanging sculpture Radius, located in the Justice Center lobby next to city hall. Oregon artist Ed Carpenter is expected to attend.

Project Updates: Argo Cascades

Two finalists for artwork at Argo Cascades are Jann Rosen-Queralt of Maryland and Mags Harries & Lajos Heder of Cambridge, Mass. They will be coming to town on Oct. 17 to present their conceptual designs from noon to 2 p.m. at city hall. The presentations will be recorded by Community Television Network, and will include feedback from the task force.

Task force members are John Kotarski, Malverne Winborne, Cheryl Saam, Margaret Parker, Cathy Fleisher, Bonnie Greenspoon, Julie Grand, and Colin Smith. The project has a budget of $150,000.

Project Updates: East Stadium Bridges

In early August, Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. was recommended as the artist for public art on the East Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor. She was picked by a selection panel from four finalists who had submitted proposals for the project, which has a $400,000 total budget. [.pdf of Widgery's proposal]

Seagraves reported that the selection panel provided feedback to Widgery, who subsequently revised her proposal. Members of the panel are Wiltrud Simbuerger, Bob Miller, Nancy Leff, David Huntoon and Joss Kiely. A conference call with the artist was held on Sept. 6 with panel members to discuss the proposal. [.pdf of panel feedback]

The new design incorporates glass paneled louvers with tree images in three locations on and under the bridge, to connect the locations thematically.

John Kotarski reported that he and Bob Miller will be taking this latest design to some of the city’s boards and commissioners for feedback, before the task force makes a recommendation to AAPAC. They had done similar outreach before Widgery was selected as the artist for this project. The intent is to create community buy-in before a project is finalized. It would need final approval by the city council.

Project Updates: First & Kingsley Rain Garden

At their Aug. 28, 2013 meeting, commissioners had approved Joshua Wiener‘s schematic design for public art at a planned rain garden, to be located at the southeast corner of First & Kingsley. [.pdf of staff memo, including itemized budget] On Sept. 25, Seagraves reported that Wiener continues to finalize designs, for installation in the spring.

The Denver artist is working with landscapers to incorporate public art into a new rain garden at that location, which is in a floodplain. The project has a $27,000 budget, though the artist’s contract would be for $23,380.

Wiener visited Ann Arbor on July 15 to present his design to the public. His proposal is for sculptures showing the outlines of five fish. They’re small mouth bass, in different sizes, made of white epoxy-painted steel and pointed toward the Huron River. The largest sculpture will be just under 8 feet tall, 20 feet wide and about 5 feet deep. Two of the fish will be large enough to serve as benches.

Commissioners present: Devon Akmon, Ashlee Arder, Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin, John Kotarski, Bob Miller, Malverne Winborne, Nick Zagar. Also: Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. in the basement conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [Check Chronicle events listing to confirm date]

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  1. By abc
    September 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm | permalink

    I have not made it all the way through this piece yet but I did get through the PowerArt part and I also looked at Boise’s program. Did anyone on the AAPAC notice that Boise stuck art on about 40 things in a 100 acre area of the city and we are proposing to do this to 40 things in a 600 acre area of our city? Do you think that that might make for a different experience?

  2. By Janet James
    September 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm | permalink

    “Partnership with Ann Arbor DDA, Arts Alliance would put artwork on downtown traffic signal boxes” -clearly too much money in the hands of the DDA and the Arts Commission. It is really time for both of them to be disbanded.

  3. By Mark Koroi
    September 30, 2013 at 9:24 pm | permalink

    I have opposed the One Per Cent For Art ordinance on the grounds that it is not legal. A number of persons, including Councilperson Steve Kunselman, have voiced doubts regarding the legality of the program.

    Here is a good analysis of the legality of the ordinance:

  4. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 1, 2013 at 7:52 am | permalink

    “For example, she said, the city attorney’s office has told AAPAC that it can’t limit the artist solicitations to local residents – the call for proposals must be open to artists nationally.”

    Could we see a copy of this written guidance or was it the usual ‘verbal’ no paper trail advice?

  5. By Kathy Griswold
    October 1, 2013 at 9:48 am | permalink

    I recommend a review by City traffic (transportation) engineering before we place art near intersections and crosswalks. Some of the existing utility boxes block sight distance at intersections, including the utility box for the new hawk signal on Jackson. Art will create an additional distraction and may make it more difficult for drivers to differentiate a person next to or behind the box from the art.

    Pedestrian crashes have increased in Ann Arbor to 60 in 2012 and 63 in 2011 from 45 in 2010 and 42 in 2009, per We must adhere to national best practices in transportation engineering and place the art where it enhances the downtown environment.

  6. October 1, 2013 at 10:05 am | permalink

    An earlier program involved painting fire hydrants. The result, in my opinion, has been visual clutter. We are introducing ugliness into our landscape, not beauty.

    The DDA should attend to sidewalks and leave “art” alone.

  7. By Donald J. Salberg
    October 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm | permalink

    I share Kathy Griswold’s concern about the traffic box artwork presenting a distraction to drivers passing by. Similar concerns were voiced about placing large electronic advertising billboards on school property adjacent to busy roadways. The Ann Arbor Public School administration rejected the signs for safety reasons.

    In addition, I find the traffic box artwork created by David Spear, which is pictured above, to be ugly and I am concerned about the art selection process used to place artwork anywhere in Ann Arbor.

    Thank you,

    Don Salberg

  8. By Mark Tucker
    October 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm | permalink

    The idea that offering an assortment of public plumbing fixtures, electrical control boxes, sewer covers, etc., as an ideal place to showcase artistic talent has run its course and now verges on being disrespectful to artists. I wish this type of “gallery” for creative content would cease to exist. Dangling carrots in front of artists to decorate canoes, paint fiberglass cows/horses/footballs(hockey pucks next?)has little to do with supporting the arts and everything to do with trying to generate tourism and deflect graffiti. We’ve all seen it before in other cities–the peeling ones are the best–so rehashing these themes here in Ann Arbor seems truly unimaginative. If we would just concentrate on soliciting talented artists, and pay attention to what they wish to create and where they want to present their creations, we might actually end up with public artwork in this town worth championing–and seeing.

  9. By Curious
    October 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm | permalink

    The city leaders and their buddies on all the commissions continue to dodge the bullet in this overly trustful and/or apathetic community. The vote against the public art millage left the PerCent for Art program intact, then, in large part due to community opinion and problematic political infighting between people who wanted to stop wasting money and people who couldn’t get enough of wasting it, the percent for art program was ended (while still leaving almost a MILLION dollars for its “administration.” Now they STILL have this public art waste program whereby anyone can decide they can spend ANY amount of money on public art to be “baked in.” END THE PUBLIC ART PROGRAM. DISBAND THE PUBLIC ART COMMISSION.