Commission Works on Public Art Planning

Ann Arbor public art commissioners prioritize capital projects that might be enhanced with public art; also, concerns raised over upcoming city council decision on public art funding

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Jan. 29, 2014): In a three-hour session, the public art commission worked on prioritizing capital improvement projects that might be suitable for public art.

Kristin "KT" Tomey, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

On Jan. 29, Kristin “KT” Tomey attended her first regular meeting of the Ann Arbor public art commission since being appointed by the city council on Jan. 6. (Photos by the writer.)

Some commissioners expressed frustration that they had insufficient information on which to base their evaluation. And after about two hours of discussion – using a scoring rubric with seven criteria – commissioners had evaluated only a few projects: artist-designed street access (manhole) covers, art for the Springwater subdivision, and art for the corridors of Main Street and Plymouth Road. Because there were still several other items on the agenda, they voted to postpone further evaluation of possible capital projects until their next meeting.

In other action, commissioners discussed and approved a draft annual public art plan that’s officially due to the city council on Feb. 1, for projects to be undertaken in the fiscal year that begins July 1. It includes projects that are underway – like artwork for East Stadium bridges and Argo Cascades – as well as a proposal to add some enhanced capital projects, like street access covers on resurfaced roads.

The draft annual plan had been prepared by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. Commissioners asked for some revisions and designated commissioner John Kotarski to work with Seagraves on a final version that will likely be presented to the council on Feb. 18. Kotarski praised the draft, saying “It has as much meat as anyone wants. It shows a lot of work. It shows an art commission that gets the message from an impatient city council.”

Commissioners also discussed a proposal from the Clean Energy Coalition to select and fund an artist who would help incorporate art into a new bike share program. They tabled action on this item, wanting additional information about the CEC’s expectations for funding.

This was AAPAC’s first regular meeting since Oct. 23, 2013, although they held a retreat in December and a planning session earlier in January. Throughout the evening, concerns were raised about the future of the public art program, in light of recent city council discussions. The council had postponed a requested six-month extension of Seagraves’ contract, and will be taking up that item on Feb. 3.

Also on the council’s Feb. 3 agenda is an amendment to the city’s public art ordinance. The amendment would allow the council to return about $800,000 accumulated under the city’s former Percent for Art program to the funds from which that money was drawn, such as the street millage or sanitary sewer fund. It’s the latest in an ongoing transition for the city’s public art program – a transition that’s been unsettling for public art commissioners.

The Jan. 29 meeting marked another transition for AAPAC, which has seen considerable turnover during the past year. It was the first regular monthly meeting for the newest commissioner, Kristin “KT” Tomey, who was appointed by the city council on Jan. 6. And it was the last meeting for Malverne Winborne, whose term ended on Dec. 31. He did not seek reappointment, and was serving until the position was filled. His replacement, Jim Simpson, is expected to be confirmed in a vote at the city council’s Feb. 3 meeting.

Winborne has served as vice chair of AAPAC – but the group held new officer elections on Jan. 29. Bob Miller was re-elected to another one-year term as chair, and John Kotarski was elected vice chair. There were no competing nominations, and both votes were unanimous.

Noting that the Jan. 29 meeting had been especially challenging, Miller thanked commissioners for their work. “This is probably the most belabored meeting I think we’ve ever gone through, aside from maybe one of the retreats,” he said. “I’m tapped out.” He jokingly cajoled commissioners: “Please do come back.”

Miller also encouraged students to return, as about two dozen students from Skyline High School – and some parents – attended the Jan. 29 meeting. “It’s the most amount of people we’ve ever had at any of our meetings,” Miller noted. One student pointed out that they were all from the same government class, facing a Jan. 31 deadline to attend a public meeting.

Future of Public Art Program

At the beginning of the Jan. 29 meeting, commissioners voted to amend the agenda – over the dissent of John Kotarski – to add an item for discussion about the interaction between AAPAC and the city council.

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

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s part-time public art administrator.

Bob Miller, AAPAC’s chair, reviewed the current discussion that’s underway at city council. At their Jan. 21, 2014 meeting, councilmembers were asked to approve a six-month extension to the contract for the public art administrator – a part-time position held by Aaron Seagraves. Some councilmembers were concerned about the transition from the previous Percent for Art funding mechanism to the new approach, where public art will be “baked in” to the city’s capital projects or done with money that’s raised through other sources in the community. Also raised at that Jan. 21 city council meeting was the issue of as-yet-unallocated funding that remains from the Percent for Art program – about $800,000.

Ultimately, councilmembers postponed action on Seagraves’ contract extension – and that item is now on the Feb. 3 council agenda. The Feb. 3 agenda also includes initial consideration of an amendment to the city’s public art ordinance, sponsored by Jane Lumm (Ward 2). The amendment would allow the council to return money accumulated under the city’s former Percent for Art program to the funds from which that money was drawn – such as the street millage or sanitary sewer fund. The ordinance change would need a second and final council vote at a subsequent meeting to be enacted. Any transfer of public art money would require separate council action after the potential ordinance change.

Miller noted that when the council made revisions to the public art ordinance to eliminate the Percent for Art funding mechanism at its June 3, 2013 meeting, the remaining funds had been intended to provide a transition for the program. [At that time, Lumm had also tried unsuccessfully to return the remaining Percent for Art money to its funds of origins, but she didn't get sufficient support on the council to make that change.]

Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator who attended AAPAC’s Jan. 29 meeting, added that it’s within the council’s “political prerogative to revisit that decision, which is what they are doing now.” He noted that when the council made changes to the program, they made no provisions to pay for arts administration. That’s why the contract extensions for Seagraves – who reports to Hupy – have been made.

If the council decides to return the roughly $800,000 to its funds of origin, Hupy said, it means there won’t be funds available during this interim period for public art. The intent going forward to include public art funding as part of certain capital improvement projects, but those are longer-term efforts. The other funding approach is to partner with outside organizations and do fundraising from the community, but that hasn’t yet gotten off the ground in a significant way. [It's also an option for the council to allocate money from the general fund to cover the salary of a public art administrator salary, but that option has not yet been publicly floated by city councilmembers.]

Nick Zagar, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Nick Zagar.

Hupy said that if the council doesn’t approve the current contract extension, then staff will be asking for a budget appropriation during the fiscal 2015 budget process for public art administration. That fiscal year runs from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. The staff is currently developing that budget, which will be brought forward to the council in the spring. “I’m not giving you a whole lot of clarity,” Hupy added, “because this is a process that’s in council’s hands.”

Hupy noted that the city council task force that brought forward a proposal last summer to restructure the public art program had envisioned a three-year transition process. “So to think you’re going to whip this in one or two meetings – you’re not going to do it that quickly,” he told commissioners.

Miller added that it’s still “muddy” as to how AAPAC will be structured to do fundraising and partnerships with outside organizations. He noted that some projects – a Coleman Jewett memorial, and the Canoe Imagine Art project, for example – are already using this approach. “So we’ve been moving toward this new model,” Miller said, “but the council still hasn’t figured out how to house the commission in a structure that will allow for us to be fundraising.” He noted that commissioners shouldn’t be the the people who go out and raising money – they should be advising the city on how to select art projects.

Nick Zagar expressed concern about the current status of AAPAC. “We’re volunteers trying to do things we’re passionate about, but there’s never any certainty about things.” And if the city eliminates the public art administrator’s position, “everything I’m sure will grind to a dramatic halt,” Zagar said. It’s hard to want to invest a lot of energy into the program, he added, given that commissioners don’t really have a clear direction about the program’s future.

Miller agreed, and said those questions will have to be answered by the council on Feb. 3. “Public art has been a hot topic since it started,” he said. “It would be nice if [the public art program] had some consistency behind it, for sure.”

Selection of Capital Projects for Public Art

On Jan. 22, AAPAC met in a planning session focused on fine-tuning a criteria and scoring rubric for prioritizing capital projects that could possibly have a public art component. [.pdf of draft scoring rubric]

Craig Hupy, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator.

The rubric is modeled after a similar system that’s used by city staff to score and prioritize projects in the capital improvements plan (CIP). Commissioners had been briefed on the CIP process at their Oct. 23, 2013 meeting by Deb Gosselin, who oversees the CIP process.

The draft rubric includes seven categories, with scoring on a scale of 1-10: (1) distribution of art throughout the city; (2) locations of high use and high visibility; (3) placemaking; (4) integrated artwork (whether artwork can be integrated into a project or location); (5) partnerships; (6) funding; and (7) programming – whether a school or other organization could develop programs related to the artwork.

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, had selected 10 projects that are in the city’s current capital improvements plan (CIP) – three starting in fiscal 2015, and seven starting in fiscal 2016.

Those capital projects and possible public art enhancements proposed by Seagraves are:

  • Annual street resurfacing (FY 2015): artist-designed street access covers (manhole covers) for the city’s water, sanitary sewer and stormwater systems.
  • Sidewalk gaps (FY 2015): Sidewalk stamping.
  • Mid-block street crossing improvements, pavement marking and sign replacement (FY 2015): Art to-be-determined for the streets.
  • Six specific road projects (FY 2016): East Stadium Boulevard from Huchins to Kipke; Springwater subdivision (south of Packard, west of Platt); Main Street (non-motorized corridor); Plymouth Road (non-motorized corridor); Stone School Road improvements; Packard/Eisenhower, from Stone School to Platt. Artwork would be integrated into the projects.
  • Ann Arbor Station (FY 2016): Art would be integrated into the project.

Seagraves noted that he focused on projects that could be included in the annual plan that AAPAC is required to submit to the city council in February. The intent is that the capital projects, when sent to the council for budgetary approval, would include funding for public art to be integrated into the work. He hoped that commissioners could reach a consensus score to prioritize these projects.

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

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Ashlee Arder.

Commissioners spent about two hours discussing only a few projects on this list: street access covers, art for the Springwater subdivision, and art for the corridors along Main Street and Plymouth Road.

Some commissioners expressed frustration at having to score these items without having a specific project proposal to evaluate. When Seagraves asked who would define the project at this point, John Kotarski suggested that Seagraves would do that, and it would then be evaluated by commissioners. Malverne Winborne agreed: “We need something to grasp on to, and we don’t have it.”

Seagraves noted that it would be difficult to predetermine the art projects – that would be the work of a task force, after AAPAC identifies a CIP project for enhancement. Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, explained that AAPAC at this point needs to rate the location or type of project and its suitability for art, rather than the specific artwork that might be part of a capital project.

Kotarski felt there was inadequate information to do the scoring. Bob Miller, AAPAC’s chair, directed Seagraves in the future to include photos of the locations, and some suggestions for possible art projects that might be appropriate. But Winborne expressed concern that this would be taking away from the artist’s creativity. “We’ve had long conversations about that,” he noted. “It seems like we’re sort of discounting that now, saying ‘We’ll do it.’” Winborne noted that there’s been turnover on AAPAC, so many of the current commissioners weren’t part of those previous discussions.

Ashlee Arder urged commissioners to focus on the information that they had, rather than on the information that wasn’t available yet. “We realize there are a lot of holes,” she said. Hupy reiterated the purpose of this process – to rate a site or capital project with regard to its potential for public art. Kotarski argued that without a concrete art project in mind, “it’s going to be very difficult for us to do that, in a meaningful way.”

There also was discussion at various points about definitions in the scoring criteria, and a consensus that the rubric needs to be tweaked. It emerged that some commissioners had different understandings of what the criteria meant.

At one point, to expedite the process, Kristin Tomey suggested eliminating some of the categories – like funding, for example, since all projects incorporated into a capital project would presumably receive funding from the city. She also suggested using walkability scores as part of the scoring, using the website Walk Score. It can help identify locations that are high use, she said. Three categories – distribution of art within the city, visibility, and placemaking – seemed like those that AAPAC should focus on, she added.

Miller suggested presenting the rubric to the city council, with notes indicating that there are certain aspects of the rubric that will be modified. Hupy supported that approach, saying it was understandable that there would be changes to the process, because this was the first time that AAPAC had done it.

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

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Devon Akmon.

Hupy told the commissioners that they are suffering from what happens to other groups that go through this process: It’s very difficult at first, but gets easier as they score more projects. “It’s a process of learning,” he said. Hupy noted that the council has asked for staff to report back about AAPAC’s selection process – the rubric that the commission has been developing to help prioritize capital projects that could possibly be enhanced with public art. “So the work you’ve been doing is following the transition as laid out in the ordinance.”

Hupy also offered to bring back more supporting materials for commissioners to help them evaluate capital projects, and pointed out that nothing is set in stone at this point – they can revisit their decisions.

Nick Zagar also requested maps showing the location of existing public art – including art on the University of Michigan campus – to make it easier to tell what neighborhoods or areas don’t have public art. Devon Akmon suggested putting that information online, as a resource for commissioners but also as a marketing tool for the public.

Tomey recommended standardizing the presentation of material to commissioners, so they could be sure they had the information they needed.

After nearly two hours, Akmon pointed out that the group hadn’t finished scoring the 10 CIP projects that Seagraves had brought forward – and they still had most of their agenda to move through, in addition to that. He suggested postponing discussion of the other CIP projects, and tackling only two or three per meeting. “It’s a little fatiguing,” he said, describing the effort as almost like urban planning, with public art as the next step.

Miller agreed, saying “we’ve been stifled by this process.”

Hupy noted that in refining this scoring rubric, it might make sense to focus on locations as a first step, then looking at a public art concept as a second step. There seemed to be some consensus about taking this approach.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to postpone further evaluation of the possible CIP projects that might be enhanced with public art. They’ll take up the task again at a future meeting.

Public Art Annual Plan

In the past, the public art annual plan was required to be submitted to the city council by April 1. But at AAPAC’s April 24, 2013 meeting, commissioners voted to recommend shifting that date to Feb. 1 – a move intended to allow the council to make budget decisions based on recommendations from AAPAC. Shifting the date of the annual plan was linked to a major restructuring of the city’s public art program, which is still underway. The city council subsequently made revisions to the public art ordinance – Chapter 24 of the city code – that included the Feb. 1 deadline for submitting the annual plan. From the city code:

(2) The oversight body shall:

(B) By February 1 of each year, submit to City Council a plan detailing potential projects and desirable goals to be pursued in the next fiscal year, including enhanced projects and any proposed expenditure of donated, grant, or other funds. The plan shall also include a recommendation as to which projects from the current Capital Improvements Plan are appropriate for designation as enhanced projects; …

On Jan. 29, Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, presented a draft annual plan for fiscal 2015. He hoped AAPAC would approve that night, so that it could be forwarded to the city council. [.pdf of draft FY 2015 annual plan]

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

Ann Arbor public art commissioner John Kotarski.

John Kotarski characterized the draft as one of the best plans that AAPAC has ever created. It’s thorough, covering everything that the commission has done, and has a plan for moving forward, he said.

“It has as much meat as anyone wants,” Kotarski added. “It shows a lot of work. It shows an art commission that gets the message from an impatient city council.”

Bob Miller then asked about the wastewater treatment plant project that was included in the draft plan. “I don’t want to include it,” Kotarski replied, saying that the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum had withdrawn a proposal to partner on artwork at the new plant.

Six other ongoing public art projects were listed in the draft plan:

  • Completion of the public art project at East Stadium bridges. Artist Catherine Widgery was recommended by a selection panel, and is completing modifications to the original design. The final design will be brought forward for additional public input, and will need approval by AAPAC and then by the city council. Installation is expected in FY 2015. The project’s total budget is $400,000.
  • Completion of public art at Argo Cascades. The selection panel has tabled proposals by the previous two finalists, and is reviewing other options for that site. No recommendation has yet been made to AAPAC. The total budget is set at $150,000.
  • Public art at Arbor Oaks Park. This project is in partnership with Bryant Neighborhood Association and the nonprofit Community Action Network, which is under contract with the city to run the Bryant Community Center. It will involve participation of the neighborhood in the design and creation of the artwork. A grant application to help fund this project was submitted to the Southeast Michigan Community Foundation in November 2013. No city public art funds have been allocated, and additional funding is expected to be raised through community donations.
  • Canoe Imagine Art. AAPAC has approved $10,000 in funding for this community art project – a temporary art display in downtown Ann Arbor using old canoes from the city that would be repurposed as public art. The installation is expected to take place in fiscal 2015 or 2016, depending on funding. The project also has received a $21,000 grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and organizers plan to raise additional funds from private donors.
  • Coleman Jewett Memorial. A bronze replica of an Adirondack chair made by Coleman Jewett will be located at the Ann Arbor farmers market. Jewett was a long-time local educator who died in January of 2013. After he retired, he made furniture that he sold at the Ann Arbor farmers market. AAPAC has committed $5,000 to the project, which has a total project of $36,000. Other funds will be raised from private donations, including a contribution from the Old West Side Association.
  • Graphics for Control Boxes. Called “PowerArt,” this project involves wrapping about 40 traffic signal boxes in the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority 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. AAPAC approved $20,500 for the first year as a pilot project. The project is being administered by the Arts Alliance in response to a DDA request.

In addition, Seagraves hoped to include some projects from the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), which commissioners had discussed and started to evaluate earlier in the meeting. Kotarski suggested stating in the annual plan that AAPAC is working on a rubric and practicing the application of that rubric on potential projects – that it’s a work in progress.

Seagraves proposed including three projects from the FY 2015 CIP. Commissioners agreed, noting that there had been consensus on these projects during their earlier discussion:

  • Annual street resurfacing (FY 2015): artist-designed street access covers (manhole covers) for the city’s water, sanitary sewer and stormwater systems.
  • Sidewalk gaps (FY 2015): Sidewalk stamping.
  • Mid-block street crossing improvements, pavement marking and sign replacement (FY 2015): Art to-be-determined for the streets.

Seagraves also recommended including dollar amounts to fund these projects – $60,000 for access covers and $60,000 for sidewalk stamping. Kotarski expressed concern that there wasn’t sufficient justification at this point for any particular amount. Seagraves said he’d research the cost so that he could include it in the plan.

Miller proposed that AAPAC approve the annual plan at that night’s meeting, contingent on revisions that Seagraves would make. Kristin Tomey asked whether commissioners could vote on the plan via email, after Seagraves made revisions. [The answer is no. Even if the public art commission were analyzed as a purely advisory body under the Michigan Open Meetings Act that would not allow the commission to ignore the OMA. That's because of a policy approved by the city council in 1991, which states that such groups are still expected to conform to the spirit of the OMA – to the best ability of that entity’s members. For more background on this issue, see "Column: A Reminder on Open Government."]

Malverne Winborne suggested that the commissioners approve the draft plan, then empower one commissioner to work with Seagraves on the final revisions. Miller asked Kotarski to take on that task.

Outcome: Commissioners approved the draft annual plan, and authorized John Kotarski to work with Aaron Seagraves in making final revisions.

The expectation at the Jan. 29 meeting was that the annual plan would be submitted to the council on Feb. 3. Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle on Jan. 30, Seagraves said that the plan will instead be on a future agenda, possibly on Feb. 18.

Bike Share Program

AAPAC was asked to consider a proposal from the Clean Energy Coalition to select an artist who would work to incorporate art into a new bike share program. [.pdf of CEC proposal]

The bike share program, with a planned launch in the summer of 2014, will include 14 stations and 125 bikes at locations in downtown Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus.

In part, the proposal states:

CEC seeks a local artist to join the bike share team and contribute to several areas of the Ann Arbor bike share project. Specifically, CEC proposes to work directly with the Art Commission to select a local artist to work on the program. The artist would fill an integral role within the planning and launch processes currently in motion. In addition to standard graphic design work for promotional purposes, the artist will have the opportunity to design a collection of maps to feature bike share stations and local elements. The artist would also participate in marketing meetings and other planning activities to ensure that art is a deliberate and consistent attribute of the bike share program.

The position will run from late winter through the summer launch of bike share. CEC hopes to embrace the city’s vibrant culture of artists and creativity to design a unique identity for the bike share program, and commissioning a local artist is the ideal way to build this brand. This position would likely require 10-15 hours per week to attend partner meetings and produce the desired materials. CEC requests that the Public Art Commission cover the cost of the artist’s time and materials needed to produce artwork for the program. CEC will offer office space, make connections to program partners, and serve in a project management role to provide as much guidance as needed.

Nick Zagar questioned whether AAPAC could select a local artist. Bob Miller replied that the call for artists is open to anyone, and it’s up to the task force to select an artist – local or not. Miller began to elaborate, saying, “Speaking candidly about that…” He was cut off by John Kotarski, who cautioned: “I wouldn’t speak candidly, because your candid comments might very well be published.”

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

Bob Miller, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission.

Miller replied, saying “This is not something that’s secret. Dollar amounts sometimes dictate who gets involved.” [His point was that if a budget is low, it won't likely attract applicants from outside the area.] Kotarski noted that Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, had indicated it would be possible to select an artist as a “sole source provider” for a particular project. An open call for proposals, however, can’t be restricted geographically, he said. If AAPAC picked a single artist as a sole source provider, they’d have to explain why that particular artist has been selected. Kotarski said that Hupy had reviewed this process with the city attorney’s office too. [Hupy had left the meeting by this point.]

Zagar said it seemed like CEC was really looking for a graphic artist.

Commissioners also discussed where the funding might come from, if they pursued this project. In response to a suggestion from Miller, Kotarski expressed skepticism that the city council would allocate money from the city’s general fund. “Let’s bring it up at the next [council] meeting, when they’re sending the money back,” Kotarski quipped – a reference to the Feb. 3 council resolution that, if approved, would return remaining Percent for Art money to its original funding source.

Kotarski recommended that AAPAC endorse the project and help in any way they can, but without committing dollars to it.

Ashlee Arder noted that there were a lot of unanswered questions regarding the proposal, such as what kind of funding the CEC is requesting. She compared it to the much more detailed proposal that Deb Polich had provided for the PowerArt project. [.pdf of PowerArt proposal, made by Polich at AAPAC's Sept. 25, 2013 meeting.]

Miller said the commission would be hard-pressed to make a decision on this, without additional information. Kotarski added that AAPAC would be hard-pressed to spend any additional money at all, other than the projects that are in progress.

Kristin Tomey wondered about the process by which proposals like this are brought forward to AAPAC. Miller replied that in the past, most proposals haven’t provided the level of detail that AAPAC would like to see.

By way of background, the commission has previously developed a project intake form as a template for new projects. The project intake form is posted on AAPAC’s website. However, some commissioners have criticized the current process. The issue was debated at AAPAC’s Sept. 25, 2013 meeting. From The Chronicle’s report:

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 [Marsha] 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 [for PowerArt] 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 [Aaron] 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.

At the Jan. 29 meeting, Kotarski said he’d like to endorse the CEC bike share project, but that at this time AAPAC couldn’t commit any funding to it. Malverne Winborne reminded Kotarski about previous discussions that AAPAC has had about not endorsing projects. [The issue of endorsements arose when AAPAC was approached about endorsing a large Whirlydoodle installation. At AAPAC's July 25, 2012 meeting, Kotarski was unsuccessful in convincing other commissioners to support an endorsement policy for non-city-funded art projects. After a lengthy debate, AAPAC passed a resolution at that meeting stating that the commission would not make endorsements – and Kotarski cast the lone dissenting vote. There has been considerable turnover on the commission since that time.]

Winborne explained to new commissioners that there had been concern about “scope creep” at a time when AAPAC was trying to focus on moving forward with projects funded by the city’s Percent for Art program. Kotarski told Winborne that he’d take back his recommendation to endorse the bike share program.

Kotarski then moved to table the item until AAPAC received more information about the proposal.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to table the CEC bike share proposal.

Officer Elections

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]

Bob Miller has served as chair for the past year, and offered to serve again. There were no other competing nominations.

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

Malverne Winborne attended his last meeting as an Ann Arbor public art commissioner on Jan. 29.

The current vice chair, Malverne Winborne, is stepping down from AAPAC. He did not seek reappointment after serving one three-year term, and the Jan. 29 meeting was his final one. John Kotarski was nominated as vice chair, and there were no competing nominations.

Votes were taken on slips of yellow paper and tallied by Winborne.

Outcome: Bob Miller and John Kotarski were unanimously elected as chair and vice chair of AAPAC.

At the city council’s Jan. 21 meeting, Jim Simpson was nominated to fill the vacancy of Winborne on the public art commission. Winborne’s term ended on Dec. 31, 2013. A confirmation vote on Simpson’s appointment is expected at the council’s Feb. 3 meeting.

Simpson works with the software firm Duo Security in Ann Arbor, and is affiliated with Baron Glassworks in Ypsilanti.

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

Absent: Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 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. February 1, 2014 at 8:29 pm | permalink

    The original vision for Percent for Art was bold, if poorly executed. The premise was that winning communities could attract success (as in new investment and tourism, plus a sense of place and quality of life) by expressing a high-toned sensibility to art. And also create opportunities for local artists to find employment and venues. The idea was to have stunning works that would inspire the soul and would create a timeless identity for Ann Arbor.

    So what do we have as current aspirations? Vinyl wraps on transformer boxes. Manhole covers. Sidewalk stamping.

    Please, let’s kill this sad thing. It has become funds in search of an application.

    No reflection on the citizens who have given their time and thought to serving on the commission. The program had conceptual and structural problems from the beginning, stemming in part from the awkward attempts to avoid the illegalities based on the Bolt decision. That forced the program into attempting to show relevance of the money diverted to the programs affected.

    Let’s have sewers and stormwater mains, not “artistic” manhole covers.

  2. By John Floyd
    February 1, 2014 at 10:20 pm | permalink

    Well put, Vivienne. Many people enjoy art; that doesn’t make the present scheme good, for the reasons you capture so well.

    Thank you also for articulating the exact issues without resorting to sweeping negative statements about anyone’s character, intentions, or human worth. I wish this kind of public utterance were more common.

  3. February 2, 2014 at 1:09 pm | permalink

    I bet something is in the works for this Monday, I saw Mr. Miller and Sally Hart Petersen meeting this past week over a pile of paperwork – hopefully they were working out a way to return the skimmed money to it’s rightful place. We also need to kill the two projects that are in limbo, for the Stadium Bridges and the Argo Cascades. No need to spend $550,000 just because $21,000 was squandered on the selection process to date. Cut our losses, and terminate those contracts.

    The public art commission had until Feb. 1st to devise and present a plan, and it has not done so. Part of this plan should have been identifying sources of funding outside of tax dollars to insure the future of the program. This has not been done, either. Enough is enough. Thank you for your service, goodbye.

  4. By Roger Kuhlman
    February 3, 2014 at 12:58 am | permalink

    I have no idea why certain people think it is all right to force all property owners in Ann Arbor to pay for Public Art if they do not wish to do so. Public Art is clearly not a basic city service that should be funded by everyone in Ann Arbor. It is a luxury item that should only be funded by voluntary individual choice!

  5. By abc
    February 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm | permalink


    Back in a thread from an article dated October 3rd, 2011, we had a discussion about an evaluation rubric that had been proposed for use in determining which proposal might be better than another. That rubric had been proposed by the AAPAC Committee in March of 2011 but was never adopted. I was then a little surprised to read in this report that they now have a new rubric and are trying to use it. Had they drafted this at a past meeting and I missed it being reported? Or is this the first time it is being seen? Do you know who wrote it? I did note that it said ‘draft’.

    From the article, “The draft rubric includes seven categories, with scoring on a scale of 1-10: (1) distribution of art throughout the city; (2) locations of high use and high visibility; (3) placemaking; (4) integrated artwork (whether artwork can be integrated into a project or location); (5) partnerships; (6) funding; and (7) programming – whether a school or other organization could develop programs related to the artwork.”

    I cannot help but notice that if you look at the whole rubric (the pdf) that the first item has the goal to “Ensure artwork is installed broadly across the city and is decentralized”. The second item has the goal to “Provide the best opportunity for the most people to experience public art”. Of course the two goals are in opposition to one another; if the projects are decentralized they will not provide the best opportunity for most people to experience them.

    I point this out because even if you want this endeavor to succeed, whether with public or private funds, there are serious structural problems with how these projects are being evaluated. For example, the goal for rubric item #3 is to, “Provide for the transformation of a place, through art, by addressing the meaning and significance of the place’s identity”. But one of the, as yet unbuilt, pieces is to decorate the space under a bridge. Spaces under bridges have been enhanced with art (graffiti) all over the country for decades and decade and none, in my opinion, has become ‘a place’ as a result; and some of the graffiti is really quite good. These spaces can yield some interesting photographs but I would contend that none rise to the level of being transformed into a place, mainly because they were never designed to be places. They are still just spaces underneath a bridge. And there is $400,000 set aside for this project.

    Trying to force art through this rubric, like the last, is a fool’s errand. Forcing art through any rubric has issues; re-watch that scene in “Dead Poets Society” where Robin Williams makes the class tear out the introduction in their poetry books.

    Robert Hughes wrote,” Pleasure is the root of all critical appreciation of art…”

  6. By Jack Eaton
    February 3, 2014 at 1:20 pm | permalink

    Re (3), Mr. Hayner, I hope your comment “…I saw Mr. Miller and Sally Hart Petersen meeting this past week…” was not meant to imply something nefarious. I, too, met with Mr. Miller this last week. It is my understanding that he met with a number of Council members. We had a nice chat and I found him to be well informed.

    The effort to return restricted funds to the accounts from which they originated is a compromise. As you may recall, Council member Lumm tried to accomplish this last year but was unable to attract sufficient support. There is no guarantee that the compromise will attract enough support this year.

    Every compromise requires each side to give up something they might otherwise want. This compromise will allow the previously approved plans to proceed while returning about $839,000 to the appropriate restricted accounts. It is not perfect, but it may just be possible. I hope that it does not offend you that members of Council with divergent views are looking for that middle ground.

  7. By Mary Morgan
    February 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm | permalink

    Regarding the history of rubrics to evaluate potential public art: Yes, AAPAC has previously developed a rubric that was different from the one now being used. That original effort was led by Malverne Winborne, who didn’t seek reappointment. This new version is the result of last year’s city council decision to end the Percent for Art funding mechanism, and replace it in part with a different funding link to the city’s capital projects. AAPAC will be recommending which capital projects should also have public art “baked in” to the design. So city staff suggested that AAPAC develop a new rubric based on the one that staff uses to prioritize projects for the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP). The staff member who oversees that CIP process, Deb Gosselin, has met with AAPAC a couple of times, most recently at their Oct. 23, 2013 meeting.

    That October meeting was the last regular one they’ve held until the one on Jan. 29. The regular meetings in November and December were cancelled, although AAPAC did have a retreat in December that I couldn’t attend because of scheduling conflicts with another public entity I cover. The retreat was held on Dec. 4 at the Gallup Park meeting room. AAPAC also held a planning session on Jan. 22 – Dave Askins attended that because I had another schedule conflict, and we didn’t write up a report on that meeting. It focused on doing a “dry run” of the new rubric, which had been drafted by Aaron Seagraves with help from other city staff. The rubric might have also been discussed at the Dec. 4 retreat, but I don’t know.

    Based on my observations and on what Dave described to me of the planning session, commissioners are aware of the tensions that you highlighted in this new process. I think that’s one of the reasons they struggled with the evaluation of projects on Jan. 29, and why they intend to revise it.