Stories indexed with the term ‘public art ordinance’

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 … [Full Story]

Public Art Group Faces “Interesting Times”

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (April 24, 2013): Pushing ahead despite a somewhat uncertain future, public art commissioners took two actions tied to the city council’s pending overhaul of Ann Arbor’s public art program.

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

Bob Miller, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, looks at a copy of Professional Quarterly Magazine, published by the Michigan Recreation & Park Association. The cover features a photo of Argo Cascades, for a feature story on Michigan’s unique recreational venues. A public art project for Argo Cascades is in the artist-selection stage. (Photos by the writer.)

AAPAC voted to change the submission date of its annual public art plan to the city council, making it synch more closely with the process of developing the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP). Rather than submitting the art plan by April 1, that date has been pushed up to Feb. 1 – a move that will allow the council to make budget decisions based on recommendations from AAPAC.

Shifting the date of the annual plan is linked to a major restructuring of the city’s public art program. A city council committee has been developing a proposal for revisions to the public art ordinance – including elimination of the Percent for Art funding mechanism. The proposal is expected to appear on the council’s May 6 agenda.

At its April 24 meeting, AAPAC also recommended one more ordinance change that they hope the council will consider: Adding up to two student commissioners to the nine-member body. The goal is to involve a younger demographic and to reach a segment of the community that’s not currently active in AAPAC. Commissioners approved a memo that will be sent to the city council to recommend this change.

During a discussion about these and other changes to the program – including a shift to more private fundraising and partnerships – AAPAC chair Bob Miller observed that there might be a couple of years during this transition when “we won’t be making public art.” John Kotarski ventured that AAPAC’s role is to be visionary and to act as an advisor, “as opposed to a cashier.” Ashlee Arder, one of the newest commissioners, suggested that AAPAC consider how to rebrand itself, as it becomes a more participatory entity. Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, noted: “I think you’re walking into interesting times.”

In other action at the April 24 meeting, commissioners heard updates on a wide range of projects, including the Ed Carpenter sculpture that will be installed at the Justice Center over Memorial Day weekend. Finalists for the East Stadium bridge artwork will be making formal presentations of their proposals on June 7, and the artist selected in March for artwork in the Kingsley & First rain garden will be coming to town sometime in May for a public meeting at the site. A project spearheaded by the Huron River Watershed Council – to raise awareness of how the city’s stormdrain system connects to the river – has extended its deadline for artist submissions to May 14.

The commission is also accepting nominations until May 21 for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, recognizing contributions to public art.

AAPAC chair Bob Miller reported that Maureen Devine has been suggested to replace Wiltrud Simbuerger, who resigned in March. Devine’s name has been submitted to the mayor, who is responsible for making nominations to most of the city’s advisory boards and commissions. Devine is art coordinator for the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex (NCRC).

The meeting started 30 minutes late for lack of a quorum, after it was clarified that commissioners had to be physically present in order to vote. Malverne Winborne participated in the meeting via conference call, but did not vote. [Full Story]

Public Art Commission Seeks Student Input

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (March 27, 2013): Public art commissioners hope to involve more students in their work – but no formal mechanism is yet in place to make that happen.

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

Ann Arbor public art commissioners Connie Brown and John Kotarski at AAPAC’s March 27, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

At AAPAC’s most recent meeting, John Kotarski proposed adding three students to the nine-member commission as voting members. He suggested that the student commissioners be selected by: (1) the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education; (2) the dean of the University of Michigan School of Art & Design; and (3) the Arts at Michigan program. Deb Mexicotte, president of the AAPS board, is also program coordinator for Arts at Michigan.

Ultimately, commissioners passed a resolution on a 5-1 vote asking that the city council consider adding students to the commission. Marsha Chamberlin dissented, saying she supported the concept of student involvement but didn’t like this approach. She’d rather handle it informally, perhaps by including students in the task forces that are set up for each project.

Chamberlin also noted that any change in AAPAC’s composition would require a revision to the city’s public art ordinance.

The city council committee that’s currently undertaking dramatic revisions to the public art ordinance has nearly completed its work, with plans to present recommendations to the full council on May 6. The recommendations include eliminating the Percent for Art funding mechanism and the concept of “pooled” funds from capital projects. Instead, the city council will designate specific capital projects to be “enhanced” with extra funding allocated for public art or architectural features, based on recommendations by AAPAC. [.pdf of draft ordinance revisions] [.pdf of most recent memo to city council regarding draft recommendations]

This Chronicle report includes a summary of the council committee’s April 18 meeting, which is probably the last one prior to presenting the recommendations – likely on May 6. The committee is suggesting that the council take a final vote on June 3, after soliciting public input through A2 Open City Hall.

In other action during the March 27 meeting, AAPAC approved its annual art plan. This year, because of uncertainty regarding the program’s future and a current moratorium on spending, the plan sets general goals rather than proposing new projects. Those goals are: (1) the creation of public art in more areas of the city and a commitment to balance the number of artworks throughout the city and its neighborhoods; (2) a focus on high use and visibility as locations for public art; and (3) an emphasis on putting public art in underserved neighborhoods.

AAPAC also selected Josh Wiener, an artist from Denver, to work with landscapers and incorporate public art into a new rain garden at the corner of Kingsley and First. The $27,000 project was one of several for which funding had already been approved, prior to the council’s decision to temporarily halt spending on public art.

Commissioners discussed a range of other ongoing projects, including public art at the East Stadium bridge, Argo Cascades and the Justice Center lobby. A project that doesn’t include city funding is the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside|Out program. Installation of that artwork in Ann Arbor took place two days after AAPAC’s March 27 meeting. Framed replicas of paintings from the DIA collection were mounted at several locations in the downtown area, and free docent walking tours will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays, starting on April 27. The tours will leave from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum every half-hour between noon and 3 p.m.

Looking ahead, Chamberlin reminded commissioners that it’s time to solicit nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which recognize local contributions to public art. The award winners are selected by AAPAC, with a presentation at an Ann Arbor city council meeting in June.

March 27 was the first meeting for AAPAC’s two new commissioners, Ashlee Arder and Nick Zagar. Arder, who works for ArtServe Michigan, took action during the meeting to set up a Twitter account for the commission: @AAPublicArt. [Full Story]

Deliberations on DDA Pave Way for Final Vote

Ann Arbor city council meeting (April 1, 2013): The council’s first meeting in April featured some progress on items that have appeared repeatedly on its agenda in the last several weeks.

From left: Jane Lumm (Ward 2), assistant city attorney Mary Fales and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

From left: Jane Lumm (Ward 2), assistant city attorney Mary Fales and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). (Photos by the writer.)

After two postponements, the council gave initial approval to a set of changes to the ordinance that establishes the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The changes can be divided into those that affect board composition and those that relate to the computation of the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture.

The tax calculations have implications of roughly $1 million a year for the DDA and the taxing jurisdictions whose taxes are captured by the DDA. Those taxing jurisdictions include the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Community College and the Ann Arbor District Library. The vote was 7-3, as mayor John Hieftje, Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) voted no. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) was absent. The final vote will likely come at the council’s April 15 meeting. Councilmembers are not obligated to vote the same way the second time around.

The council also wrapped up an issue that has appeared on its agenda for several meetings. At its March 18 meeting, the council had finally decided not to enact a moratorium on site plan applications in D1 (downtown core) zoning districts. Instead, the council had directed the planning commission to conduct a review of D1 zoning. But councilmembers had left open the question of the exact scope of work and the timeframe for its completion by planning commissioners. At the April 1 meeting, the council allowed the commission six months, until Oct. 1, to review the following: the appropriateness of D1 zoning on the north side of Huron Street between Division and South State and the south side of William Street between South Main and Fourth Avenue; the residential premiums; the zoning for the University of Michigan Credit Union parking lot.

Other business was further delayed by the council. At the developer’s request, the council postponed for a second time the 413 E. Huron project, a proposed 14-story, 216-apartment building at the northeast corner of Huron and Division streets. That project will come back before the council at its April 15 meeting. A new public hearing on the 413 E. Huron site plan application was started on April 1 and will continue on April 15.

The council also postponed a second and final vote on changes to the city’s sign ordinance. The changes would prohibit any new billboards, and allow only a limited range of digital signs. That won’t come back before the council until May 6. Several people addressed the council during the public hearing. All of them worked for Adams Outdoor Advertising, and spoke in opposition to the changes. Because of the postponement, the council extended a moratorium on digital sign applications, which has now been in place for a year.

The council also extended a moratorium on spending of monies that have been set aside under the city’s Percent for Art ordinance. A revision to that ordinance, which would likely eliminate the public art set-aside but still allow for aesthetic elements to be built into a project, is expected to be brought forward in the next few weeks. The public art ordinance revisions are being crafted by a council committee that was tasked with that responsibility in December of 2012.

At its April 1 meeting, the council also approved contracts for renovations at the Gallup Park canoe livery, and the Argo and Geddes dams. In addition, the council approved a lease for additional parking in connection with the Argo Cascades.

Other business at the meeting included council approval of the notice to issue bonds for the city’s drinking water system. The council also authorized contracts in connection with street reconstruction and sidewalk repair work for the 2013 season. [Full Story]

Shaping Ann Arbor’s Public Art Landscape

Ann Arbor public art commission retreat (Feb. 26, 2012): At a four-hour retreat on Sunday, the nine-member public art commission began developing a master plan to guide the allocation of Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art funds and the selection of future public art projects.

Wiltrud Simbuerger, Aaron Seagraves, Bob Miller

Ann Arbor's public art administrator, Aaron Seagraves (center) talks with public art commissioners Wiltrud Simbuerger and Bob Miller at the commission's Feb. 26, 2012 retreat. The four-hour session was held at the NEW Center on North Main. (Photos by the writer.)

The Percent for Art program, overseen by AAPAC, allocates 1% for public art from all of the city government’s capital projects. The program faced potential cuts by the city council last year, though a majority of councilmembers ultimately voted against decreased funding. There’s also been criticism that the commission, which was formed in 2008, has been too slow in funding works of art. The commission itself has seen recent turnover, with three new commissioners appointed since late 2011.

It’s in this context that AAPAC decided to work on a master plan – the retreat was a step toward that goal, though it’s expected to take several more months to complete. Meanwhile, the commission is also preparing an annual plan to approve at its next meeting, on March 28, with a list of specific projects it intends to pursue in the coming fiscal year. The public art ordinance requires that the annual plan be submitted to the city council by April 1.

Sunday’s retreat covered a broad range of topics. Commissioners discussed the need to address all aspects of their mission, as spelled out in the ordinance – including education, outreach and promotion of public art. John Kotarski, one of the newest commissioners, proposed a motto to reflect that goal: “The educated resident is the best consumer of public art.”

Questions were raised about whether Percent for Art funds could be used for outreach and promotion – in the past, AAPAC has been told by city staff that funding is restricted to permanent capital projects. Kotarski advocated for including temporary projects, such as an artist-in-residence program or events like FestiFools. If the ordinance doesn’t currently allow temporary work, he suggested amending it.

When Kotarski urged the commission to seek clarity from the city attorney’s office, Tony Derezinski – a commissioner who also serves on the city council – said the city attorney’s staff is already working on legal opinions related to questions from councilmembers. He indicated that the legal staff would be willing to attend a future AAPAC meeting to answer these questions.

Also during the meeting, Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, presented preliminary results of an online survey of residents, which yielded 437 responses. [.pdf of preliminary survey report] In response to one of the questions – “Where are the public places in the city that would benefit from a public art project?” – the top three responses were parks (27 responses), “none” (25 responses) and Main Street (23 responses.)

Other items emerged at the retreat. Theresa Reid, the newest commissioner who was appointed earlier this year, reported that she and others are working to apply for a National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” grant, to help pay for a countywide public arts planning process. Derezinski indicated that the Detroit Institute of Art’s Inside|Out project, which involves installing framed reproductions from the DIA’s collection at outdoor locations on building facades or in parks, likely won’t come to Ann Arbor until 2013. When originally proposed in October 2011, it was expected to take place this year.

Another possible project on the horizon is tied to the resurfacing of Main Street in 2013. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin said the Main Street Area Association and Downtown Development Authority are interested in some kind of “street stamping” project. It’s a project that’s in the very early stages, she said, but might include ideas like creating patterns on the street at crosswalks, for example.

Though discrete projects were mentioned, the focus of the retreat remained on big-picture goals. Common themes included the importance of public art in creating a sense of identity for the community, and of its role in supporting the local economy. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Tweaks Art Law But Keeps 1%

At its Dec. 5, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to a revision of its public art ordinance – but without a provision that would have temporarily reduced the amount allocated from all capital project budgets to public art from 1% to 0.5%. The city has a law – enacted in 2007 – that requires 1% of all capital project budgets to include 1% for public art, with a limit of $250,000 per project. At its Nov. 21 meeting, the council gave initial approval to the ordinance amendments, which at that time had included a reduction of funding from 1% to 0.5%.

The reduction would have applied for just the next three years, from fiscal 2012-2015. That three-year timeframe was … [Full Story]

Art Commission Debates Advocacy Role

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Nov. 30, 2011): At their final meeting before the city council convenes on Monday night (Dec. 5) to consider changes to Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art program, public art commissioners debated how to respond – particularly to a temporary funding cut – and expressed different views on what their role should be.

Margaret Parker, Malverne Winborne

Ann Arbor public art commissioners Margaret Parker and Malverne Winborne at the commission's Nov. 30 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Former board chair Margaret Parker, who was instrumental in creating the Percent for Art program in 2007, argued passionately that commissioners should be strong advocates for it. Saying she didn’t believe councilmembers really understood the issues that AAPAC is facing and that the currently proposed changes represented an “incredible kink in the road,” she urged commissioners to attend Monday’s city council meeting and speak against the proposed changes during the public hearing.

Parker also argued that the council should double the budget for administrative support to public art projects – from 8% to 16%.

As she’s done in the past when the proposals to cut Percent for Art funding have been floated, Parker is trying to mobilize people in the local arts community. She has sent emails urging people to lobby councilmembers, including a bullet-point “fact sheet” related to the program. [.pdf of Parker email] [.pdf of "fact sheet"]

Marsha Chamberlin, AAPAC’s current chair, questioned whether commissioners should “pick a fight” with city council, and said she felt that councilmembers did understand the issues clearly. Noting that she had attended previous council meetings and also communicated with councilmembers privately, Chamberlin wasn’t convinced that turning out yet again would be effective.

The councilmember who has in the past advised AAPAC about the sentiment on council – Tony Derezinski, who also serves on AAPAC – did not attend the Nov. 30 meeting.

Malverne Winborne pointed to political realities at play, and said that AAPAC needs to be realistic about the situation – other programs are being cut, too. If the council decides to get rid of AAPAC, he said he wouldn’t fight that. “Decommission me – what the hell,” he quipped.

In addition to an extended discussion on city council’s proposed changes to the Percent for Art ordinance, commissioners voted to move forward on two projects: (1) public art in a proposed rain garden at the corner of Kingsley and First, and (2) a partnership with the Detroit Institute of Art’s Inside|Out project, which involves installing framed reproductions from the DIA’s collection at outdoor locations on building facades or in parks.

Commissioners were also briefed on a range of other projects, including the latest on a mural at Allmendinger Park. A task force has selected four finalists for the $10,000 project: (1) Robert Delgado of Los Angeles, Calif.; (2) Bethany Kalk of Moorehead, Kentucky; (3) Jefferson Nelson of Liberty Center, Ohio; and (4) Mary Thiefels of Ann Arbor. The artists will submit preliminary concepts for potential murals on Dec. 8, and from those, the task force will recommend one for AAPAC and the city council to consider.

Commissioners also changed the date for AAPAC’s final meeting in December – to Dec. 13, when they’ll hold a follow-up discussion to their Oct. 26 working session. That October session, intended to prep AAPAC for its presentation at a Nov. 14 council work session – focused on challenges facing the Percent for Art program, and possible solutions. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Gives Initial OK to Halving Art

At its Nov. 21, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave initial approval to a revision to its public art ordinance that temporarily reduces the amount allocated to public art from all capital project budgets from 1% to 0.5%. Currently, the city has a law (enacted in 2007) that requires 1% of all capital project budgets to include 1% for public art – with a limit of $250,000 per project. An effort by newly elected Jane Lumm (Ward 2) to reduce the allocation even more – to 0.25% – did not gain enough support to win approval.

The reduction in the allocation would apply for the next three years, from 2012-2015. The three-year timeframe is also a key part of a sunsetting amendment to the public art ordinance, which was also given initial approval on Monday night. That amendment requires that future funds reserved for public art under the ordinance must be allocated within three years. Money that is unspent or unallocated after three years must be returned to its fund of origin. However, an amendment offered from the floor and approved at Monday’s meeting makes it possible for the council to extend the deadline for successive periods, each extension for no more than six months.

The sunsetting clause comes in response to criticism about the pace at which public art has been acquired. More than $500,000 has accumulated for public art over the last five years, just from projects funded with the street repair tax – money that has yet to be spent on the acquisition of public art. Critics of the program also point to legal issues connected with the use of dedicated millage funds or fee-based utility funds for public art.

In addition to the temporary reduction from 1% to 0.5% and the sunsetting clause, the set of amendments approved by the council included a definition of capital improvement projects that excludes sidewalk repair from the ordinance requirement. Voters on Nov. 8 approved a new 0.125 mill tax that is supposed to allow the city to take over responsibility for the repair of sidewalks. Previously, sidewalk repair was paid for by adjacent property owners.

The amendments also excluded the ordinance from applying to any capital projects funded out of the general fund. Such projects are rare.

As with all changes to city ordinances, the amendments to the public art ordinance will need a second approval from the council, following a public hearing.

A common approach for councilmembers to take to ordinance revisions is to approve them on first reading, reasoning that it’s important for the public hearing to take place before voting down a proposal. However, on Monday night, the measure was opposed by Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and  Mike Anglin (Ward 5). [Additional Chronicle coverage: "Council Preview: Public Art 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] [Full Story]

Half Percent for Art for a While?

A proposed amendment to the city’s public art ordinance – on the Ann Arbor city council’s agenda for Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 – was made the subject of a proposed revision on Friday. Attached to the city’s online Legistar agenda is an alternative amendment that would reduce the amount of city funding from 1% to 0.5% – from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015.

The city of Ann Arbor’s current public art ordinance requires that 1% of all capital project budgets (up to a limit of $250,000 per project) be set aside for public art. [.pdf of originally proposed ordinance amendment] [.pdf of possible revision to the ordinance amendment]

The revised amendment would not, as the original amendment does, exclude the … [Full Story]

Council Preview: Public Art Ordinance

After holding a Nov. 14, 2011 work session on public art, the Ann Arbor city council will take up a proposed revision to the city’s ordinance on public art at its Nov. 21 meeting. The city’s Percent for Art program, supported by the local law, currently stipulates that 1% of the budget for any capital improvement project in the city (up to a $250,000 limit) be set aside for public art.


Revenue to public art by fund, broken down by expended amounts and remaining balance. The black portion of the bars represents expenditures to date. The gray portion of the bar represents remaining balance. The overall height of the bar corresponds to total revenues to the public art fund from a particular origin fund. (Chart by the Chronicle. Image links to a higher resolution file.)

The proposed amendments to the public art ordinance were first considered by the council at its Sept. 19, 2011 meeting, with action postponed until Nov. 21. Key features of the amendment include: (1) exclusion of projects funded by street repair millage funds from the ordinance requirements; (2) addition of requirements that would return public art money to its fund of origin, if not expended within a specific time frame; (3) explicit exclusion of general fund dollars from ordinance requirements.

At the Nov. 14 work session, Sue McCormick – the city’s public services area administrator – provided city staff recommendations to the council that implicitly responded to the main elements of the currently proposed ordinance amendments. While specific mechanisms and alternatives for implementing (2) and (3) were provided, a general recommendation was made against narrowing the base of funding streams for public art, as (1) would do.

Staff recommendations also included a suggestion to increase the value of the contract for the public art administrator (not currently a city employee) by up to $35,000 a year.

Any changes the council makes to the ordinance on Nov. 21 will receive only initial approval. It’s possible that on Nov. 21, the council could consider approaches to amending the public art ordinance that are different from those currently proposed. For example, in the past, the council has contemplated, but rejected, a simple reduction in the amount of funding – from 1% to 0.5%.  [Full Story]

Use of Street/Sidewalk Repair Tax Postponed

At its Sept. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council postponed a vote on a resolution of intent for the use of the proceeds from a street/sidewalk repair millage that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Voters will be asked to approve two separate proposals: (1) a 5-year renewal of a 2.0 mill tax to support street repair projects; and (2) a 0.125 mill tax to pay for sidewalk repair.

The resolution of intent would specify that the street repair millage will pay for the following activities: resurfacing or reconstruction of existing paved city streets and bridges, including on-street bicycle lanes and street intersections; construction of pedestrian refuge islands; reconstruction and construction of accessible street crossings and corner ramps; and preventive pavement maintenance (PPM) measures, including pavement crack sealing.

The resolution of intent would stipulate that sidewalk repairs inside the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority district will not be funded by the sidewalk repair millage, except when the sidewalks are adjacent to single- and two-family houses. Both inside and outside the DDA district (otherwise put, throughout the city) the sidewalk repair millage would be used only to pay for sidewalk repair adjacent to property on which the city levies a property tax.

One impact of that resolution of intent, if it’s adopted, is that the city’s sidewalk repair millage will not be used to pay for repairs to sidewalks adjacent to University of Michigan property.

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] [Full Story]