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Posted on Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor artist asking community to donate items for mosaic-style mural at Allmendinger Park

By Ryan J. Stanton


In addition to "found objects," artist Mary Thiefels said she has 65 portraits that have been painted by eighth-graders at Slauson Middle School, so there will be "portrait tiles" in addition to the memento pieces, as well as stained glass, included in her mosaic-style mural at Allmendinger Park.

Courtesy of Mary Thiefels

Ann Arbor artist Mary Thiefels of TreeTown Murals is putting the call out the community to help contribute to her latest mural project.

She's being commissioned by the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission to transform the 12 pillars of a shelter at Allmendinger Park into a work of art.

And she wants members of the neighborhood, as well as the broader community, to get involved and bring personal artifacts or "found items" to contribute.


This conceptual design for the mosaic-style mural at Allmendinger Park was approved by the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission this past week.

Courtesy of Mary Thiefels

"It could be a stone, a shell, a key, a coin, a photograph or a piece of writing up to 4 inches by 4 inches," Thiefels said. "We're asking people to give us a few sentences about the piece, the story how they acquired it, and why it's important to them.

"And we'll actually have a website, so when the mosaic is installed, you'll be able to mouse over the different pieces and learn the stories," she added.

The Public Art Commission this past week gave approval to a final design for the mixed-media mural project, which Thiefels plans to get started on July 16 and finish by the end of August.

The piece, titled "Nourishing Healthy Seeds," is designed to be part mural and part mosaic — and by many accounts, public art in its purest form.

Neighborhood resident Meg Crawley is helping Thiefels get the word out about the project. She already sent out a mass email soliciting contributions from the neighborhood.

Crawley is planning to collect items through July 15. She has a bright pink drop box set up on her porch at 1200 Edgewood Ave. near the southeast corner of the park.

The park is located in a stone's throw from the Big House, just west of Main Street off Pauline Boulevard south of downtown.

In addition to the found objects, Thiefels said she has 65 portraits that have been painted by eighth-graders at Slauson Middle School, so there will be "portrait tiles" in addition to the memento pieces, as well as stained glass, included in the mosaic.

The city expects to spend about $12,000 on the public art project, including $7,200 from a grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

The mural's abstract design includes colorful layers of painted areas along with tile and glass mosaic sections. Each column will have three oval-shaped mosaic areas, which is where the items donated by people in the community will go next to pieces of tile and glass.

Crawley said in her email to the neighborhood the objects must be small yet meaningful to either the person contributing them or to the community.

"You may donate more than one item, but the artist reserves the right to use only one of your items if she has too many," she wrote. "Unused items will be returned."

Those who want to donate items are asked to place them in a small ziplock bag, accompanied by a signed waiver to use the item, as well as the donor's name, address, email address, and a description of the item and its significance to the donor and/or the community.

Thiefels and volunteers will be dropping off object donation packets door-to-door as well. Anyone wishing to help distribute packets or contribute to the project can email Aaron Seagraves, the city's public art administrator, at


Examples of the types of objects that could be donated to be included in the mosaic areas of the Allmendinger Park public art piece.

Courtesy of Mary Thiefels

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Dog Guy

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

If Thiefels runs short, colorful relics may be found strewn about Allmendinger Park most mornings.


Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 2:27 a.m.

There are probably very few works of art that everyone in a city this size will like. The fact that some do not like this is irrelevant. Among many others, apparently, I really like the looks of this and am appreciative that the artist has come up with a great idea that engages youth in our community, and that the city has funded one of its own. Support for the arts necessarily means support for our artists. Do the naysayers on this forum like the bare, grey concrete columns better?? We are a very good, maybe great, small city. Why should we not have public art we can enjoy?


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

Might I suggest that someone from the city or building inspection make sure this stuff is being attached in the right way using the right materials and finishing techniques, so we don't have a bunch of glass and corks and rusty metal keys popping off after one winter, leaving sharp edges on the public pavilion. This is different than painted murals and needs a little oversight. Where was the oversight on the non working city hall fountain?

Ron Granger

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

Clearly there has been an oversight due to the lack of a board of art oversight. Send in the art police!


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

Allmendinger Park was home to the first junior football program in Ann Arbor during the mid-70's. The "Junior Wolverines" practiced there all through the summer - over 200 per year in the program in three age groups - all wearing exact UM uniforms and equipment. If anyone has any item to be added to the mural - please do so. It's been years, but does the program still exist and do they still practice there?

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

Go, Mary!! Ignore the brickbats!

El Poquito

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

To the Naysayers: Get used to it. Mary Thiefels and her work, both with art and more importantly with members of the community, [usually young members - remember them? the ones with very little voice or power?] is a Force of Positivity - a humble worker-bee who would probably be involved with her community through the arts regardless if she were paid out of the 'Public Arts' fund or not. If you've got a problem with public art - take it up with the right people -- i.e. DON'T BASH on someone who tries to do something positive for the community - especially the kids that we 'supposedly' care so much about! She's more action behind her mouth than most of us. I'm glad to support her and her mission - in fact, this makes me want to volunteer.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

More ugly public 'art.' At least dollars didn't go overseas for this one.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

When it comes to the city hall installations, there is no emotional connectivity for most of us. There can be with this if you can open your mind and think outside of the box.Why not just look at our home grown artist's work and be curious. Try and figure out why Mary put things in certain places. See if you recognize something. If its not pleasing to your eye, ask yourself why. Public art is not just about whether you like it or not. It's about seeing something that makes you think. It is a part of who people are as a community. You'll find that life is alot more joyful when you think this way instead of complaining all the time.


Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 5:33 a.m.

Kat, I shed a tear and choked on my granola reading your post.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

I don't have a problem thinking without paying an artist to prime the pump. How about you send me 5 bucks a month and I'll e-mail or call you (your choice) with my idea of some juicy thought provoking something or other. Its a win win. I get 5 bucks and you get help thinking. (Hopefully you catch the hyperbole. )

Holly Smith

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

Mary is an amazing artist! She has done wonderful projects for a number of communities. Go look at her website. This will be yet another winner. Go Mary!


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

Holly got in in one. Mary deserves better than to be pilloried over a few pillars.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

I applaud Mary's efforts to transform these pillars for our community. This is a great neighborhood park for kids. In addition, this park has been used by children in the surrounding elementary schools, Slauson, and Pioneer, for many years, for picnics and other school functions. The Slauson 8th graders (now entering Pioneer) have put a lot of time into their portrait tiles. My student is looking forward to seeing the completed pillars, with the tiles she and her peers designed and painted. This project is a great example of public art for all of the community to enjoy.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Very cool art project! And just think of how it will brighten a gloomy winter day at Allmendinger Park! Thank you, Ms. Thiefels.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Another awesome project by Treetown murals. Ann Arbor is fortunate to have Mary Thiefels!

Ron Granger

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Rradical, you say? What makes an incredibly bleak piece of poured concrete suddenly "radical"? I'll be the 8th graders painting the portraits had no idea they could be radical. Do you mean radical in some political sense, or .... ? Is it the use of bright colors, instead of bare concrete, that makes it radical? I'm not sure I understand your use of the word. From the article - "And she wants members of the neighborhood, as well as the broader community, to get involved and bring personal artifacts or "found items" to contribute." Maybe you should consider contributing some elements to the collaborative art. In addition, you may describe what you contribute and that description will appear on a website that documents the elements of this art installation. So if you wanted to incorporate a rememberance of a particular person, or event, you could. That sounds pretty cool to me.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

I have no problem with this "ART" Project except for the fact that "Public Money" is being spend on it. Why doesn't the community support the artist and the art work instead of the "Big Bad Government". This commission for this work, is our tax dollars and therefore we should have something to say about this. Instead we are being asking to contribute to something that I would not want in the first place!


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

City Hall art which very few people not working at City Hall ever see: $900K. Art for a popular Ann Arbor park: $20K.

Ron Granger

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

I see your point, but let's not encourage further outrageous spending on single pieces just because they've made bad decisions in the past. The $900K piece was an outrageous use of resources on a mediocre piece by an inexperienced art commission. It was poorly negotiated and poorly planned. They completely blew it. And they squandered excessive funds on a government building that stands for taxes, courts and other negative aspects of government. FAIL. Perhaps worse, they have squandered more public money on art in a non-public area of the building. That is in direct violation of the commission's charter for use of these public funds.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Speaking in general terms, with no reference/judgement on the above project...... One problem with public art is that "art" is subjective. One persons "art" can legitimately be another persons eyesore. So in some ways the "The Public Art Commission" jamming their idea of "art" down our collective throats isn't a whole lot different than a knucklehead with a can of spray paint. Except that the knucklehead with the spray paint is hunted down by the cops while the "The Public Art Commission" hob nobs at wine tastings with politicians.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

like all quasi Governmental agencies they don't seek public input they merely tolerate it because the have to. That is an opinion and I imagine we will differ on that. So no the average citizen has no control over the art process. The fact that I can object through letters or public commentary isn't any level of "control" . On the other hand putting the works of art to a vote would be.

Ron Granger

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

"So in some ways the "The Public Art Commission" jamming their idea of "art" down our collective throats isn't a whole lot different than a knucklehead with a can of spray paint." That is completely absurd. You compare criminals to a collaborative public process. Do spray painting vandals publish meeting agendas in advance, and solicit public comment on planned works? Are those vandals public figures in the art community? Do they accept input from the public? You suggest you have no control over the art process. How have you attempted to get involved? Have you written any letters to the city council or art commission? Have you attended any meetings? Have you formally proposed anything? Have you sought appointment to the art commission itself?

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

"and by many accounts, public art in its purest form" what does that mean? Is that a reference to the public supplying much of the material costs?


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 11:22 a.m.

Please no more "legal" graffiti!


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

I agree, can you say "graffiti"!


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

What a wonderful idea!! Certainly better than the $$$$ spent on the ridiculous fountain downtown!

David Paris

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 10:08 a.m.

This looks to be a Beautiful use of the Art Fund, Good Luck Ms Thiefels!