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Posted on Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

Argo Cascades art finalists show off work, seek input for project

By Lisa Carolin


Kayakers prepare for one of the drops in the Argo Cascades water feature on the Huron River in Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Two artists being considered for the Argo Cascades public art project showed off examples of their work to the public Saturday and talked about how they would approach the project

The artists visited the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market Saturday morning, gave a presentation from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Workantile on Main Street, and were scheduled to participate in a "meet the artists" event from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Argo Canoe Livery Shelter on Longshore Drive.


Artist Mags Harries, a finalist for the Argo Cascades public art project, gives a presentation on her past public art projects at Workantile in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday.

Courtney Sacco |

The Cascades were selected by the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission as a location for public art. The project must preserve the natural quality and appeal of the area and avoid obstructing paths or recreational activities, officials have stipulated.

"People want the artist to use natural material, make sure that any structure fits with the size of the area, and want it to be functional art, meaning that it provides shade, benches, etc." said Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor's public art administrator, who was reporting the results of a survey taken by 120 people.

Seagraves said that respondents listed walking, biking and running as a priority for the Argo Cascades area followed by canoeing and kayaking.

At the presentation, at the Workantile, a co-working space on Main Street, Massachusetts artist Mags Harries, who works with her husband, Lajos Heder, an architect, showed examples of their work. Jann Rosen-Queralt from Maryland, the other artist who was chosen from among more than 50 applicants, also presented examples of her work. The third finalist, Andy Dufford, withdrew from the project competition.

Harries said that both she and Heder are ardent kayakers, which is why they thought this would be a great project for them.

"I hope we will hear from the community what this site means to them and how the art can be integrated to be meaningful," said Harries. "I am here to learn, to absorb the spirit of the place and hopefully we will reflect it in a beautiful way."

Harries and Heder have completed a number of art projects around the world related to water, ranging from river projects in the Bronx as well as Upstate New York near Love Canal, to a project in wetlands in China that uses floating umbrellas on the water.

"Water is fundamentally the most exciting thing to use," said Harries. "This is the kind of project that brings out the best in our sensibilities."


Artist Jann Rosen-Queralt, a finalist for the Argo Cascades public art project, talks about her past public art projects at Workantile in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday

Courtney Sacco |

Rosen-Queralt's work has also often focused on water. She is a native of Michigan and has childhood memories of canoe trips on the Huron River with her family.

"I am eager to present Ann Arbor with a work that not only conveys the importance of water quality and conservation, but creates a strong connection to the river resource as a life affirming symbol," she said. "My environments and site-specific sculptures often prompt visitors to pay attention to overlooked sites and sounds, sometimes making the invisible visible."

Rosen-Queralt has completed art projects around the U.S. and showed a variety of examples, including a vertical pendulum perforated with holes that creates a quiet tone when the wind blows. It hangs above the tributary of a river located on an estate in Baltimore, Md.

"I want to engage as many human senses as possible in my work," she said.

Seagraves said the proposals for the art projects are due in October, after which the seven-member selection panel will meet to review them. The Ann Arbor City Council will most likely approve a contract with one of the artists in the winter with the expectation that the selected artist will begin working on the Argo Cascades art project in the spring of 2014.

The chosen artist will receive a budget of $115,000 that covers materials, fabrication, and installation of the project as well as engineering consultation, insurance and travel.

Lisa Carolin is a freelance writer for Contact the news desk at or 734-623-2572.



Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

Sadly, this ill-advised project is going forward it seems, whether we peasants like it or not. again, it begs the question: why ask us for our opinion when in the end, the public art commission is going to do what they want to do anyway? do they think that holding a meeting of any kind is going to lull us into a phony sense of security that our opinion actually matters?! REALLY?!


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Nature is beautiful enough. Leave it alone.

Usual Suspect

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

We get it. But the rocks are natural - the city didn't make them. The trees are natural - the city didn't make them. The water is natural - the city didn't make it.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

It's not nature that put the rocks there.

Usual Suspect

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

The premise that the Cascades need art added to them, or that art will improve the area, is seriously flawed.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Isn't it fun to watch city council spend "other people's money"?


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : noon

I am finding it difficult to comment on the ignorance of this project. Havn't we all voiced our opinion and the majority was LEAVE IT ALONE! If Ann Arbor has money to burn I can think of a million better uses for $115,000.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Went to West Park for a concert a few weeks ago, first time there. Nice little park except for the two orange fake trees(?) that stood out. A2 "art" needs to stop already.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

They are orange to confuse the dogs!

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

You can buy some very similar "trees" in the Garden Supply catalog for something like $39.00.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 10:41 a.m.

How about the artist who sticks rocks together? At least that's "natural" and some of them are quite whimsical.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 3:19 a.m.

1. Can we See some Photos of the proposals? 2. Can we Focus on Local Artists? The way the Committee runs the program you might as well say: Weird Art from "artists" with studios 1,000+ miles away! What a Crock! I support Art and I've lived in A2 for 50+ years.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

Let nature be nature! Spend that money cleaning up the tags from SAES, now that will be a city improvement. There are many other places that money could be well spent, another piece of "art" that only a small percentage will see is not a priority for our city right now.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

What a joke. If you're going to throw away $$ on stupid stuff, at least throw it at local artists.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

Important to remember that the city council has the final say on spending, if you are opposed to art at this site you need to first express that to the AAPAC and then to your city council rep before it comes up for a vote. The AAPAC suggests the spending but the council 'writes the check'. What we need on council are a few more 'the buck stops here' types.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

Can't we just take the $115,000 and fill the potholes?


Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

If earmarked specifically for "art": couldn't we *artistically* fill in the potholes?


Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 12:27 a.m.

@Veracity: Quick question: did Kunselman vote for the 1% for art program?


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

I believe that the $115,000 is from the 1% that the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission takes from various funds including those that would be used to repair potholes.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:45 a.m.

Let's see, nature, water, cascades, rocks, wetlands, grasses...all we need is "art".

Jack Gladney

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Looking at the beauty of the cascades captured in the top picture, who on God's green earth would be so presumptuous as to desecrate that landscape with some man-made object? Of course not having seen the artists' proposed masterpieces, one does have to be open to the possibility that the final work will be a stand of planted trees or a pile of rocks labelled with an insightful title.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 3:47 a.m.

Not only the cascades are man-made, that entire stretch of the river has been desecrated by them presumptuous humans for decades. The "cascades" are just an upgrade on a man-made ditch that fed water around the god-created (not) dam to the power plant. It is an industrial ditch given some step-downs and some landscaping.

Michael Prozinski

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

Uh... you know the cascades are man-made, right?

Jack Gladney

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:38 p.m.

Oh, jeez. I may be onto something. I just googled Mags Harries art and got an image of a pile of gloves in a train station.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

Just came back from kayaking thru the cascades. Great fun and relaxing. But ABSOLUTELY no need for art there. In the middle of nature? Not worth $100K IMHO. Public art downtown? Awesome.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

Errr. Not exactly in the middle of nature. There's nothing natural about the steps of stone that are there.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

Fully agreed. The cascades are fine and interesting enough as they are. There are plenty of places in Ann Arbor that are in much more need of some art to make them visually appealing.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

Great, another article in the ongoing saga of public art for an area that needs absolutely nothing of the sort. I've asked before, and I'll ask again, : ADD A POLL TO THESE ARTICLES so that we can show our collective opinion.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:11 p.m.

why don't we promote local midwest art and reinvest the money in the local economy by throwing a bone to some local underemployed MFAs instead of always bringing in these coastal elites?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:36 p.m.

We still have a public art administrator. How about that?!

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

I am a lover of nature, and I am wondering WHY we need art in this location? It seems totally ridiculous to me. Can anyone explain this?

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

@Brad, have his sign in my front yard, did the last time he ran also!


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

@J.A. - If I am correct you are a 4th ward resident. If you would prefer a higher level of representation I would encourage you to vote for Jack Eaton in the Aug 6 primary.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

If you are a lover of nature, then what are you doing at the Argo Cascades? In between looking at an apartment complex, a canoe livery, a rusty old train trestle, and a dam, and then proceeding toward an old run-down power plant, maybe a little art would be welcome.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:49 p.m.

@J.A. - the city had a survey on this and when I looked at the ongoing results there were a LOT of "why add anything?" responses. Maybe even the majority. Or was that simply not an answer once the art commission decided that we WILL have art there? $125K worth.

An Arborigine

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Fascinating, could we see some of their prior work displayed here to get some visual input regarding their prior works?