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Posted on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

City officials, artists share concerns that Ann Arbor may be losing its cultural vitality

By Ryan J. Stanton

Beneath the layers of discussion inside city hall Monday night was a shared sense that Ann Arbor is starting to lose some of its cultural luster.

The lack of affordable studio space for artists and the seeming absence of a primary exhibit space were concerns shared by several who addressed the Ann Arbor City Council.


Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said he's hopeful the city can acquire grants for what's being proposed at 415 W. Washington.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Local conservationists and members of Ann Arbor's arts community made it clear to city officials they're in full support of efforts to explore a reuse of 415 W. Washington as a greenway park and arts center.

"We have a justifiable concern that we are losing our cultural vitality in Ann Arbor," said Tamara Real, president of the Arts Alliance.

"Artists, particularly our young artists, can't afford to live and work here and are moving out of our community," she said. "Arts organizations like the Ann Arbor Comic Opera have moved to Canton to perform ... because we don't have a performance facility that's appropriate."

After hearing positive comments from several members of the public, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for the "creation of an innovative process of community collaboration" to explore those options.

The resolution calls for bringing together the creative energy of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy and the Arts Alliance, along with other potential partners in the community. They are asked to make recommendations to the City Council in February 2011.

"This is a beginning point," said Mayor John Hieftje, who co-sponsored the resolution with Council Members Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, and Margie Teall, D-4th Ward.

"I think an innovative process is what is called for," Hieftje said. "If you look around the state of Michigan, you are hard-pressed to find a city that is not going through the same gyrations with its budget that the city of Ann Arbor is and many are in much worse shape. So I think we are in a time - and we're going to be in a time for the next few years - where we do need to come up with creative ways to move forward on objectives that the community has long held."

Real said her group believes the 415 W. Washington site has "enormous potential."

"I can tell you that there is a great need in our community for a community cultural facility - arts facility," she said. "In 2005, the Arts Alliance did a space survey of need for artist space after the demise of the tech center, and based on the responses we got at that time, we found that we could probably fill essentially a small supermarket."

Real said an artist census conducted in 2008 netted about 1,000 responses in Ann Arbor alone.

"So, clearly the artists are here, and I know that that is an undercount," she said.

Connie Cronenwett, president of the Ann Arbor Women Artists, a 230-member group that has been active in Ann Arbor since the early 1950s, shared a similar viewpoint.

"We lack a community arts building," she said. "We need a primary exhibit space. Every year, Ann Arbor Women Artists schedules three juried shows, and we come up against this problem. There is no exhibit space in Ann Arbor that is really a primary exhibit space."

"If you are an individual artist wanting to have a one-person show in Ann Arbor, where are you going to go?" she asked.

Real said organizations such as the Peter Sparling Dance Gallery have gone out of business because they could not afford to pay Ann Arbor's high rental rates.

Thumbnail image for 415-west-washington.JPG

Ann Arbor officials are hoping a creative process of community collaboration will help produce a viable idea to reuse the 415 W. Washington site as an arts center and greenway/sculpture park.

"Other cultural organizations in our community are working very hard to find ways to cut costs and share services, so I'm heartened that the city seems to recognize the arts are inextricably tied to our identity here in Ann Arbor," Real said.

Members of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy said they also were heartened by the city's attempts to stimulate interest in the site but said that talks of a greenway park at 415 W. Washington have been happening for years. They argued a more aggressive approach and timeline are needed than what the city has proposed.

The City Council has been debating uses for the site, an old city-owned garage on the west side of downtown Ann Arbor, since 2008.

Lou Glorie, a local real estate agent who regularly attends City Council meetings, applauded the city for its efforts Monday night.

"We really need to make Ann Arbor a more welcoming place for artists. We're losing artists. I think we're hemorrhaging them," she said. "I think what we're losing is a vitality that artists bring to a city, and for a long time many of us have been talking about how great a place 415 W. Washington would be as a space for artists."

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said she has spoken with several people who share the same concerns.

"During the course of the weekend, I spoke with my artist friends who have longed for a place to perform, to create, to find studio space, to find a place to exhibit, to find a place to sell, to find some part to stay in Ann Arbor when they feel that Ann Arbor is no longer the place that it used to be for them," she said. "But I also spoke with my friends who believe in the greenway and feel that once again this is the momentum that they've needed."

Council members shared concerns the city can't afford to invest any of its own money into 415 W. Washington. Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, pointed out the irony that the city - at its last meeting - was just talking about selling parks because it can't afford to maintain the ones it already owns.

Council Members Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, and Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, suggested the city approach the Downtown Development Authority for funding for 415 W. Washington.

Hohnke said the city intends to seek grants.

"I think the approach of bringing the entire community together to begin exploring ways to be creative in identifying opportunities for grants that speak to historic preservation, that speak to stormwater management, that speak to renewable energy and arts and culture," Hohnke said, "is exciting and is a journey that will, I think, lead to a really significant improvement in a part of town that is now covered in asphalt and surface parking lots."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


mike from saline

Sat, Feb 6, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

You're Right Tru2Blu, it is more complex, but when you post, you only have so much space to make your point. Make it too long, and people start nodding off. I have a confession to make. I'm a painter. Weather or not I'm an artist, is someone els'e call. But I do sell painting's, and I do relativly well. If I had to live on that income alone, I'd probably be living in cardboard box under some bridge. SELLING ART IS HARD! Even for the most talented members of the "Arts" community. Those folks who are willing to slap down 4,5 or 6 hundred dollars for a painting are few and far between. That's reality! The "Artisans Market" on Sunday's in Kerrytown, is something that could be expanded, but the dirty little secret is that most of the "artists" I know, would find that "beneath them". Hell, most of the "artist" I know, don't do "Art Fairs" either. Connie Cronenwett, President of the Ann Arbor Womens Artsts [230 members], claims they need primary exhibit space [I'm actualy a member]. At 25 bucks a member, per month, they could rent, or buy some pretty impressive gallery space [$5,750]. But why do that if you can get the suckers in Ann Arbor to provide it for you. One moore thing. Tamara Real [the head of Arts alliance does little to promote the arts. What she does do, [and very well I might add] is To promote Arts Alliance [and in turn, her self]. She makes more money running this little scam out of the Visitor's and connvention Bureau than 99% of the artists in Washtenaw County.

mike from saline

Sat, Feb 6, 2010 : 4:49 p.m.

You're Right Tru2Blu, it is more complex, but when you post, you only have so much space to make your point. Make it too long, and people start nodding off. I have a confession to make. I'm a painter. Weather or not I'm an artist, is someone els'e call. But I do sell painting's, and I do relativly well. If I had to live on that income alone, I'd probably be living in cardboard box under some bridge. SELLING ART IS HARD! Even for the most talented members of the "Arts" community. Those folks who are willing to slap down 4,5 or 6 hundred dollars for a painting are few and far between. That's reality! The "Artisans Market" on Sunday's in Kerrytown, is something that could be expanded, but the dirty little secret is that most of the "artists" I know, would find that "beneath them". Hell, most of the "artist" I know, don't do "Art Fairs" either. Connie Cronenwett, President of the Ann Arbor Womens Artsts [230 members], claims they need primary exhibit space [I'm actualy a member]. At 25 bucks a member, per month, they could rent, or buy some pretty impressive gallery space [$5,750]. But why do that if you can get the suckers in Ann Arbor to provide it for you. One moore thing. Tamara Real [the head of Arts alliance does little to promote the arts. What she does do, [and very well I might add] is To promote Arts Alliance [and in turn, her self]. She makes more money running this little scam out of the Visitor's and connvention Bureau than 99% of the artists in Washtenaw County.

mike from saline

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

If you realy want to support the "Arts", BUY A PAINTING.BUY A SCULPTURE.BUY A TICKET to a play, or DANCE PERFORMANCE. It's as simple as that! The government [local, state, or federal] is not obligated to provide it for you. If you take public money and spend it to support someone els's entertainment or decorative choices, you are not a suppoter of the "Arts". You are, for all practicle purposes, a Thief! Every year, in the fall, over 100,000 people fill up Michigan Stadium, [paying about 50 bucks a ticket] at least 6 times. besides the tickets, they also spend a ton of money on tailgating, souvenirs, hot dogs, soft drinks, ect.ect. Afterwards, many go out to dinner, and maybe to the clubs. For a couple, this can run several hundred dollars. Throw in a babysitter, and it can really get expensive. The idea that the "arts" are suffering because of a bad economy is a myth. Members of the "arts community" were make- ing the same exuse 4 or 5 years ago when the unemployment rate was below 5% [and far less in A2, and Washtenaw county]. Another myth is that the "Arts" have a huge impact on other buisness's in the down town area's [shops and resturants]. If you believe this, I suggest you wander down town some nice pleasant summer evening, and check out the crowds on main street between williams and Washington streets. The resturants are full, [in- doors and out], the shops will be busy, and the bars and clubs will be full of life [and patrons]. Now if you need to get away from all those people, and all that noise, just wander into the Washington Street gallery for a while [or any other gallery in the neighborhood for that matter], and you'll find peace and quiet, mainly because no one is there. You could throw a hand grenade in most of these places and not hurt anyone! The bars, resturants, clubs, and shops bring the people down town, not the gallerys. The people at the "Chop House" spend more for dinner than the average, self described, "supporter of the arts" does in a year.

Irena Nagler

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

After scanning the comments, I have to second the person who found the vitriol sad and disturbing. All these elements should be working together, not at cross purposes, and of course the basics come first: food, shelter, good medical care. Even given that, in a well-balanced community there would be good, affordable places for people to show their creative work, gather and network, and in the process probably make connections that strengthen every aspect of community life from the most nitty gritty to sublime. I think that the lack of such a place, the siphoning of many people's energies into cyberspace (useful and often gratifying though it is!) and the increasingly cold, hard-edged landscape architecturally and business-wise (not only here but nation and worldwide) is part of what fosters the anger that is percolating here. As for artists needing passion and challenge, yes, and the ones who are uncommonly serious about it and ready to work *are* doing so, and making use of whatever cranny they can--and will continue to do so if they have a commitment/love for this area and stay here. At the same time I think every human is at least something of an artist, and that getting everyday work done and doing art should ideally just balance each other with everyone spending part of their day doing each, and the "serious artists" being treated as workers like any other who are making a valuable contribution.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:33 p.m.

If Granholm can let criminals out of prison early to save money, she can find a way to get tax money from universities to support local governments that provide services to these universities.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:36 p.m.

It's absurd that this is even being discussed. The budget is too tight, and the mission of a city government should be to provide basic services, such as fire and police protection, snow removal, clean water, schools, emergency medical care, and a few other services that make living safe and then enjoyable, such as parks and senior centers. The extension to fancy fountains and subsidized hotel developments, consultants, art barns, and other investments are best left to the individual or the private sector. AND the university of Michigan needs to pay taxes, instead of sucking off the rest of us.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:21 p.m.

Why does it seem that all of the local special interest groups are looking for the city to fund their pet projects? If you want it to happen, get off of your entitled duffs and work to make it happen through private funds. If people find your cause to be worthwhile, they will donate. I was always taught that you had to work to earn something. I was also taught that whining and begging and telling others that you deserve something because it is someone elses responsibility is not work. Quit seeking public funding for private benefits that take badly-needed local, state, and federal tax revenues badly needed public needs like roads, bridges, municipal services, healthcare, etc. The vote-buying politicians need to get a clue and realize that they are killing us by catering to every self-entitled group that can raise a headline.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 6:22 p.m.

@treetowncartel - I do not have any problem with any adult entertainment establishments purchasing ad space. What troubles me is that the masthead of a publication is not an appropriate place for advertising. The masthead is used to define the direction of the publication, much as the masthead of a ship does. Note that at the top of the page on this website, the name of the publication appears in the masthead. Advertising space is provided further down. By looking at the masthead, the reader knows what the source is for information contained in the publication. So, when we see an ad taking a large space at the top of the page, we do draw a certain conclusion about that publication. By the way, it was not necessary to tell everyone that you were not a journalism major - it's pretty obvious from your use and misuse of spelling.

Bubble world west

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

The Ann Arbor of old is long gone and as some pointed out, the reputation remains, but the reality is far different. The hippies and artists figured this out years ago and began drifting away, like many Michiganders, to places where they found the culture they sought, and not simply the reputation. I miss the Ann Arbor of old....

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:13 p.m.

@Silent Runnings While it may seem unnecessary to those who currently know the political party of each member of council to list, for instance, "D-3rd Ward" after a council member's name, many of our readers do not know the party background of certain people and have asked us to include it at times when we have not. A news organization also serves a record-keeping function where such information will be helpful to people who read these articles in the future.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

Sorry aagirl, I don't get the print edition to know what you are talking about. Iwouldn't spend my money on it so that is probably why they give valuable advertising space to the VU. I am not even sure I could give you a definitin of masthead, no journalism major hear nor do i pretend to be one. The vu does tend to make the it as a an ad banner on the 1st page too. Is that upsetting to you? Anyhow, the Vu, did advertise in the sports section of the news, just like the old Scio Drive in did and other adult venues.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

I am dismayed, (but not surprised) by the vitriol and negativity in many of the comments. After all we're going through a recession the likes of which has not been seen since the 1930s, which has cost many people their jobs, health benefits and sorely impacted their dreams. But while things are very tough, the economy does appear to be doing better than a year ago and most of us living in this area are still probably better off than 90% of people on this planet in economic terms. I'd like to thank the folks on Council for having the courage to continue to do what they should be doing - namely helping to coalesce and articulate a strategic vision and taking steps to make Ann Arbor a great place to live and work (No its not the same as it was in 1969 or 80, but no place is - that's life). There should be spirited debate on what that means, but planning for post-recession, while politically charged, is what smart leaders should be doing now. Sure Council still needs to tackle the budget, but the variables, like how much money will the State share and will the Road Commission get are out of their control. 415 Washington is the right place for a urban park and using the historic building to incubate arts and culture would be a great use for the place, plus tie in nicely with the YMCA to build a stronger community. On the other hand the Library site is prime development land in the heart of downtown. Building there will increase tax revenues, which will help our city deal with budgetary issues. It may not be popular, but I think they got this one right.

Atticus F.

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 1:43 p.m.

Ann Arbor has changed quite a bit. I agree that it's just been to epensive to live here, and has turned into a haven for west side elitest. It seems like all of the hippies, punk rockers, and eccentric types, have moved to Ypsilanti, leaving A2 a sterile nimby wasteland that caters to Architects, Lawyers, and doctors.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

We should have an avenue for aspiring artists to show their efforts to the community before going out and becoming well-known. This is how we create connectivity to professional artists and the art community; they have deep feelings with their roots. Council is right on with this one; we are losing our historical artsy-fartsy beginnings and becoming wealthy know-it-alls that have no real culture. Bring on the Ann Arbor Cultural Theatre for the this is a real vision for the future. There'll be money to fix the roads, eventually.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

There's a trade off though: hat's bad for ann Arbor's art scene is good for Ypsi's.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

@treetowncartel - the Ann Arbor News did not have ads inside the Masthead. Take a look at the Sunday print issue = the Vu ad is inside the masthead which provides us the name of the publication and details which section of the publication we are looking at. The ad is the same size as the name of the publication. It appears that we are going to the Vu for our sports information.

Patti Smith

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

Just wanted to 2nd (3rd, etc) the comments re: the yuppies. I totally agree that they ruined this city. Now, A2 is cooler than where I grew up (suburbs of Detroit, specifically, Troy) in that it has its downtown area but it's not nearly as cool as it was when I used to visit in college (early 90s). My mother will tell you that I wanted to move to A2 since I was about 7 years old and we came to UM Hospital for asthma treatments. I guess I saw someone walking across the street and that person had multicolored hair. Allegedly, I said, "I'm living here one day." :) But sadly, the McMansions, the rich people, the luxury cars, the Yuppies, way overpriced restaurants, poseurs...heck, it's starting to look more and more like my old hometown every day! :(


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

I think Ann Arbor just needs to build more expensive condos downtown...then the starving artists will come. That's irony, folks. Condos downtown killed the art scene.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.

1) UM is the entity that provides Ann Arbor almost all of the City's cultural opportunity and draw. 2) This continues. 3) Anyone notice how well dressed the artists were at last night's a2 City Council meeting (and they weren't wearing painted T shirts)? Wish I could afford those fine threads! 4) Isn't the 415 site a heavily contaminated brownfield redevelopment site? If so, it will be one expensive endeavor to clean it up before anyone enjoys a (safe) "picnic on a blanket" in that space. 5) It is clear that the the green of the greenbelt and greenway is the shade of green of taxpayer dollars. Put that on your Ann Arbor artist's color wheel... along with bankruptcy red... 6) Beware City! What is granted by voters can be repealed by voters.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

I ask any one of you who is against supporting artists and the arts to go for a day or two without any artistic influence. Take the art off of your walls, tables, etc. Don't read a book. No calendars with graphics! Hang a bare bulb from the ceiling - who needs artistic light fixtures, anyway?! Turn off your radios and iPods, because artists wrote and perform all of the music you could hear. Hide your figurines, statues, sculptures. Don't acknowledge any icons on your electronics. Any textiles you use (tablecloths, furniture covers, etc.) and cover them up with plain white sheets. Ignore all of the posters, magazines, billboards and other printed material that may have involved a graphic artist. Don't wear any jewelry (take off that wedding ring!), or clothing that has any more shape than a potato sack, as someone had to design the styles that you see on the racks. Don't even THINK of going to a concert or play or watching tv for that matter, as someone had to design sets, and costumes, work cameras, lights, write scripts. Please don't make plans to attend the art fairs, Summer Festival, Riverfolk, the Saline Celtic Festival, Dancing in the Streets, gazebo concerts, etc. Sending a card to your mom for her birthday is supporting a money grubbing sniveling artist. I might go as far as to suggest you hide your American flags, as Betsy Ross may be viewed as an artist, and we certainly wouldn't want to encourage the likes of her to put out product. Well, unless it's in her spare time after working a full day at a desk job and taking care of home and family commitments. Art just "happens", right? Can't possibly take much planning or thought or special talent, for that matter. Being an artist and being a business person are two completely different sets of skills. Do you hear of doctors / scientists / academics doing their own billings? Their own promotion? Finding space to set up (not to mention design) a lab / office? No, there are huge networks of "other-minded" people to support the work of these people who add so much to our lives and our world. Artists are the same, but few people recognize the enormous amounts of time and energy spent not only learning an art but executing product.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

I have been selling colorful crocheted art apparel in Ann Arbor for 42 years. In my opinion, supporting the arts can not be done by the government. It must be accomplished by people spending some of their money on local art. Marks coffee shop used to provide the community with a cheap, friendly, and fun place to be, but it's been gone for 35 years. Current real estate values make it impossible to have a campus or downtown location without high profit. No corporation can provide a place to hang out. A community is a bunch of individuals. So for me, buy local or bye bye.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:43 a.m.

maybe this new generation of artists grew up here and they don't want to be an artist where there parents were. Maybe they are leaving ann arbor to see the world outside of the greenbelt


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

affordable studio space? give me a break. Sorry but most artists have a day job and then work on art in whatever space they can get out of their apartment/home. I know PLENTY of artists who's studio is either in their garage or spare bedroom. oh and by the way, all those studios that burnt down in the big fire for the new YMCA. Sure it was cheap studio space, but people were squatting in those, LIVING there. studio space shouldn't be rent controled or supplemented by the tax payers. Shouldn't even be a freaking topic for city council. Freaking stupid.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:08 a.m.

I agree with townie54...A2 was hip but that ended with the yuppie invasion of the early 90's, loss of used bookstores etc., replaced by franchise food and coffee shops. Tearing down the artist venue for the new YMCA for yuppies who turned too breeders hasn't helped...oh well at least Ypsi still is carrying the mantel with lower costs per squeare foot so a struggling artist can survive...even Western side of the State is doing more for artyists that A2....allot of artists also in Detroit proper due to low costs....A2 has become a Birmingham wantabee with so called "democraticish" voter base


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

Wow, I can't believe I am doing this, but in defense of Ann the Ann arbor news did have ads for Deja Vu and other adult venues as well. Ineveitably, these two bastions are joined at the hip by the First Amendment. other major newspapers have these ads too, the Free press has them, not to mention Metro Times and The Village Voice.

King of the Trolls

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 11:01 a.m.

Rusty might find THIS article interesting.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

A great studio space would be the old Smith Furniture building on Washington st in Ypsilanti. This is south down from the Elbow room and across from the Thrift store. This s modern building that has sat vacant for over 20 + years.Checking with Ypsi's Building Dept, the owner still pays taxes on it has seems to do nothing with it.This would make great (collective) studio space's and also workshops. Parking is never a problem in Ypsilanti.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:20 a.m.

734, couldn't agree more. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, but I am so glad my property taxes don't go there. Ann Arbor lost this edge in the 80's. Anyone who has lived in the area since the 70's or before can tell that town has lost the flavor it used to have. Once the university changed over from a a center for academia to a business, that brought more people to the area and convinced others to stay after attending the University. As the University and the spin offs grew so did the surrounding areas. It will never be tha same and the city council in Ann Arbor should accept this. If they were willing to accept the concept of a region instead of isolating themselves, then a connection with points and destinations out of town could be made. There is no reason why an artists enclave in Ypsilanti, which has cheaper rent and plenty of large rental units, can not benefit the entire community.

Ethics Advocate

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:16 a.m.

"Losing cultural vitality" is indeed a risk for Ann Arbor. That is because having it is very important in attempts to get existing or startup companies with sophisticated goods and services to locate in our area, which is critical for the entire state and not just AA. As an example, the former head of Pfizer here once told me that a sigificant reason for their generous support of culturual organizations and events was to help get technical experts here who otherwise would stay in the pharmaceutical area in NJ because it was close to the cultural activities of NYC. Toyota has now become a significant substitute for what Pfizer formerly did, including moving technical employees here from CA. The importance of that attraction of firms that have or need well-educated employees is why maintaining our cultural vitality is much broader and less tangible than a new facility. Rather, it is very important that organizations such as UMS, the Ann Arbor Symphony, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, local art exibitors and the Hands-On Museum receive adequate support to continue the level of their activities that existed before the current economic downturn.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:10 a.m.

Many communities are struggling with building a "niche" that will bring visitors (and their money). A destination location as it has been described. In Chelsea, we have lost two business's, the Cranesbill Book Store and the Chelsea Gallery. Both were unique in a town the size of Chelsea. They both brought writers and artists from within the region for opening and signings. They also advertised over a larger region in hopes of bringing in patrons. A new website has been in development to assist Chelsea business's, that offers free web accessibility to those who otherwise wouldn't have, as well as a single source for shopping all of downtown Chelsea. As a neighboring community, we want Ann Arbor to continue its vibrant arts and theatre reputation. It helps draw people into the region. Visitors money will then help pay for roads and services.

Michigan Libby

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

You have to be wealthy to live in Ann Arbor, and artists are not! My family has lived here for three generations, the fourth not being able to afford to! The artists I know are moving to Ypsilanti and Detroit.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:07 a.m.

The City of Ann Arbor is morally bankrupt-when kids at Mitchell elementary school take home food for the weekend so they can eat, yet the city is in deep discussion about art space, something is wrong.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

Perhaps Ann Arbor is losing cultural vitality because we lost our Ann Arbor News. I am certain that we would never have seen Deja Vu's ad on the Sports page masthead of that fine publication.

Justin Fenwick

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

Unfortunately the oft mentioned artist profile in Ann Arbor doesn't give credit where credit is due. Many studies (see the Arts Alliance, Americans for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and even the United Nations) point to the strong economic impact and drivers of the creative economy. Cleavland has been a city strong to embrace these indicators and to great success (see, Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, for more). I look forward to Ann Arbor reaping the benefits of artistic growth. A diversity in skills (both right-brain and left-brain) is important to the success of anything, including the Ann Arbor community. I would be more interested in hearing suggestions how the space and area could best be used. There are a lot of options, some already mentioned: performance space, small creative business incubator, studio space, etc... I think we have an opportunity on our hands.

Skeb Bpow

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

Artists, if you need space, like XMO said, head to Ypsi. It has the space you require and could use the foot traffic/activity. Plus it has much of the integrity & tolerance (as well as hipness) that contemporary Ann Arbor lacks.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

Is it just me or is it because that it's getting close to election time that we hear about this kind of stuff? Where were these people when there was still half a chance to do something like this Ann Arbor is a wannabe arts community. It may have the reputation... But it lacks the COMMUNITY part and that can't be bought and it certainly can't be made to conform to a bureaucratic mandate. What's the average age of the members of the AAPAC?

elvis the pelvis

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

I'm the founder of the Ann Arbor Break Dancing Squad. I wonder if city council would consider having a meeting with my squad and turning this property into a urban park and a "break dancing" studio? Wake up city council and residents, this city cannot afford to keep wasting valuable property away. If you want a park downtown walk two blocks north to West Park.

Silent Runnings

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

I agree with the comments about "pampered artists". In this time of economic crisis, money would be better spent keeping our police and fire intact. However, if the city does wish to explore throwing money at "artistic endeavors", I propose sending taxpayer money to my house. My niece just learned how to put her new Lego set together and, quite frankly, I was amazed! I became misty-eyed and marveled at her artistic brilliance. These are the same feelings I get when wandering a museum, gazing upon magnificent paintings. We can call my house and the exhibit: "Real Life Artists at Work" or...."The Commune of Everyday Artistry". This can work folks and I will only spend what I need from the trough; which of course, is every bit of cash I can get my hands on. In closing, I would like to add that in "regular peoples" lives, time is money. Therefore, can we please dispense with the: "D-3rd Ward" after a council member's name? They're all Democrats. This way, we can all get through the article much quicker.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:25 a.m.

the approach of bringing the entire community together for historic preservation, stormwater management, renewable energy, arts, and culture will lead to significant improvement in a part of town that is now covered in asphalt and surface parking lots. What a novel idea!! Where was this "APPROACH" 4 years ago? Shouldn't this be the only "APPROACH" for local government? Who voted for the "APPROACH" of backroom deals behind our backs and only seeking input from constituents AFTER the deal was sealed? VOTE anyone BUT incumbents.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:24 a.m.

The 212 Arts Center in Saline is sponsored by the Cowan Slavin Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit operating foundation. Perhaps the Ann Arbor area artists could look for a similar patron.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:08 a.m.

Ann Arbor has done to its artists with Austin did to its musicians--forced them to move out of town. First, the yuppies moved to the areas between 4th-6th street because that's where the music was happening. They developers speculated, converted old warehouses into luxury lofts, and drove the price of real estate through the roof. Then these same people began calling the cops about how loud the music was and the cops started issuing noise tickets. I wish it were possible to take a poll of how many people who are complaining here about the city budget, moved here because of Ann Arbor's "cultural vibrancy" in the 1980s, and helped to ruin it culturally. Any artist worth her or his salt these days lives in Ypsilanti; the old baby boomers were the folks who complained that skateboarders were sleazy, that the old Performance Network site was an eyesore on the West side, that houses used as alternative music venues were inappropriate for their????. Some of these same people opposed the Neutral Zone being in their neighborhoods, and complained about the freedom of WCBN--the finest college radio station in the Midwest if not the country. They ruined the character 4th Avenue had by "cleaning it up." Ann Arbor was at its best between 1965-1986; now it looks like Birmingham. It's gone, gone gone and the yups killed it. City services.... translates into whatever makes aging baby boomers comfortable. Talk about spoiled.

Some Guy in 734

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9 a.m.

Dear everyone looking down your noses at the communities just east of Ann Arbor... Come visit the Riverside Arts Center and the Village Theater at Cherry Hill. Then brace yourself as it dawns on you: There exist people in Ypsi and in Canton Township who can figure out how to do this. Don't get me wrong. I'm a native. The very blood in my veins growing up contained water from Eberwhite and Burns Park neighborhood taps. When I watched a Michigan football game on TV, when the sun would go behind a cloud and it looked darker out my windows, the field would look darker on TV, too. My hometown may have done me wrong sometimes, but like a first love it will always have a special place in my heart. That said, there's a reason I'm living in Ypsi.

Michael Psarouthakis

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

I am as concerned about the economy as anyone, but I think if the council can find funding through grants, as Carsten Hohnke mentioned, this would be a very good thing for the city. Federal and foundation grant funding is going to go somewhere, so why not try and get some for the benefit of Ann Arbor? I do agree with Alan on the art purchase for the Court/Police building. Would have been much better to have a local or at least Michigan artist get that project and keep that money in Ann Arbor/Michigan.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:46 a.m.

The "arts" of municipal responsibility and priority are the elements most lacking in a2 City government. It may be more glamorous for Mayor, Council, and DDA to concern itself with water fountains and statues. The folly certainly makes them happy. We get it. There is little glamor in tending most true City business: sewer and water services, trash collection, compost making, road repair and maintenance... sustaining systems of public safety... upholding morale of City workers... maintaining the trust and confidence of taxpayers amidst a severe economic downturn... Mayor and most of Council should hang it up and start looking for new jobs. They have their fingers in the pots of everything except their charge. They have forgotten what it is they are supposed to do...


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.

I understand the posts that cry out for infrastructure and safety expenditures to take precedence over arts funding in view of current needs and fiscal constraints, but not the acid and vitriol. The question is really one of identity and sustainability, and so difficult choices have to be made, but they can be made with civility and good sense. If Ann Arbor is to attract people outside of the university and a few other employers, it will have to maintain its identity as one of the few nice places to live in the Midwest. The arts and affordable housing are critical to such long range goals. Those who do not want to "coddle" artists should look at the statistics that show just how much revenue comes in to cities from the arts. If we let developers change the city into another suburb with horrible massive projects and at the same time ignore the needs of artists and other people who make the city unique, then we will just have another blob that no one really cares about, characterized mainly by the bad quality of its restaurants. And yet someone wants to spend 50,000 dollars on a consultant to tell us which convention project to choose when we know that neither will be funded. Time to stop spewing nastiness and think in practical terms.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:36 a.m.

I would like to see more space for people to live in Ann Arbor. The art's is ok but maybe they should move to the lower rent districts of Ypsilanti, Scio Twp etc. Struggling artist always are more creative than the pamper ones.

Rhe Buttle

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:30 a.m.

Already lost it, when they built Briarwood and turned Washtenaw and Stadium into Canton Center (oh, you don't remember that?). Then they turned Jackson Ave. into Telegraph, ala 1960. Now all we have to do is wait for the blight. Businesses closing and boarding up on Jackson, Washtenaw and Stadium and it will all look like Ford Road. Cultural luster? Yeah, right.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

More space for artists would be good. It's worth noting though that the timing for this push by city administrators for 415 W. Washington creates the appearance that the mayor and others are using this proposal in an attempt to prevent a park above the library lot.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

Ann Arbor is much less ideal than it was 40 years ago.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

Too bad "Ann Arbor is starting to lose some of its cultural luster"! What about all the residents losing their health care? Have you ever seen a doctor in fore closer? I think not. That art is so much a concern is disgusting!


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:16 a.m.

Here's a thought. Dump the urinal project at the new city hall and rename the "1% for Art" program "1% for ARTISTS." Use ALL that money to fund an art center at 415. You could go ahead and dissolve the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission and all those related expenses. Simplify!


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:09 a.m.

Art is a reflection of a strong economy - it does not create one. Our "hemorrhaging" of artists and their inability to find a place in our economy is because, right now, the economy doesn't have a place for them right now - or for roads, shelter, and the many other basic needs of people. So, throwing money at such a luxury item - art - seems innappropriate. If you can't afford the firemen, you need to fire the artmen. And by the way, maybe now all of those artists - who found it so hip and cute to drive around in the latest Volkswagen or Subaru (...or whatever foreign car they felt reflected them as a person) as they broght their stuff to the art fair - will realize that they are part of a larger economy. When we don't support the number one source of money in our state - the big 3 - then it will be pretty hard to support them.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

When cops, firefighters and other vital city employees are being laid off, and the city is being forced to cut or eliminate services,it is highly irresponsible to waste time trying to figure out how to pamper people who claim to be "artists". Artists ought to do what other hobbyists do- make space in their basements or garages and follow your passions, like others do.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:43 a.m.

Ryan Stanton always writes a great article. This one is filled with warmth without being biased. He is a solid reporter. Ann Arbor has a city council that says they will help to form some group to report back in about a year. Well, go for it. And stay out of my wallet about it. If artists work because it is their love, why do they expect to be paid? If artists work because it their livelihood, why don't they treat it as a business? There are wonderful shops in our area that feature the work of local artists. Take a look at The Garden Mill and Chelsea Gallery over in Chelsea. Who does that in Ann Arbor? Why not ask the DDA to speak to their membership about displaying local art for sale? If we want to help artists, help them learn how to run a business. Offer a special seminar that focuses on promotion, pricing, and distribution. Help them learn about applying for grants. Ask the AA Board of Realtors members and companies like McKinley to keep a list of possible space to rent on a short term basis. Study what Jackson did with the old Armory. Why are artists waiting for someone to do it for them? Why don't they do it themselves? Who decided that high rent and a "seeming absence of a primary exhibit space" are the cause of their woes? Sounds like more of an excuse to me. Primary exhibit space sounds like the evergreen art fair. Is that even a good idea? I love art. I buy art. I sometimes pick up a paint brush or start on a collage. I support art. I don't think Ann Arbor government needs to subsidize it. There are plenty of support-the-arts groups already. Take a look at ArtServe []. They are connected to all the groups throughout Michigan, including Ann Arbor. Could Ann Arbor council please spend more time taking care of the basic services.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

It doesn't matter how many artists, or how much fantastic art a city has if its infrastructure is crumbling. Do you really think that people are going to want to live in a city with roads that are full of pot holes? And a bridge that's practically falling down around us? You can have all the fantastic art in the world but if you can't drive to work without almost killing your car on the roads, people aren't going to want to stay! Fix the roads! Fix the Stadium bridge! Fix the Argo Dam problem! THEN worry about art.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

most of A2's culture and hipness ended in the early 80's.The reputation is still here but now its just rich people trying to do all the things everyone says is cool and act the part.Like go to downtown eateries and eat out on the carbon dioxide filled sidewalk tables.Arent we just so cool to all you people driving by us.We are just so with it


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:25 a.m.

At this point in time, the city needs to be concerned about paying its bills. I appreciate art but I don't want to lose services or raise taxes on an already tax burdened population. When the economy swings in a year or two we can turn the public trough back on.

The Picker

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

With all the problems that A2 is struggling with this whole discussion is a joke and a complete waste of our expensive councils time. The problem with the art community is that they are all a bunch of pampered Yuppies and Ouppies. They need to suffer a little to enliven passions, not have city govt coddle them with "affordability" as if that where councils responsibility. If the passion is truly there the artist will find space locally or elswhere to hone their creativity.