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Posted on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 11:10 p.m.

Public art, municipal center sculpture earn favor of Ann Arbor City Council

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor City Council members sided in favor of public art on two proposals before them tonight: the city's Percent for Art Program and a water-based sculpture slated to go outside the new municipal center downtown.

After voting to preserve the Percent for Art Program, the council turned to the first project to result from the public art fund. A proposal had called for reducing that fund from 1 percent to a half-percent for three years.

The council tonight awarded a $111,400 contract to Quinn Evans Architects for design and management services on the exterior component of a sculpture to be erected in front of city hall by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl.


An artist rendering of the proposed sculpture.

"Thank you for reaffirming art as a core value of our community," Margaret Parker, chairwoman of the city's Public Art Commission, told council members.

Council members voiced strong opinions that public art is not only one of Ann Arbor's trademarks, but is also a driver of economic development.

"It's kind of a defining element for Ann Arbor," said Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward.

Some feared a vote against public art would send a negative message to the broader community - and most agreed the little money that could be saved by cutting into art wouldn't go far enough in solving the city's budget problems to warrant it.

The art resolution came as a late addition to the agenda by Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward. It drew a large crowd of supporters from the arts community who applauded the council for the decisions tonight.

With the council's approval, Quinn Evans Architects will proceed with the outdoor sculpture project design. Once that work is complete, bids will be received from the fabricators and installers, and authorization will be requested for project construction.

In July, Dreiseitl presented his preliminary design proposal for an outdoor sculpture with related indoor installations in the lobby areas of the municipal center.

The large outdoor sculpture with integrated glass pearls and storm water features will be located on the south plaza adjacent to a rain garden. In addition, a two-dimensional Huron River graphic is expected to be located on the custom blue-glass wall in the main lobby of the police-court addition. A third item, a two-dimensional plant graphic, is planned on the west wall of the new Larcom Building atrium lobby.

The total cost is estimated at $737,820, though the Public Art Commission has established a project budget of $750,000 - including the cost of the design, fabrication, and installation. Officials anticipate installation in May 2011.

The City Council approved a contract with Dreiseitl for $77,000 in March for the early conceptual design.

City officials said Quinn Evans Architects - along with the artist and city staff - have met to review design concepts for the art features, prepare cost estimates, and conduct interviews with art fabricators and installers. City officials said Dreiseitl proposed working with the local firms of Quinn Evans Architects and Conservation Design Forum - with Dreiseitl maintaining artistic control as the project consultant.

The Dreiseitl project is the first project to be funded by the city's Percent for Art Program, which has been accumulating money for three years. Under an ordinance approved by the City Council, 1 percent of the money spent on capital projects in the city is set aside for public art somewhere in the city.

At a first reading of the resolution to reduce the public art program to a half-percent earlier this month, a majority of council members favored the cuts. But several council members changed their minds tonight based on public input.

Because a voice vote was taken, no official vote tally was recorded by the city clerk. But before the vote, Council Members Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, and Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, voiced their reasons for favoring the cuts.

Smith said it seemed prudent to pull back on art funding given the city's budget challenges. But she also saw it as a way to preserve the public art program for the next three years by not eliminating it entirely.

Kunselman said he looked at art as a non-essential item when the city's roads are crumbling, bridges are at risk of collapsing, park closures are being discussed and employees are being laid off. Kunselman also was the only one to vote against the resolution to move forward on the Dreiseitl sculpture.

Council Members Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, and Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, were absent from tonight's meeting.

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



Wed, Dec 23, 2009 : 2:57 p.m.


Wed, Dec 23, 2009 : 10:40 a.m.

I know it' painful to admit, but we: -Voted in the present City Council members -Voted to approve the percent art program -Voted to allow the greenbelt land grab -Allowed excessive expenditures for years -Stood by while the City padded their retirements, etc. In short, we have ourselves to blame. When times were great, nobody gave a rats hind end how the City used our tax dollars. Now, all of a sudden, everbody is concerned. We gave the City carte blanche to spend. Now, we need to take back what was erroneously given. (Might I also point out the paltry voting turnout time and again? I sincerely hope that all the posters above have darkened the voting booths of our dear City. If not, I hope you will learn by this and begin to practice this most cherished right.)


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:10 p.m.

I knew I shouldn't have written it, but my point was the City values Capital over People. btw, my payback was about a week...I helped the company instantly...although that didn't entail risking my life to help others.

Eric P

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:37 p.m.

Can't use the art money for something else? fine, then at least pay it out to a LOCAL artist.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:32 p.m.

@Brad... what do you do for a living sir? I ask only because I'd like to calculate the payback for your position.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:25 p.m.

And there you have it folks. Bruno has spoken! In fact, let's just get rid of the PD and FD. I mean, those evil unions are just getting in the way of Fraser being able to spend more money on "Fraser Hall". While we're at it, let's get rid of all the sanitation workers too. I mean, we never see them, so who needs them and their stinking contracts? Let's just turn back the clocks to before there were unions. I'm sure employers wouldn't have you working below the poverty level, on weekend and holidays, or anything like that. Good job Bruno. You should run for President. Common sense could be your platform!


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:21 p.m.

Lynn- City bought 33,000 recycle carts for $1.4m for the new Single-Stream Recylcing (without debate by Council). They also bought 4 new recycle trucks for $1.1m. Soon, they will expand the building for a few more mil. They say the financial payback will be 7 years...They didn't say what the payback is for a fireman. I'm for the art funding; I'm beginning to waver on the Water Sculpture. Instead of one, large, controversial project, why didn't they add a few more "Cubes"?


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:16 p.m.

art funding debates,firefighter cuts, all this talk about having common sense- why not look at the union contracts if you really want to discuss the city budget and common sense, every local government in michigan could afford this water structure if we consolidated and got rid of unions.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:15 p.m.

Unbelievable...fiscally irresponsible behavior!


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 5:29 p.m.

with no real local paper there is one less option for voters to know what their mayor and council people propose, vote or which side they fall on on many of these subjects.

Lynn Lumbard

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 5:17 p.m.

Ryan, could you tell us what Really? was referring to when he said council approved 1.4 million for garbage cans last night?


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 5:13 p.m.

I hope King John and his vassals are reading these comments, and all the others published since the inception of this clueless boondoggle. Does Ann Arbor,Com forward them to city hall or do we just hope they deign to read them!? Also, was Mike Anglin present for this vote? If so, I am surprised he would support this wanton thievery.

Lynn Lumbard

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 5:06 p.m.

I'm sure the (remaining) firefighters downtown, will enjoy looking across the street at the ART, which is, of course, a defining element for Ann Arbor.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 3:57 p.m.

This is just so crazy. Michigan is so strapped for money, and if I understand this right, this is not even money going directly to local artists for their work? And to cut firefighters for this piece of garbage is like theater absurd,. There has to be a way to use this money for firefighter and other essential services. This really cannot be happening in a community with so many educated people.

Blue Eyes

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 3:22 p.m.

"It's kind of a defining element for Ann Arbor." With all of the cuts and layoffs the City is planning, it's going to be the ONLY defining element left!


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 2:54 p.m.

Well People here is more city Waste. Hey Mr Mayor and city council see at next election and god forbid any of you get reelected. because none of you deserve it.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 2:43 p.m.

I would like to know how many signatures would be required to recall the mayor and his cronies - perhaps Ryan could research that for us. Just a rough estimate would be fine. Also, we could use a good deal on some tar, feathers, and really splintery split rails!


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 2:18 p.m.

Why should I have expected anything else from the elitists that run this city. First they rob us to build the municipal building, why not throw another $750,000 in for art, heck, they are not paying for it. Give me $1000 and I'll create a proposal. Why wasn't a local artist given the honor of creating the work at the cost of materials? There is coming a day when you who spend like this are going to be kicked out on your behinds and shamed. The democratic party, the one against all the spending. Lies, lies, lies, you are all the same under one skin. You're Bush with an Obama mask on.

Jeff S

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 1:55 p.m.

At least the water sculpture won't catch fire

John Galt

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 1:23 p.m.

This is why I will never, ever vote for more taxes for Ann Arbor.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 12:34 p.m.

I know I shouldn't be by now, but I am constantly amazed at how much power corrupts people. What is going to happen to those firefighters and all the people that die as a result of having no one to help? I guess it doesn't matter though because we will have something nice to look at while we suffer. Just...incredible.

David Cahill

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 12:21 p.m.

Ryan, your coverage of the vote on the proposed ordinance to reduce the public art fund from 1 % to 1/2 % is not clear. Did this proposed ordinance, which was before the City Council last night for its second reading, pass or fail?

Steve Hendel

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 12:16 p.m.

Well, yes, Joan Lowenstein, you are correct-there was a time when the allegedly excessive fringe benefits and retirement perks enjoyed by firefighters were subject to criticism, although I thought it was misplaced; instead of being directed at the firefighters themselves, it should have been directed at the short-sighted Council members who approved the contracts containing those perks and benefits without considering the effect on the City's finances. HOWEVER, this is only a relevant point IF those benefits and perks remain unaltered today. Do they? In regard to the % For Art-how many times do we have to have essentially the same discussion before we realize the problems we create when the budget is sliced up into numerous little 'buckets', each with it's own constituency and group of advocates? We have parks millages, we have road millages, we have % For Art, etc etc etc. and each such earmarking makes it more and more difficult to have a flexible budget responsive to changing economic situations. Let's have at least a thorough examination of all these little (and not so little) lock boxes, and whether they really need to exist. It would take a courageous Council member to actually propose this. Thanks


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 11:40 a.m.

every vote should be a roll call vote. voters have a right to know how someone voted on everything that came accross their table.

Arno B

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 11:10 a.m.

Mr Rapundalo (Rapunzel?) comments about a "...defining element for Ann Arbor..." regarding a piece of noble art work. Well, I think that he already has several "defining elements", such as his lusting after a City Income Tax. At any rate, those noisy folks wanting to fund their "Art" should be asked to pay for it themselves rather than taking other people's money by force and using it for spending on their pet fantasies. I wonder what Mike Anglin's 5th Ward voice contributed to the "Vote".

Joan Lowenstein

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 11:03 a.m.

Memory is short. Not so long ago, people were complaining that firefighters could retire and make more money in retirement than they did when they were working. There is a lot of room for negotiation in salary and benefits to avoid layoffs. Changing the percent for art program would have no effect whatsoever on layoffs or the home foreclosures that Kunselman was musing about during the meeting.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 10:59 a.m.

Ryan, I loved the typo in your story about "saying their peace". I hope that they don't get any. This vote was irresponsible. True, the money can't go to the general fund, but it is being illegally removed from enterprise funds such as water and sewer utilities. We are charged user fees to maintain those funds and the fees are going up. It is a tax for art and as such should be subjected to a popular vote. I think the council asked the wrong question. It was not "are you for art or not" but "is this the proper use of fees collected from the public". Hooray for the courage shown by council members Kunselman and Smith.

Top Cat

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

The arrogance of our political elites on all levels in this country is astounding.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:58 a.m.

No one should ever support a "percent for general fund", but I like where you're going with that. The general fund is used for so many things (like golf courses) that the city coucil would end up just spending more money on worthless things instead of core services. Percent for public safety is a better idea, or just simply going to a council meeting and letting them know what you think. These blogs do nothing for change. We can type until our fingers fall off. Unless people stand up and speak at a council meeting or email their council members, these comments are all just dust in the wind.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:45 a.m.

It is an outright lie that the art money couldn't be used for any other purpose. 1. End Percent for Art and return all of the funds to the respective City accounts they were drawn from. 2. Create "Percent for Public Safety" and transfer the money to accounts that will pay to keep firefighters employed and more cops on the beat. Or how about "Percent for the General Fund" or "Percent for Retirement Funding?" I am absolutely horrified at the ignorance, arrogance, and absolute cowardice of this City Council. Throw the rascals out!! I've lived in Ann Arbor for over 30 years and I can name two pubic art pieces that are not on University property. When did public art become a defining element of Ann Arbor, Mr. Rapundalo? And speaking of public art, you and your committee just tossed out a $2.5+ million gift for art, fountains and open space (that could be used for small art fairs) on top of the library structure. How come you think a lighted urinal in a tiny space between two ugly buildings on busy Huron will provide economic development, but the hugely popular and PRIVATELY FUNDED Town Center would not?


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:40 a.m.

Margaret Parker should be ashamed with herself. We need to focus on meeting the most basic needs of Ann Arbor residents before we spend money like this. I'm a supporter of the arts, but the perverse imbalance in the priorities of this City Council are becoming greater every day.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:20 a.m.

Apparently the whole "You Gotta Have Art" mantra rings true again.......


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:18 a.m.

How easy will it be to convince City employees to take voluntary paycuts now? I know, Iknow... Art money can't be used for operations. But can money saved by layoffs and paycuts be used for more art and pet projects? Why,"Yes It Can!"


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:17 a.m.

In looking at the artists rendering near the top of this article I see 20+ people mulling about in a rather large park with a wide bridge over a stream/pond. The $800,000 sculpture appears to be at least twice the height of nearby people. It would be really interesting for someone with access to the new city hall building to stand in the approximate spot this drawing is from and take a photo with 20 people standing in that area. Someone could stand where the sculpture is supposed to go as well. (Or better yet, a same-size, shape cutout) I think it would reveal the obvious inaccuracies represented in the scale of that space -- which is, in fact, quite small. Look for yourself next time you are driving by on Huron St with the rest of the traffic (that would be in that misty area behind the sculpture.)


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:12 a.m.

@Fred&Barney... I was one of the FF in the room and one that is part of the lay offs. It shocks me to see that a dozen or so residents will line up and talk about 0.5% in an art fund and fight for it, but will go dead silent. It's from all the council meetings that the residents in this city simply don't care if their fire stations close. Did anyone else notice that Fraser is laying off 14 firefighters stating he needs $1.4 millon, and last night they voted to buy garbage cans for $1.4 millon? I've done countless CPR's on residents, cut folks out of cars, helped the elderly up when they've fallen and didn't have any family to call. Now the FD if falling down (well, being pushed down by Roger Fraser), and not one resident would stand up and protest this. Thanks Ann Arbor. It was rewarding saving lives so that people could be with their loved ones this holiday. I don't think sending an email to your council members or speaking for 3 minutes was too much to ask. Maybe I misjudged...


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:11 a.m.

2nd Ward - Stephen Rapundalo (D) Tony Derezinski (D) Now I know 2 names I won't be voting for anytime soon.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 9:09 a.m.

So we can spend $111,000 on art while looking to close down our public parks to park cars for football games to generate needed revenue? Seems a little odd to me.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:58 a.m.

All the while 30 firefighters sat quietly in the audience as the great art debate raged on. 14 of the firefighters wished they had been a piece of art, as opposed to a public servant.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:54 a.m.

Will you remember this the next time you elect a city council person? If your answer is yes, then I ask will you remember what both Democrats and Republicans have done to us on a national level the next time you vote for U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, and U.S. President? Because they have screwed us all WAY more thoroughly than city council has. You can't just vote out the Democrats or the Republicans and replace them with more Republicans and Democrats. They are the SAME thing and they ALL need to go.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:49 a.m.

Kunselman seems to be the only person in touch with reality on that entire council. The mandate a while back was simple... reduce spending in the city. Why is he the only one that is willing to cut back but has to fight with the others every step of the way? Keep him, trash the rest. Notice he was the only one that brought up the fact that the 'art commission' isn't following the cities own ordinance. This art work that "won't cost any money" hasn't even had the proper reports and budgets created yet. Mainly the maintenance costs. And by the way, this isn't free money as the artists would like to believe. Any project that the city has to pay for, they have to pay extra for this fund. So when the city has to pay for a capital project, they also have to pay to these people. "Doesn't cost the city anything". Guess the city council (except for the only one I respect, Kunselman) all believe in a free lunch.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:27 a.m.

@Alan Based on comments made last night, it seemed apparent that Smith and Kunselman were the only ones in favor of going through with the cuts to public art. The rest, one could assume from their statements, supported preserving the Percent for Art Program. Though a voice vote was taken, council members took turns saying their peace and gave the comments summarized in paragraphs 5-7. So they did go on the record, but you're right in that there's no easy paper trail in city records for constituents to see how their council members voted on this. There have been a couple votes lately with the City Council where the issue at hand was polarizing and a roll call vote would have been more helpful to the public at large to see who took which side. I'll point out anyone who wants to can go online to the agenda from last night and watch the video of what happened.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:25 a.m.

I believe it was the late great Ted Heusel who once dubbed his beloved Ann Arbor "70 square miles surrounded by reality". Rest in peace Ted. Your voice of sanity is missed by this citizen.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:16 a.m.

"Council members voiced strong opinions that public art is not only one of Ann Arbor's trademarks, but is also a driver of economic development." That, I would contend, is a lie. If someone took a random poll of Ann Arbor residents and another random poll of visitors to Ann Arbor I am comfortable that the vast majority could not tell you where a piece of "public art" was.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 7:54 a.m.

"Some feared a vote against public art would send a negative message to the broader community - and most agreed the little money that could be saved by cutting into art wouldn't go far enough in solving the city's budget problems to warrant it." This unfortunately is the mentality of the city council members. They don't understand that the big picture is the signal this sends to the community in tough economic times. The signal it sends to me and other voters who are fed up with this kind of thing is to create proposals for a future ballot that limits the power of the city council so these kinds of initiatives (at least ones over a certain dollar amount) require public vote.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 7:50 a.m.

(Planning to vote out my 2nd ward reps for their complete lack of response to their constituents.)


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:44 a.m.

"It's kind of a defining element for Ann Arbor," said Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward. I grew up just outside of AA and I have never heard anyone say this. Some feared a vote against public art would send a negative message to the broader community - and most agreed the little money that could be saved by cutting into art wouldn't go far enough in solving the city's budget problems to warrant it. A little money is still money. In these hard times I have been cutting a lot of things that save a little money. Guess what it adds up! I bought a foreclosed house in AA about a year ago. I regret not buying in a township outside off AA where common sense prevails. I look forward to leaving this city. Thank you Mr. Kunselman!

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 2:41 a.m.

Regarding the council members who voted in favor of this, I'm curious as to how wealthy they and their spouses are and how much they donate to public art. Specifically I'm wondering how hard it might have been for them to raise the money privately for this purpose.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 2:16 a.m.

GREAT! Thanks to Hieftje and his rubber stamp council flunkies Ann Arbor will now be know as "Home of the Million Dollar Water Penis"


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 1:50 a.m.

doesn't matter if it's from the general fund or not. it would show that the aa city council members are maybe just a little less clueless than they have been for years. thank God one of them actually has a brain.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 1:20 a.m.

It sounds good but he was grandstanding, by now everyone knows that very little of the money that will pay for the art could be spent on anything else. It would all have to back to the funds it came from. None was from the general fund.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 12:55 a.m.

Why can't we put in a nice flower bed and replace it when the city can afford something nicer? Some people get it (Kunselman) and some people don't.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 12:13 a.m.

Thank you Mr. Kunselman for having the balls (can I say that?), sorry, having the gumption for both voting against this proposal and stating on the record sound reasons for disagreeing. At least there is one council person who understands the severity of the grave financial situation the city is facing.