You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Task force recommends complete overhaul of Ann Arbor's public art program

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor could see sweeping changes to its taxpayer-funded public art program if a task force's recommendations are approved by the City Council.

The city's public art task force has been meeting regularly since its formation in December and it's close to finalizing a set of proposed ordinance changes to take to council.

Among the recommendations coming out of the task force: Hire a full-time public art administrator, establish a new fund for accepting private donations, engage the community more in the selection and funding of art projects, and eliminate the Percent For Art funding mechanism that automatically channels 1 percent of city capital project dollars to a pooled public art fund.


A series of mosaic-style murals on the columns of a shelter at Allmendinger Park was the result of a collaboration between artist Mary Thiefels and members of the community who donated items to be included. It's one of a handful of city-funded public art projects completed under the city's Percent For Art Program, which could be replaced with a new program soon.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Sabra Briere, one of five council members who make up the task force, said the plan is to have the proposed ordinance language finalized at the task force's next meeting March 1.

After that, the changes to the city's controversial Percent for Art Program could end up on the City Council's agenda for first reading March 18, with a public hearing and final reading April 1.

"The issues that we particularly wanted to speak to were those consensus issues that included how and where public art should be placed, what we should use as the funding to pay for public art, and how we could change our public art ordinance in order to allow for temporary art, art that the public selects or the public helps to pay for, and performance art," Briere said.

"We're also working with language that would eliminate the so-called Percent For Art funding mechanism, but would allow capital improvement projects to have public art associated with a project and have it what we call 'baked in' as an ingredient of the project," she said.

Under a Percent For Art ordinance approved by the City Council in 2007, 1 percent of the budget for city capital projects — up to a limit of $250,000 per project — is set aside for public art.

Millions of dollars from various city funds, including the water and sewer utilities and the streets and parks millages, have been channeled into a pooled art fund as a result. The funding mechanism has left the city's Public Art Commission with its hands tied at times — legally able to spend the pooled dollars only on permanent art installations that somehow relate to the source of the funds.

The City Council voted in early December to partially suspend the Percent For Art Program while the five-member task force looked into options for taking a new approach.

The task force's formation came after city voters in November rejected a proposal that would have replaced the Percent For Art Program with a dedicated millage for public art.

The five task force members working out a new solution for public art in Ann Arbor are Briere, Sally Hart Petersen, Stephen Kunselman, Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall.


"They're good recommendations," said Council Member Stephen Kunselman, who has been one of the biggest critics of the city's Percent For Art Program. "They're going to make some good changes in the art program."

Ryan J. Stanton |

"They're good recommendations," said Kunselman, who has been one of the biggest critics of the city's Percent For Art Program. "They're going to make some good changes in the art program."

The task force has determined the pooled Percent For Art funds place a burden on the city's staff to effectively account for each funding stream. It recommends eliminating the pooled funding and removing any reference to a specific percentage of a capital project budget for art.

Instead, the city's staff would have to work to determine whether a specific capital improvement project should have enhanced design features, including either enhanced architectural work or specific public art. And then the funding for such elements would be included in the budget for the project, and that would become part of the request for proposals process for the project.

"The biggest thing for me was making sure we weren't taking money out of our restricted funds and we're going in that direction, so I'm really pleased," Kunselman said.

"It'll be baked into capital projects where council feels it's appropriate. The reality is that's how a lot of percent for art programs actually work. They bake that art into the project itself."

Kunselman said money from restricted funds like the streets millage and the water and sewer utilities still could be used to pay for public art. It just wouldn't be channeled to a pooled fund without a specific project in mind — it would have to be planned up front.

He said the Stadium bridges project is a good example of a project that could have benefited from that approach. Instead of including public art in the project from the start, the city is now trying to figure out how to use $360,000 in pooled art funds for art of some kind on or near the new bridges.

"Rather than having art attached after the fact, art can be a part of the project at the very beginning and that's really important," Kunselman said.


Council Members Sabra Briere, left, and Sally Hart Petersen both serve on the council's public art task force. The task force found there are many successful public art programs around, and the acceptance and enthusiasm for public art grows when the community is involved in the process.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The task force found there are many successful public art programs around, and the acceptance and enthusiasm for public art grows when the community is involved in the process.

The task force is recommending establishing a funding mechanism that allows members of the community to propose and raise funds for specific pieces of art, including projects in public locations with no connection to city capital improvements. Briere mentioned the idea of a bronze Adirondack chair in memory of Coleman Jewett at the Farmers Market as the type of project that could be funded through what the task force is calling an "Art in Public Places Trust Fund."

The city doesn't have a mechanism to accept tax-exempt funds, so the task force recommends working with an organization such as the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation to establish a fund into which donations for public art can be placed. The task force wants that fund to be able to accept direct donations through one or more "crowdfunding" websites such as Kickstarter.

The task force also found that good public art programs, however they are funded, rely heavily on professional staff.

The city has a part-time public art administrator right now, but the task force argues the city needs a professionally trained public art administrator employed more than 50 percent of the time.

The Percent For Art Program's pooled funds include more than $400,000 of unallocated dollars at the moment. The task force recommends those funds be placed in the proposed Art in Public Places Trust Fund, and that funding for up to two years worth of salary and benefits be paid from the fund for a full-time administrator to help reorganize the program and establish new relationships with the city's staff as needed for any capital improvement projects with artistic elements baked in.

The task force recommends the city's staff review the implementation of any changes in the ordinance after three years. The timing is based on the task force's awareness that capital improvements might take longer than two years to move from inception to completion.


This $750,000 bronze sculpture/fountain in front of Ann Arbor's city hall is considered the signature achievement of the city's Percent For Art Program.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The task force wants to include temporary and performance art in the list of types of public art that could be funded through the trust fund, but it hasn't determined a solution for that yet.

Some task force members voiced a concern that if each project that includes enhanced architectural design or public art elements needs to be approved by council, future councils might not honor the consensus position that some public dollars can be used to enhance Ann Arbor's public spaces.

Some also believe the best funding mechanism remains a dedicated millage for public art, and the task force is asking that idea not be permanently shelved.

Teall, a staunch defender of public art, said there are risks as well as gains by going with the approach recommended by the task force, and she considers it a compromise.

"My own focus has been on maintaining not just public funding, but a responsibility that I think we have to help support cultural and artistic endeavors in the city," she said.

"It's my hope that we don't lose out on opportunities for actually publicly funded art," she said, expressing fears that art could be "value-engineered" out of projects by future councils that don't want the city paying for public art. "That's a risk that we're going to have to take, and hope that future councils value art as much as they value parks."

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.



Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

Public servants in Ann Arbpor have been laid off and the state of Michigan is in financial ruin. And all the residents of OZ can concern themselves with is public art?


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:08 p.m.

Let me state that I am a strong proponent of public art. I can immerse myself in the beautiful vast whiteness of todays snow as it covers the pine and birch trees I see. I love the deep dark colors of a thunderstorm especially as it transitions to the multicolors of a rainbow. I love the brilliance of the blue sky, yellow sun punctuated by the fleeting of colorful song birds, the vast aray of flowers seen on my daily spring, summer and fall walks. I enjoy the reds and oranges of the sunsets. These are all things that I consider and value as public art. Unfortunately, the public art that I see here as continuing to be proposed, is only that of green; the green that can be garnered from my wallet


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:27 a.m.

Leave it to City Council to come up with a solution that spends yet more taxpayer dollars, i.e., hiring a full-time administrator, on a program the people made it clear that they do not want in the first place. A useless position, in a city that is proposing shutting down fire stations for lack of money.

Sam S Smith

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:58 a.m.

The city council better do something about this because it is illegal to skim off other funds to fund art! Especially since the voters did not approve of this!


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

lets put this thing to rest.Put on the ballot should taxpayer money be used to fund art.No beating around the bush,no hidden meaning.Just a straight up question WITHOUT SUBTERFUGE.What a concept

A A Resident

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:19 a.m.

What, you think you live in utopia? That would be way too simple, and wouldn't waste nearly enough money on studies.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:53 p.m.

It's an end-run around the millage defeat.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

After reading the article a couple of more times, I too am starting to wonder if this is little more than a shell- game shuffling of the various taxpayer-based funding sources, but with an additional and probably unnecessary city employee to pay.

David Bardallis

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

I will create an "installation" of personally emptied beer bottles of rare and exotic libations for a mere $500,000.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

Is that more or less than you could get by returning the empties, and are you a local artist? We'll get back to you after we commission a 50K study to examine the proposal.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

I don't think this warrants a full time position. What about contracting the service with an arts oriented non-profit?

Brian Kuehn

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

"The city has a part-time public art administrator right now, but the task force argues the city needs a professionally trained public art administrator employed more than 50 percent of the time." Paying the salary and benefits for a professionally trained public art administrator sounds like an expensive luxury. Clearly our City government must have too much money if establishing this position is a priority. Think of all the service cuts and staff reductions that have occurred and now we are going to hire a full time director of public art?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

they need to forget about Art and and fund the POLICE and FIRE Departments

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

Or perhaps we could come up with something which is artistic, iconic, and and also useful, like the Golden Gate bridge (but a lot cheaper)?

Andy T

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

This is such a charged subject to say the least, since the value of art, and what people consider art is 100% subjective. There are some people who say it is utterly vital, while others see no value in it at all. Both are entitled to their opinions, and neither are truly 'wrong'. I somewhat like the concept of trying to acquire work largely from the community. The art would say 'this is us'. The only issue I see with restricting funds in this way is the scope of what can be accomplished. The pool of area artists is only so big and the scope of what one person or group can complete is limited. If there was a rule about 'only Ann Arborites' or 'only Michiganders' we might not be able to see more ambitious or grand projects that a wider net and decent budget bring. When I think of great examples of public art, I think of 'the Cloud Gate' (better known as 'the bean') in Chicago. This sculpture dazzles everyone who comes in to contact with it. To people who decry public art, I ask them to go check this out the next time they're in Chicago. I don't think anyone who was there the day that I visited it will ever forget that experience. That piece has become so iconic that it's just become part of what Chicago 'is' and people lose sight of the fact that that thing is first and foremost a piece of art. A piece of public art. To me, these kind of unique 'experiences' that you can have at these ambitious installations is the best of recent public art. You don't have to be an art lover to walk away from such a thing with a smile on your face. (Now, this comment is basically for people who see value in public art at all. If not, then this is all moot.)

John Floyd

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:39 a.m.

Discontent with public funding is not the same thing as discontent with art.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

I understand "Arts" helps living quality. But I thought fill the potholes, stop the break-ins, stop the rapists and capture them also improve living quality. I can't recall when was the last time my sub's potholes are filled and I have not yet seen any plow pass tru my sub this winter!

Joel A. Levitt

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Briere, Kunselman and the rest of the task force, thanks for your good work.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

I would rather have flowers hanging for the lamp posts (like Chicago) than art. I do not like the government telling me what is considered "art". I thought we voted this down? Why is it still be discussed?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

This town is getting ridiculous. Can Public art be used to put out fires? Or patrol the streets? It could be used to fill the holes in the road...

Marc Stephens

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Use art by local/Michigan artists only, please! Spending $750k on the fountain thing in front of city hall, commissioned from some German artist, is reprehensible.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

$360,000 for "art" near the new Stadium Bridge?!? Streets full of potholes, cuts to police and fire staffing but that kind of money for "art near the bridge"! Ann Arbor has lost its mind!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

You can't legislate good taste.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

NO Per cent for art,,, No Pool for art,,, No BAKED IN for art,,, NO TAX money for art.... Do ya get it??? Call it what ya want, it ends up being a tax. USE PRIVATE FUNDS FOR ART!

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

You need a louder voice! Why isn't this a choice in the vote?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.



Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

So, the voters reject the millage for public art by a significant margin. Of course the task force of enablers that sanctioned the siphoning of public restricted monies into art projects then double-down and call for a doubling of cost the for a director of public art, and for hiding the cost of public art in capital budgets. Vintage Democrat behavior. The people say no, and our alleged public servants say "yes" because the Nanny statists know far better than the people how to spend the people's money.

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

400K unallocated would fund the Ann Arbor Saline bridge repair, but then we would have no aluminum trees in the parks nor an upended pinball machine on Huron.

John Floyd

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:37 a.m.

It's not an upended pinball machine, it's a washboard.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Hire a full time public art administrator? You can't possibly be serious, can you? Could we maybe hire another policeman instead?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

After all the jokes and comments on Ann Arbor money being spent on art? I guess the board listened and they have spoken. Got your wish folks. No more art in Ann Arbor. Now what are we going to complain about next?

Sam S Smith

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Few are saying, "No more art in Ann Arbor." Even so, they are entitled to their own opinion. I love art and I would like an art program that isn't funded illegally (perhaps there can be fund raisers for art), has art from local artists and well as national or international artists, that isn't cost prohibitive (hiring a full time art administrator? bet it's a friend of city council that they already have in mind!), that is as dynamic as art. If you consider others' posts as "complaining" or "whining," you missed the boat or are in the same boat as A2 city council!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

Yes or course Ann Arbor will henceforth be completely devoid of any and all art. I mean, everyone knows that art can only exist when it's financed by millions of dollars skimmed off municipal coffers from a dubious and probably illegal financial swindle that has been universally condemned by the citizenry.

Guinea Pig in a Tophat

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Chelsea has a good city art program. Local artists put up their work around town for around a year (pretty sure it's a year, someone please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), and the pieces are available for purchase. Free advertising for the artists, free for the city, and it adds visual appeal to the city.

Sam S Smith

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

This makes too much sense. Ann Arbor city council will never be open to any other ideas other than its own, what they want to dictate to the ignorant citizens that we are. God forbid that Ann Arbor city counsel looks at any other idea especially from "Chelsea" or other communities that actually have a nice art program! Ann Arbor has become arrogant. Should be called A3. How sad!

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

That's a very good idea. However, if that's now how they do it in New York or San Francisco or Bounder, CO, we can't do it.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

How much did this so called "task force" cost?

Sabra C Briere

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

Nothing extra. Council members are paid a flat rate, no matter how many meetings they attend, hours they spend researching, or time they spend responding to constituent questions.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

Frankly, I believe that all of the funding for art that was taken from other sources should be returned to those sources. I love art, but when times get tough to the point where streets are in need of repair, the AAFD and AAPD are short staffed, and several other factors, put the art funding back when it belongs. We have tons of galleries and other avenues that can bring great art to the city. The city should not be in the art business -- just from what they have done already makes that a no-brainer.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

What the heck would a "full-time public art administrator" do for 40 hours week? Oh, sorry - government work. Make that 30 hours per week.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

I'm trying to imagine what that administrator's day would be like. Go into work, pour a cup of coffee, then what?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

I'm guessing $75,000 to $90,000 to start with a huge raise after 6 months. And of course they will need a personal assistant, an administrative assistant, and a free car.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

with regards to the art outside of city hall... give credit where credit is due. what the news fails to mention over and over again... .... that thing is due to the HRWC.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

Just an FYI - I mentioned Kickstarter as an example of a popular crowdfunding website in the story. I asked what crowdfunding sites the art task force had in mind for raising money for public art in Ann Arbor. Sabra Briere told me the task force members are concerned that any crowdfunding has to be able to work with the external-to-the-city fund for art in public places. She said the task force isn't suggesting a specific site, but she and other task force members have looked into some to see how easy they would be to work with. She mentioned Sponsume as one that looks interesting to her. She also pointed out if you Google crowdfunding art, you can find a number of sites intended to help artists raise funds for art projects.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

"... if a task force's recommendations are approved by the City Council." Ha ha! "Baked-in." More like half-baked in. I am disappointed that City Council members are still ignoring the cries of, "No public money for art!"


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Get rid of it completely. What a waste.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

"up to a limit of $250,000 per project — is set aside for public art." According to the article there is a limit of 250,000 dollars per project. The bronze sculpture/fountain cost 750,000 dollars, how is that? It is pathetic and disgusting that this sculpture is considered a signature achievement. It's an achievement all right, an achievement in decadence and stupidly.

Sabra C Briere

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

The $250,000 limit is not on the cost of the art, but the contribution of the project. A $1,700,000 capital project today sets aside $17,000 for art; a $25,000,000 project sets aside $250,000, and a $47,000,000 project sets aside $250,000, because the cap is reached. This money is 'pooled' and can be combined to pay for the selection, installation and maintenance of art. The task force is likely to recommend the elimination of 'pooled' dollars for art.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

Re: stadium bridge, seems kind of ridiculous that art is required. Why can't the creation and maintenance of the landscaping there count as art? Seattle has some beautiful greenery draped over and masking cement here and there. We have less rainfall and probably can't sustain that, but even shrubbery could be considered "artistic." Something needs to change about this, especially after that wasteful eye sore on E Huron. I resent that the city is crying poor (police and fire fighter cuts, past threats to cut garbage pick up) when taxes here are insanely high.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

"We want....a shrubbery!!!"


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Before I drink the Kool-Aid I have to wonder if the "baked in" amount has a cap for any given year. If not, we could end up spending more than the 1% we complained about before. For many, including me, it was not so much the 1%, but the fact that decisions were being made on the sly, local artists were not being used and some of the art was not even accessible to the public. There definitely is a lack of trust when it comes to the council. By the way, love the pic of the city hall "art". Makes it look like the large, imposing, impressive piece of art we were led to believe it would me....when, in fact, I could sling that thing over my shoulder and carry it to the junk yard.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

"If not, we could end up spending more than the 1% we complained about before. For many, including me, it was not so much the 1%, but the fact that decisions were being made on the sly, local artists were not being used and some of the art was not even accessible to the public." Great observations.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

"This $750,000 bronze sculpture/fountain in front of Ann Arbor's city hall is considered the signature achievement of the city's Percent For Art Program" I agree, but I sure wouldn't repeat that!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

it is about time this happened. this is the biggest waste of money ann arbor spends. i like what i have been reading. lets hope it goes through. it is not bad when we fix things that are broken or out of control or does not make sense. this is one of them that needs fixing.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Wow!!! The voice of the people has been heard. Now, my only fear is that they are serious that the brass thing on North Main is the "signature achievement" of the Public Art program. Say it isn't so!!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

If the tongue depressor is considered the " crown jewel " of the program ...W. C . Fields was spot on .." never give a sucker and even break or smarten up a chump " ...


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Can council recommend a complete overhaul of the Greenbelt Program too? I don't think we can afford it!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

I'm against the "full time public art administrator" Sounds expensive, and that they are passing the buck and the decisions to someone else so they can influence them and blame them then. Once again the poll does not give enough insightful choices.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the $750,000 sculpture created by an artist in Germany?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Here's a breakdown of the budget for that piece:


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

The "artist" was Herbert Dreiseitl whose headquarters is in Überlingen, Germany where, I imagine, that he is spending most of his $70,000 fee.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

It looks like it was designed by somebody 2 years old.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

It was created in a Michigan foundry. Michigan workers did the installation. They do the maintenance. It created jobs in Michigan. It was designed by someone from Germany.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

For all that money, the "artist" didn't even fabricate it himself. He paid somebody else to build it.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

That was my understanding as well. One of the rules should be if it can't be an Ann Arbor artist, at least for heaven's sake, make it American.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

Certainly, this committee is moving this unpopular and unsuccessful program in a better direction. However, I wish city council were more focused on why we don't yet have fire services up to national standards and why we still don't have the statistics as to whether or not our police services are up to national standards even though having those statistics were required in the annual budget that started last July 1st. If you cannot measure something, you cannot properly manage it. Also, why do substantial sums still remain unspent in our road mileage funds, when so many roads remain in awful shape? I am disappointed the committee doesn't recommend returning the $50,000 taken from the General Fund for this 1% For Art Program. Also, please explain to us where did this "$400,000 of unallocated dollars" come from?? Finally, I wish that the reporter @Ryan Stanton would call the $750,000 Dreitsel Water Sculpture by the proper name it has been christened with by public voting and public opinion. It is the Huirinal (from Huron + Urinal)!

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Here's the most recent budget summary:

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

This "art" program is indicative of the central planning mentality of the liberals of this era. "We know better how to spend the dollars you have earned". Stephan, you are absolutely correct. Basic services, police, fire, road repair are being ignored while a mega rich elite few flex their political power for their own pet projects.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

"this unpopular and unsuccessful program" This program, even with the current limitations, is supported by approximately half the voters. Spin it however you like, but I contend your characterizations are inaccurate.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Here's the art budget summary as of Dec. 1: I'm seeking clarification on how the task force determined there was more than $400K unallocated. It looks to me there's nearly double that from the December report.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

A task force, made up of council members, will make recommendations to the council. Hee HAw!

Nick Danger

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

If they use Michigan artist I am all for it.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Hire a police officer instead.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

Hire a mime police officer that also paints?

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

To paraphrase The Great One, if spending on cops saves even one child we must do it.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

"And we would especially still hear over and over how we still need more cops." That's because we need more cops. And firefighters.

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

1000 pieces of art would make no difference!

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

Won't more cop would make any difference. You can't put one on every corner. And we would especially still hear over and over how we still need more cops.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Repeatedly, when this topic comes up, a popular concept is a rotating art gallery of local artists' work in city hall, with all the costs to running the gallery funded by commissions generated from selling the work via a written bidding process during the three or four months each exhibit runs. The highest bid buys each work. I'm disappointed the committee didn't consider this idea.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Stephen, I think an idea like that could be within the realm of possibility under the kind of program that's being talked about here. They mentioned they want to be able to fund a wide range of art in public places, including community-inspired art.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

steve it because the current program is so bad. people what to get rid of it and start with new ideas. i am sure we have many people that could be using art. heck we go a university that has an art program. why not have assignments and donate them to the city.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

It looks like there are many cost reducing measures the task force fails to consider. Sounds like saving money is either not very important to them, or they are not very creative.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Most of it sounds good, but why hire a full-time public art administrator? Have they checked on whether the U of M art department will do this for free? Wouldn't it be a valuable real-world educational opportunity for the students, and aren't there good faculty people to provide expert oversight? I get a little frustrated when it sounds like unnecessary money is being spent. Shoot, a friend of mine actually had the U of M pay him, so students could work on an interesting project he was doing in his business.

say it plain

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

I was thinking the same thing @AAResident...I think it's a great idea to see if a partnership with UM Art School could work! It seems a perfect opportunity to train students in arts administration/ program management. Maybe the Ford School too, because lord knows it would be an education in "public policy" matters as well.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

No, I was suggesting that it be thrown to the staff of art professionals at the U of M. Like many successful university projects, much of the work could be done by students (if it fits with the educational framework), and the faculty would have control over the final work product. I'm curious though. Why would you assume that an art consultant chosen and hired by the non-artist city council would be better than the combined resources of the U of M art department?

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

People complain about past art choices, spending, and then you suggest the million dollar fund should be thrown to some random students who likely won't live in this town past graduation? Not viable.

Ellis Sams

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Replacing Per Cent for Art with money "baked into" project funding is a distinction without a difference. Tax dollars are still being used to purchase art. Being a patron of the arts is not a government function. (The Com's pole is flawed because it assumes you accept the idea of tax money being spent on art. I do not.)

John Floyd

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:30 a.m.

Ellis Sams, Understanding that you oppose all public funding of art, I still think that there is a difference between case-by-case funding (or not funding) of specific proposals, and the indiscriminate funding of an "art" slush fund from all capital projects.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

And I support both of Mr. Sams' comments.

Ellis Sams

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Ryan, the task force began with the assumption that tax money would fund public art. Their job was to make it palatable to the public. Had your survey included the option, "I do not support public funding of art", the result would be different and meaningful.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Ryan, I wish you would have included a fourth choice in your survey, which would state: "No public money should be spent on artwork and capital projects should not be required to "imbed" art in their designs if it has no useful function or increases the cost of construction." I agree with a previous commenter who recognizes the recommended change for funding as a difference without a distinction.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

You could vote in the poll that you don't support what's being proposed, which fits the opinion that you wish the task force had reached other conclusions about the continued funding of art in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

To the Ann Arbor city council......I would like to offer my services for the public art administrator position.I'll do it for 1/3 of what you are willing to pay.I'll do a better than anyone else you can find.I do not live in nor am I from Ann Arbor.I will work for one year (I have my eye on a new 30ft Bayliner and a 2013 Cadillac )

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Dennis, why not? Partnerships rely largely on trust, and we both sound like trustworthy people. A non-profit with an ambiguous corporate name is a great suggestion. That's what I'm already doing with my brothel in Boulder Colorado, so it should be an acceptable model for anything we do here. And the brothel already has many utilities in place that could be useful when we become elected officials, like bribe channels, money laundering, transfer of profits offshore, and "enforcers".


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

Dennis and Resident.....Seeing that it's my comment that started this I think I should get oh.......20% ? kinda a " quid pro quo "


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

We should partner. We can form a non-profit corporation with an ambiguous name, get a contract with the city and award ourselves luxuriant salaries, benefits, a vehicle and travel funds. This will prepare us to become elected officials...

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

Dennis, I'm not giving up yet. You may have out-grafted me, but my ideas are still idiotic enough to merit serious consideration.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

I'll have to up the ante here. I'll create a PAC to support the reelection of the Mayor and his cronies, 'er, I mean esteemed council members. I will fund that PAC with substantial sums I receive in partial payment for my work that will be drawn from the Art Pool. I will use those funds to hold more fundraisers at $500 a plate in New York and invite "artists" who will bid for AA art projects and get overpaid for questionable works of art that would cause local artists to vomit and which any simian at the Toledo Zoo could produce while relieving itself. These will be strewn about the Stadium Bridge and the new dog park at West Park accompanied by a ribbon-cutting photo op. All that and a study report too!

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2 p.m.

TDW, I already have a boat, so I'm claiming that I would spend that 20K portion on a very artsy and expensive bicycle instead. We could call it "rolling art". It would incorporate a waterfall and colored lights (because that's been so successful in the past), and a bicycle would also promote Ann Arbor's "green theme". If I get the job, perhaps I'll commission it from myself, or a friend, along with any publicly funded projects we can steer our way.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Dennis and Resident.Please stop it.That Bayliner and Cadillac are really,really nice and I really want them. remove Dennis and Residents comments. They are just being sarcastic

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

Oh, I forgot to mention that all of us would like the option of resigning, with pension and benefits, shortly after taking the job, consistent with other important city positions.

A A Resident

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

To the City Council: I will do everything Dennis will do, plus I will discreetly kick back half my salary to council members in the form of cash payments. And I happen to be a successful professional artist. See the benefits of opening things up to competitive bidding? LOL


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

To the City Council. I would like to offer my services as a consultant to conduct a study about whether there should be a change in the public art administrator position. I'll do it for 3 times the cost anyone else can do it, will justify the decision you want me to arrive at in advance, will conduct flawed studies to make that decision "evidence-based", and will develop rhetoric to cloak the political reasons behind the decision while making it sound high-minded and too complex for the hoi polloi.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

In my opinion the $750,000 bronze sculpture/fountain in front of Ann Arbor's city hall is the signature disaster of the city's Percent For Art Program. It is too small-- a mere trifle in a large space-- and cost a small fortune when compared to its value.

John Floyd

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:17 a.m.

Kilroy, making a bad work bigger will not make it better - unless one is of the school that holds that "If you are going to make a mistake, you should make it a big one".


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

Oh come on, I get a priceless chuckle every time I go by the sculpture/fountain. Appreciate the joke.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

... and a German, Herbert Dreiseitl, was commissioned and paid $70,000 for the design work, taking his fee back to his head office in Überlingen, Germany. Interestingly, Wikipedia lists many of Mr. Dreiseitl's creations but not the monolith in Ann Arbor. Also the landscape artist has received many awards for his creations but not one for his Ann Arbor work. Interestingly, I understand that Mr. Dreiseitl was commissioned six months before he produced a depiction of his proposed artwork. Perhaps that explains why the artistic design looks like it was drawn quickly on the back of a restaurant napkin, IMHO.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

Tell me again why the city's art program doesn't fund local artists to create works around the city?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Ryan: my understanding is that the piece was fabricated in Michigan, but the artist is German.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Local artists don't need affirmative action to prop up their skills. They can submit proposals in response to the public requests just like anyone else. But there is a fair bit involved, and many are unwilling to put together a proposal, etc.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

I have been told that a "state law" mandates that preference can not be given to local artists. This explains partly why a German was commissioned to design the rusty beam that is imbedded as "artwork" in front of the Municipal Building. This monstrosity and the chandelier soon to be installed inside the Municipal Building will form the personal art collection of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission, or at least for one member thereof.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

The piece pictured above at Allmendinger Park was done by a local artist.

Barbara Clarke

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Good for you, "dancinginmysoul" . . . I have wondered that many times. And, why not include the U of M School of Art, etc. . . . surely there are talented folks right under our noses here in the "Athens of the Midwest".

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

Great job! I like most everything about it, including the recognition that public art might be suitable for some major projects on a case-by-case basis. Many successful programs around the country are designed this way, as I listed in my post of some years ago, I don't appreciate Ms. Teall's comments about future councils. That's the way governance works - each new council has to make decisions based on the times and the wishes of the electorate. No council can or should bind the future irrevocably. I hope our council moves with this recommendation. I also think that a future millage vote makes sense, but only after the program is reformed.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

With any luck the next "future council" will have different representation for the 4th ward. 19 votes cast differently in the last "primary" (a/k/a the real election) and we wouldn't even be hearing about this bogus concern.

Local Yocal

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

This $750,000 bronze sculpture/fountain in front of Ann Arbor's city hall is considered the signature achievement of the city's Percent For Art Program. LOL


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

heavy on the yocal


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

LOL--no kidding


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

If by 'signature achievement' they actually mean boondoggle, then yes, I agree.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

Poll: What is your favorite public art installation? Painted fire hydrants

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

Planet Earth to Margie Teall. If YOU want art, pull out YOUR checkbook instead of looting funds from the City's infrastructure. BTW, how is all your hard work on resolving the Lansdowne/Churchill neighborhood flooding issue going, you remember the one you ignored for most of your time in Government until you almost lost the Democratic Primary last August? Here's to hoping the 'future councils' don't include reps are out-of-touch as yourself. And if there is a full time arts coordinator, there is no reason the Ann Arbor Public Arts Commission should remain in place. Will that ineffective group be abolished as part of these new changes? Their work over the past few years has been a dictionary definition of fiasco.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

@Urfe - I don't think that most of us in Ward 4 would disagree with Alan. Margie has ignored the problems we have in our neighborhoods, and she continues to do the same. She won the August Primary by a mere 18 votes, but there are many who ill never forget that. BTW, Margie's wish has always been 2% for Art.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

You can say the same thing about parks or trees or countless other "nonessentials". Fortunately, most of ann arbor disagrees with you.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Spot on! And the "baked in" art feature is no different than taking money from the capital project and having the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission then contract for art to be included at the construction site, especially if the architect needs approval of the included artwork.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

Here's an idea: the Stadium Bridges don't need any art on or near them...just finish the landscaping. Will there be a mechanism in place for communities to vote on whether or not they even want public art on/near their homes?

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

Near their homes? You live under the bridge? It's a nice bridge, but I had no idea..


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

The landscaping for the Stadium Bridges project was always planned to be finished in the spring.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Note to city a2: Please convene a task force strategize how to fill potholes and better maintain our roads.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

Those LED windmills were put up at no cost to us, what is the problem with them? Or have we (the city taxpayers) actually bought some since then? If so, it can't have been too much spent they are cheap to make.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Maybe there is a pothole artist who will fix the road/potholes and make it look artistic. I would love that!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

We can fill them with the old public art. LED Windmills would be a good start.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

I like the art along the main street in Tecumseh. Maybe something along those lines?