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Posted on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

4 finalists chosen for proposed public art installation inside Ann Arbor police-courts building

By Ryan J. Stanton

Four finalists have been identified as the city of Ann Arbor looks for an artist to complete a $150,000 public art installation in the lobby of the new Justice Center building

Commissioner Margaret Parker announced the news at Wednesday night's meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission. She said a 10-member selection committee sifted through submissions from more than 90 artists before arriving at the four finalists.

The four artists, who are not being identified until after references are checked, will be asked to make formal proposals with models and plans soon.


Mayor John Hieftje addresses a crowd of about three dozen people during a ceremony inside the lobby of the new police-courts building in April. The city is budgeting $150,000 for a public art installation inside the lobby.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Parker said the committee considered submissions from artists both locally and from places afar and ultimately chose four who demonstrated an impressive body of work.

"We looked at Michigan artists, we looked at people from all around the country, and we looked at artists from other countries, and the ones that were selected were not from Michigan but they were from other parts of the country," she said.

The lobby of the Justice Center — informally known as the police-courts building — measures 3,160 square feet and has a ceiling rising more than 21 feet. Blue glass spans the length of the northern wall and floor-to-ceiling windows are on the remaining three walls.

The city is looking for artwork to be permanently installed in the southwest corner of the lobby — either a ceiling-mounted or suspended piece that would be visible and make an impression looking in from both Fifth Avenue and Huron Street.

"The artwork should complement the building and surrounding site environment," reads the request for proposals sent out to artists. "The artwork should speak to the public purposes of the building, which include public safety, justice, equality and security."

Detailed proposals from finalists are due Dec. 1. The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is expected to make a recommendation to the City Council in January, followed by a council decision in February. The city would like the installation done by June.

The commission also took action Wednesday to approve creation of a task force to explore a public art installation as part of the reconstruction of the East Stadium Boulevard bridges. No budget for that project has been set yet, and a wide range of ideas are being considered, including murals, sculptures and lighting effects.

Aaron Seagraves, the city's public art administrator, also relayed a report Wednesday showing the financial effect of recently proposed changes to the city's public art ordinance.

City Council Member Sabra Briere, who has been critical of the city's Percent For Art Program and attended Wednesday's meeting, is proposing ordinance changes to exempt the city's street millage from contributing to the public art program.

Under an ordinance approved by the City Council in 2007, 1 percent of the budget for all city capital projects — up to $250,000 per project — is set aside for public art. In the past four years, more than $2.2 million in city funds have been channeled toward public art.

According to the report from Seagraves, money from the street millage represents about 55 percent of new revenue for public art in the last two years.

Nearly $120,000 in street millage funds were channeled to the pooled public art fund in 2010-11, and that's up to nearly $134,000 in this year's budget. The report shows more than $555,000 in street millage dollars remain waiting to be spent on public art.

In addition to stopping future transfers from the street millage, Briere's proposal includes a new stipulation that any money that hasn't been allocated for an art project for three fiscal years must be returned to the source funds.

The report from Seagraves offered a look at what would happen if the three-year time limit were to go into effect this year. It showed $172,321 would go back to the street millage fund, $10,464 would go back to the solid waste fund, $8,889 would go back to the stormwater utility fund, and $6,520 would go back to the airport fund.

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 e-mail newsletters.



Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

This building is called the "Police-Courts"? Seriously? The PD is located on the 2nd floor cuz IT is on the first and there isn't even a Police Lockerroom...when will people wake up and realize that the current admin is taking us to the cleaners and down the road to ruin? Why have such a large lobby and waste of space? Let alone the energy used to heat and cool that area?


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

Sha-DUH! Seriously------Other countries???????????????????? Is the committee insane? Where in the heck are you coming from?? I agree with Charlie Brown's Ghost, can we PLEASE get thes peop out of these positions of responsibility as soon as possible?


Sun, Oct 2, 2011 : 10:45 p.m.

There's a troll under that bridge (the one over State Street). You should check it out. Including the signs.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

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Sat, Oct 1, 2011 : 12:15 a.m.

I have it covered. At least the OLD bridge. and NO cost to the city. Just wait. ;)


Sat, Oct 1, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

I was disappointed in the way the West Park art installation selection was handled also. Without a regular newspaper, it is difficult to get the word out about these projects. The Art Alliance has been a good resource, but people are only just catching on.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

I just can't believe the way we spend money like drunken . . . . .

Sam Smith

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

Why in the world is any art going to be placed there? It's not a place I hope to visit!

Sam Smith

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Oh I get it now! It's the Mayor's way of laughing to the police, &quot;I'd rather spend money on art than police!&quot;


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle—Ann Arbor is proud of the efforts that have been taken to reduce waste. So why didn't they look at a local "found object" artist like John Schwarz of Chelsea? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Oct 1, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

They really should! John would be fantastic for this project!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

Traitors all!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

Support local artists!!!!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

So. You would have Ann Arborites purchase art from out of state...or out of the country? I suppose you also believe in outsourcing jobs...


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.


linda thomson

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

It's unfathomable to me that they would add salt to the wound by hiring an artist out of state.

Nick Danger

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

I used to be a supporter of public art, However, the way the committee snubbed local artist is insulting and has changed my opinion. This is a slap in the face to Ann Arbor's creative community.It's time to recall the art czar and her committee and replace them with members who have the local community's best interest at heart


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Though the funds that are funding the artist are from local Michigan tax payers, this commission couldn't find an artist from Michigan. Incredible. What a continued slap in the face. Let the voters decide how they want their tax dollars to be spent. And please, spare me all comments about different buckets. Those yearly water/storm/sewage increases are from my pocket and it pays for this program. Give me a break. These supposed leaders are so out of touch.

Go Blue

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

Enough. Put all the skimmed funds back into the appropriate &quot;buckets.&quot; Since it was voted the funds could be taken, then it can be voted the funds be put back. Terminate all positions and the art commission immediately. Any and all future art projects are to be run only through Washtenaw County, preferably Ann Arbor, and done on a gratis basis. Get UM art or architecture students to start doing projects in the city as they did in the past. Hold a competition for any art work and the winner gets to do the project and the payment is the recognition. Spend money only on critical items - restoring police, firemen, concentrating on crime, get the unsafe bridge replaced, etc. NO further frivolous priorities. VOTE people, vote.

linda thomson

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

You should run for office.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Put the money in the new City Hall basement, because It still LEAKS. The police can't use it yet. Will MOLD follow?????


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

What I don't understand is how the City can push residents to think locally, shop locally and can't even do it themselves. For shame! It's our tax money it should stay here and support our economy. At the very least keep it in Michigan. There are so many talented people here.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

Here we go again, not one Michigan artist included. Mayor and council will never get it. I've reached a point that I wish would not even write about the city's art fund -- it is too disgusting. And, they certainly do not wish to even listen to the citizens of Ann Arbor.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Don't forget that the city of Ann Arbor destroyed a public work of art when they demolished the building next door in order to gain 6 parking spots! This was a lovely mural, done by a local artist (wow, you mean we have artists here?), that did not cost the city a penny. Perhaps the reason that no Michigan artists are among the finalists this time is that none of them wanted to apply and have to deal with Margaret Parker and the Ann Arbor Art Mafia.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

Agreed. Zeke's mural was a great loss especially for a few parking spots. Fortunately Tim Sever's business, Tios has done extremely well in his new location and he did not suffer a loss also.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

We don't limit the Art Fair to Michigan Artists. Why not look at the best talent available? Michigan, like it or not is not the only area that produces fine art.

paul wiener

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

None of this, and most previous installations, is &quot;public art.&quot; It is self-promoting, self-congratulating decoration for government buildings containing large, useless, unused spaces, seen by few and cared about by fewer. All of this simply fuels reasons and efforts to get the current A2 wasteful neglectful, tasteless and weak-willed leadership out of power ASAP. It will happen. A2 is inundated by real problems that need money and attention, not embarrassment and squandered resource management.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

AAPAC and The Mayor's loud and clear message to Michigan Arists: Drop Dead. YOU are not GOOD enough for OUR building. Get over it. When we said Buy Local we meant backyard chicken eggs and heirloom tomatos.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

I have to admire these people. With virtually no public support they charge right ahead, oblivious to what is going on around them. Reminds me of the captain of the Titanic.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.

I agree with the others - the artists should be Michiganders. Period. This is ridiculous.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.

Public Art Administrator? Really? Where in the world are we getting the money to pay for THAT position? Sheesh.

Les Gov

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:11 a.m.

&quot;We looked at Michigan artists, we looked at people from all around the country, and we looked at artists from other countries, and the ones that were selected were not from Michigan but they were from other parts of the country,&quot; she said. Take that local artist and tax payers. We pay our taxes so that the City can ship our money right out of the state. Why....why...can't we as voters get together and take back our town. The so called power people of Ann Arbor don't care a thing about us local people. On the plus side, none of this money is going to Germany..... Doesn't the wasteful spending, this slap in the face to the local community, upset anyone in this town? Am I the only voter who believes that it is wrong to buy art work from out of state when we have good artists right here trying to put food on the table?

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

Marget Parker promised to resign from the AAPAC. When will she follow through on her promise?

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 11:05 a.m.

&quot;According to the report from Seagraves, money from the street millage represents about 55 percent of new revenue for public art in the last two years. So does this money go to paying Seagraves salary? What is that cost for this position including benefits, retirement, etc.?

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 10:54 a.m.

Not from Michigan. Of course not Ms. Parker. Of course not. It's time for you and your little group the AAPAC to be abolished. And again, like the German artist who was flow in BEFORE a vote was taken and before anything was released to the public, we have MORE secrecy, more behind closed doors secret dealings. Wish we had a newspaper in this town to do investigative reporting.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:39 a.m.

We need to get Robert Wyland to come in a do a giant mural across the new building!! Instead Of his famous whales perhaps maybe some giant baboons in suits throwing feces on each other!! Now that would be art!! One can sit and stare at this mural and envision his or her favorite politicians as the baboons!!

Kai Petainen

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:26 a.m.

If they want to pick someone from outside of Michigan.... then... choose someone from the University of Michigan School of Art. There are a lot of fantastic artists at the school.... get the art from either a local artist, or someone who is studying art at UofM. Better yet -- let the art students compete for a spot.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

I'm getting my welder and torch out of the barn. Should be easy to fabricate a 'brutal art' monolith expressing the erosion of reason and sanity within the city's art commission. Tacked welded on will be a shield and gavel destroyed by funding cutbacks, voter apathy, binders of paperwork, the almighty dollar and the endless ring of recidivism(sp), How's that for Art in the Park?


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Vote against incumbents on city council in November. It's the only hope!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

If Mr Kunselman and Ms Briere are against this outrage, what were their original positions? Why are they not out publicly discussing their opposition to this and other positions of the council? Have they considered other actions? Given the furious feelings about this, the crosswalk travesty, the motor vehicle idling idiocy, the ongoing art issues now inside the &quot;justice center&quot;, etc. I think the entire city council should be in fear of losing their seats.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

City council members should make their opposition very clear to the voters and citizens of Ann Arbor. Other wise, I will fault to the safe side and only vote for new faces. No incumbents. From memory, I recall reading about far too many 100% votes in favor of an issue.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

That is a position that is not based on any degree of informed analysis. Two of the incumbents up for re-election have actually come out in some opposition to the program recently. Steve Kunselman has been a vocal critic and Sabra Briere is the author of the proposed revision to the ordinance that would exclude street millage proceeds from the program, as reported in this very story. I believe that Marcia Higgins has in the past supported a reduction from the percent to one-half percent. If you are wanting to nail politicians on their records, I suggest you first check the record.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

How about some simple statues of famous Ann Arborites? Bo. Shakey Jake. Bob Seger. That would teach kids about our town's history and would be better looking than the artwork they've been picking. The statues at Comerica Park and Joe Louis Arena are very nice.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 2 a.m.

This is crazy. Who cares if the AA art isn't as good (which I doubt). At least the artist would be putting the 150K back into the local restaurants and shops that are failing, and pay taxes that support our public schools, which are going down the tubes. Or on second thought, maybe hire a fireman at $75K for 2 years. This is one seriously messed up city.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:28 a.m.

&quot;The artwork should complement the building and surrounding site environment.&quot; That is, the art work should be as ugly as possible and remind the citizens of the structures of depression era Hoovervilles.


Fri, Sep 30, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

That building is so ugly and uninviting, that no amount of art (or money for that matter) can make it look good.

Pam Bethune

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

The artists should be Michiganders. Period.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:11 a.m.

What is this obsession with ART!!! It's not healthy. I wish &quot;they&quot; would obsess over a bridge that is falling apart while &quot;they&quot; obsess about art..


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

Will you be the one of the first to complain once they reroute traffic in after the OSU game in November? The bridge is in the works...


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

Ann Arbor Government Commission arrogance comes to the fore once again. We looked here and there, did not select anyone from Michigan but at least we didn't go to Germany for a finalist. What hogwash. There are plenty of artist in Michigan to do a superior and well designed art piece. The seleciton committe has no common sense, sense of communtiy. They apprently live and breath in a rarified atmosphere undaunted by their own stupidity. A law suit would be apporpriate to stop this nonsensee. At the very lieast the council should put a stop to this or at least a vote of no confidence in the selection committee. They have shown good reason to eliminate the public arts funding.

Ron Granger

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

That building is like a giant vacuum, sucking up all public money. That's the art they should have put out front - a giant vacuum sucking on a withering wallet.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:52 a.m.

Who are these faceless (idiots????) that make these decisions? In a city with tons of serious accomplished artists I find it utterly unbelievable that they consider no local talent at all. The money for public art is very questionable at best, but to exclude locals when our economy is in the tank is utterly stupid!!


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:48 a.m.

that's cool about the Joe Louis statue... I didn't know that. quite cool indeed. Hey... perhaps we could get Dominos, Borders, Pfeizer to donate a piece of art? As I think about it a bit more... hey Dominos... want to help out? It might be good public relations? Dominos... do a competition of local art, and then buy the art for city hall... place your name nearby for some advertising... it could make a great marketing/PR story?

J Shaker

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

Yeah, so what's the deal? Couldn't take even one of the finalists from Ann Arbor? Washtenaw County? Michigan? We have loads of local talented artists. And I'm not even upset about the money being spent, but obviously and understandably a lot of people are. I figured working local with this made a ton of sense.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

2.2 million dollars has been channeled in the last four years toward public art under the One Per Cent For Art Program. What have we really got to show for it? Some low quality unsightful art that has no resale value. Detroit got the Joe Louis fist statue for nothing from Sports Illustrated. That is memorable art. If the City of Detroit had paid hundreds of thousands for that piece, their City Council would be made a laughingstock given the financial crisis that city is facing. Ann Arbor is likewise facing serious budgetary woes. How can you tell city workers they are going on layoff when you are throwing away millions on artwork that is mediocre at best and having no real resale value. If they had purchased some Picassos, Monets, or even Norman Rockwell drawings or lithographs it could have been deemed worthwhile as an investment asset.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 1:59 a.m.

The fist is an embarrassment, regardless of the cost. The Ann Arbor equivalent would be a hammer and sickle.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Why is this being done in secret? I'd like to see the qualifications of the public art czar and his committee. Who are these people who are so arrogantly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money in secret? I can tell you that the employees in City Hall hate the looks of their corrugated big box building and hate even worse the money being allocated for public art. Will the &quot;public&quot; enjoy it? Which public would that be? You'll have to leave your cell phone at home and be searched by security to see the art they are going to install inside that expensive corrugated box. The public in city hall consists mostly of families of criminal defendants and others who wish they were someplace else. And the city attorney Steven Postema, who spends most of his official time running for circuit court judge, hates his job and can hardly wait to move out of city hall and into the circuit court building two blocks away.


Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : 3:13 a.m.

&quot;......[a]nd the city attorney Steven Postema, who spends most of his official time running for circuit judge......&quot; Do you have any proof that Mr. Postema is running for circuit court judge next election?

Urban Sombrero

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : midnight

&quot;&quot;We looked at Michigan artists, we looked at people from all around the country, and we looked at artists from other countries, and the ones that were selected were not from Michigan but they were from other parts of the country,&quot; [Commissioner Margaret Parker] said.&quot; Again? There's no one from Ann Arbor good enough? Seriously?

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

&quot;We looked at Michigan artists, we looked at people from all around the country, and we looked at artists from other countries, and the ones that were selected were not from Michigan but they were from other parts of the country,&quot; What part of &quot;we want the money spent on local artists&quot; don't you understand? Can we PLEASE get these people out of these positions of responsibility as soon as possible?

Urban Sombrero

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 : midnight

You and I had the same thought at the same time, lol.