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Posted on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Got ideas for public art in Ann Arbor? Online survey asks residents for feedback

By Ryan J. Stanton

Do you have an opinion about where public art should go in Ann Arbor?

The city of Ann Arbor and the Public Art Commission are asking residents to take an online survey regarding the most desirable locations, projects and programs for public art.

City officials are calling it an effort to "re-imagine public spaces in Ann Arbor" by thinking about "what would be valued and creative contributions to shared environments in our city."

The survey is available via a link on Public Art Commission's website at or directly at


This public art piece was installed in West Park.

Courtesy of City of Ann Arbor

The survey data will be used to help the commission decide what types of public art projects to pursue during the next few years.

The survey takes about 10 minutes. It closes Feb. 20.

After months of intense debate, the Ann Arbor City Council voted 8-3 in December in favor of keeping funding for public art at current levels.

The originally proposed cut, had it won support, would have meant about $160,000 less per year going to public art. But the city's art fund still would have kept the nearly $1.5 million already built up, and it would have continued to generate about $160,000 per year.

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

The city has transferred a little more than $2.2 million to public art over the last four years, nearly $1.5 million of which remains available to spend.

Though many projects have been discussed, the Public Art Commission has delivered on just two art installations in four years: a $750,000 bronze sculpture in front of city hall and a $15,000 installation in West Park that included two orange-colored tree sculptures.

The commission voted in December to establish a $20,000 budget for another public art project at the site of a new rain garden being constructed at Kingsley and First streets.

City officials also are talking about public art installations at the site of the Stadium bridges and the Fuller Road Station project.

Another piece is being planned for the lobby of the new Justice Center addition to city hall, while a mural project is kicking off at Allmendinger Park.

Some members of the City Council have stated a desire to see a larger number of smaller public art projects scattered throughout the city.

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.


Wolf's Bane

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

First, convert Main Street from Williams to Huron Streets into a pedestrian only areas. Extend the one block east along Washington and Liberty streets as well (the Alleys should remain operable for deliveries and such). Next, create an integral brick, stone, and concrete walkways highlighting businesses along the pedestrian only area incorporating seating areas, fountains, trees, sculptures, planters and garden beds all along area. Garden beds could be sponsored by businesses and change frequently. Along with this concept, classes, seniors, and other groups could feature victory gardens, exotic flowers (during the summers). The art fair would be able to take full advantage of the area as well. Public art should be beautiful, functional, and above all interactive!


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

I prefer not to spend any public dollars on art, especially diverted from millages that were approved for other purposes. With Council dead-set on keeping 1% for art, the ordinance should be changed to require an Ann Arbor artist and Ann Arbor production or maybe Washtenaw County. Materials could be outsourced, but be Michigan only.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Oh. I thought this was to solicit ideas for public art in Ann Arbor. I like the idea of smaller, more numerous projects. Not too small to see easily, but like the painted hydrants and the "art" bike racks. And perhaps some more murals, although the ones we have were mostly provided by local businesses. I love the wind turbine idea, but I don't know if we could get that pushed through as art. I don't think Ann Arbor needs huge sculptures. We're not Detroit, New York or even Grand Rapids. Let's be Ann Arbor. Visitors would be pleasantly surprised as they walk around town and see a little art here, a little art there and, 'oh, look at that - what a cool town!'


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

How about a statue of Tim Tebow after he throws a TD pass.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

How about a 20 foot high gold plated check book in front of city hall. In tribute to all the big spenders inside and the GENIUSES around this town that so readily support them and their giveaways!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

How about a police officer? They could do everything a police officer does, but in an artistic sort of way. Win/Win.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

You can buy one of the West Park thingys for about $39.00 in a garden catalog I get. That makes two bad choices for the money spent. With folks like, for instance, retired art professor Jon Rush around - see his public art on campus - and others, why go "abroad"? Have some of our talented, local folks choose or create art, if you have to have it.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

"Do you have an opinion about where public art should go in Ann Arbor?" Did you really mean to pose that question to this crowd?

michal poe

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

I'm loving this conversation, so funny. But seriously you will have to admit 750k for that last thing was too much! Use local artists (I mean those who have lived here for a few years). Stop with the metal art, there are other forms. Big murals are nice. Some of the other ideas weren't bad either, wind turbines painted pretty colors....genius. Metal trees in the park, no! Perhaps a nice little cozy space for people. You could do that little stretch of asphalt, with the painted lines, in rainbow colors. A sign would say, 'Your Art dollars at Work.' That would look good in front of my house which has a lot of ruts. The sidewalk is getting pretty bad too. Well, thanks for asking.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

I love the art program. But to date, the choices of art and locations have been very poor. How about a sculpture of a taxpayer being held upside down and violently shaken, as cash cascades from their pockets and into the coffers of city hall? If you give me a $100K art grant, I will produce a very nice interactive multimedia sculpture that embodies this timeless aspect of governance over the governed. $10K if you just want a painting. Locally produced, of course. Located in front of City Hall, of course.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

How about installing asphalt on the streets, putting lines on it and calling it "art".


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Are you people NUTS? A little extra $$$$ & you want to spend it on art. Fix the roads!!!!!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

In my opionion, the blinking hunk of metal in front of city hall should not have costed more than $30k and thus was a significant waste of funds. For $750k, the commission could have purchased many more items and placed them throughout the city. It would be interesting to see how other comparable cities have used their public art funds. The citizens would benefit from a downtown park similar to the Levi Strauss Park in San Francisco. The "top of the underground parking structure" next to the library would be a great location.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Yeah I have an idea, but you don't want to know where it SHOULD go.

Simon Green

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

I'm not in favor of a survey. To properly spend any public money, you need a small, insulated group of self-identified intellectual superiors. The rabble just can't be trusted.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

YESS!!! It SHOULD go on the back burner until things turn around!!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Is the $750,000 albatross yet 100% operational?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

It looks that way. The lights are working now.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

Great idea on how to spend the art fund -- put the funds back into the categories they were taken from, i.e. streets, parks & recreation, sewer/water, etc. Then we would have driveable streets, homes that do not get flooded when it rains, and beautimous parks -- and no manmade trees, but real trees. When is then not spent, should be put away for a rainy day when funds might be tight. Also, in another article saw that the city now has a unexpected balance for the year -- please put that away for a rainy day or bring the AAFD and AAPD up to full staff.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Here's my opinion: Piles of scrap metal welded into ugly shapes and then painted with obnoxious colors is NOT art! Art is statues. Art is murals. Art is beautiful architecture and landscaping. If piles of scrap metal were art, then scrap yard owners would be billionaires.

Stan Hyne

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

I couldn't agree more!!!! John Pugh's murals are art Check them out on the internet. I like the ones where you look into a building.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

The little spinning windmills (whirlydoodles) found around town are pretty interesting to watch at night due to their colorful and changing lights. I would like to see a large group of them on a breezy evening. Is the whirlydoodle project something the Art Commission is looking at? They are, apparently, wind powered!

West Park

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Thank you, I saw those during the day and pondered. Now I want to go out on a windy night to see them. And a group would be really cool, I bet! : -)


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

Finally, someone else noticed the whirlydoodles! I've talked to several people, and no one knows what I'm talking about. The first one I saw was on S. Main, while headed northbound, early one morning (by Busch's). It was dark, and I was watching it as I was stopped for the light on the corner. Since it was on an AATA bus-stop sign, I called them to see why they put it on their sign. He didn't know anything about it, and they wanted to go out and look at it. When he returned my call, he said they found out the city installed those whirlydoodles - without letting AATA know anything about it. They are indeed wind powered! So, yes, it is something the city is doing, but AATA couldn't tell me why! You MUST be right -- art!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

How about a sculpture with a half a dozen people shoveling money into a toilet while another person stands there with a plunger in hand and a manaical look on their face. You could label it "City Council Spending Art Money."


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

You are right on

West Park

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

your comment made me laugh out loud. Thank you for that. : -)

Usual Suspect

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

It's PUBLIC art paid for by PUBLIC money. Let the PUBLIC decide what art is to be displayed.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

This just MIGHT not be the best place for them to do their survey. Just a thought.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.

Are HAWKs considered art?

David Briegel

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

I know how to make the Curmudgeon Club really happy. We will only allow Concrete, Neon and plastic and that will absolutely thrill those geniuses! YES, Concrete, Neon and Plastic for the art officianados!!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:42 a.m.

Let me see if I understand this... they put up 2 orange metal tree sculptures in the park... It is a park! Plant Real Trees! This is another example of "Nero fiddled while Rome burned". With stores downtown going out of business, homeless people scaring off customers, and the economy in the dumps, Ann Arbor thinks it is important to spend money on art. How very sad.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

"With stores downtown going out of business, homeless people scaring off customers, and the economy in the dumps" One could easily make an argument that those things are always true. And then, by your logic, we never do anything pretty, cool, interesting.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

I am so frustrated over the "art decisions" that whoever in this city has made to place certain art pieces around town at taxpayer's expense. It is not good art! We have excellent local artists who would have worked for a fraction of what it cost to put that dreadful display up in front of city hall. The nerve of some people to go ahead and make expensive decisions that don't respect local artists and don't keep the money at home. Yes, let's first feed people and then worry about art. We have plenty of artful things around town to look at in galleries and museums. We don't need public art when there are other more pressing needs, like police and fireman, and feeding programs for homeless.

Harry Camp

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:12 a.m.

lets hire a italian sculpter for $750,000 to sculpt firefighters and police officers and place them around the city.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

i really think that if they need a way to get information to spend money (1.5mil) . then they should tell the art commission to stay home and send we can vote on where it will go. my bet it will be no where.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

i have an idea. NONE!


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

How about ask if anyone will submit plans to make something for free ? There are a ton of artists / businesses / local people that would do it for free, trust me. Then take the money saved on public art and spend it to pay the local executives on the school board some more money! (Kidding). Seriously though, did anyone stop and think to just save the money and not spend any more money on art ? That way when we are short on money somewhere else we won't need a MILLAGE! What a concept, eh ?


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

Why should artists work for free? We have to eat, pay our mortgages, purchase materials, just like anyone else.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

"How about ask if anyone will submit plans to make something for free ?" Artists, or owners of art, are certainly welcome to do that at any tme. Yet, it does not seem to be happening. However, I don't think you have any idea what materials cost. Plus studio time/space, machinery/tools, finishing, student loans, etc. Artists are people who already typically don't have a lot of money. Often, they are strugging to get by so they can create art. If we appreciate art and want art, we must support it. Maybe you have a great shop and materials to donate?


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

I meant administrators!!! oops. I was referring to the article that the new people hired in june were already given raises each that were bigger than starting teacher's FULL salaries. I just think it's such a joke w/ this whole shell game within governments and it's even more ridiculous to me when it happens in a city as small as Ann Arbor. Hands were out and we had a millage because we couldn't afford teachers and firefighters, yet now we're talking about buying ART ??? How about save money for a rainy day ? It's what we all do in our personal lives, isn't it ??

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

Just a short response to your kidding: Are you referring to the school board or to administrators? School Board members work for nothing. Well, they get up to $130/month, but some (many?) donate the money back to the school system. They are true public servants and I think we need to give it a rest on this issue.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

First off -- I'm happy that they are asking the public for input. That's fantastic. 1. have the businesses get more involved. for example -- check out the new Starbucks on South University. some local art is getting installed in their store. 2. promote the the art at the university. ann arbor already has a lot of art, so learn to open your eyes and look. make a booklet that promotes the artwork at the university. for example -- walk into the Ross School of Business and over the front reception desk you'll see a piece of art that symbolizes the Huron River. it's a much better representation of water and the Huron River than the $750K HRWC art in front of city hall. the art director at Ross did a fantastic job at picking out the pieces (most of those came from donations) 3. when a new skyscraper/condo goes up, have them create some public artwork for the city.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

Exactly right on #3. Just erecting a 10 story student apartment building doesn't add much to the overall "curb appeal" of the city.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

How convenient... they didn't include any questions about whether we think they are spending OUR money wisely and responsibly.

West Park

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

I'm a little confused. I love art. I like those orange metal trees( sculptures, I guess) at West Park. I saw, at a local food distribution, a man that had 5 children. They gave him a bag so he could choose some squash and carrots, no meat, very little else. He has 5 children and is recently unemployed. How is that supposed to work? In Ann Arbor. There's plenty of folks that are smarter than me. Please figure out how we will feed and house and protect these people! All the people. Let's start with Ann Arbor! Now....what should we do about this art money.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

How about some of those ginormous wind turbines that produce electricity. Then the city could get some ROI. They could let the kindergartners in the public school paint them before they assemble them. Goes with the whole green/sustainability initiative too. Its a wind-win situation.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Turbines are noisy. And few people want them cluttering their limited view. You might consider the Thumb area. They had no zoning restrictions on turbines, so GE (I think it was GE) bought up a bunch of land leases and planned a huge turbine installation. The community reacted strongly. GE even paid township board members to put turbines on their land - some would say a clear conflict of interest. A bunch of board members were just run out of office over it. I'm not sure what the latest status is. Be careful what you wish for!