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, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Art projects for Justice Center lobby and Allmendinger Park earn nod from Public Art Commission

By Ryan J. Stanton


This $150,000 public art project in the lobby of the Ann Arbor Justice Center, titled "Radius," now awaits approval from the City Council after being selected by the Public Art Commission.

Courtesy image

The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is endorsing a piece titled "Radius" to liven up the lobby of the new Justice Center adjacent to city hall.

The commission unanimously chose the artwork by Portland artist Ed Carpenter on Wednesday from a pool of three proposals. The $150,000 city-funded public art project now goes on to the Ann Arbor City Council for final approval, possibly in February.

The Public Art Commission also decided on Wednesday to move forward on working with Ann Arbor artist Mary Thiefels on a mural project at Allmendinger Park.

Carpenter's proposed artwork measures 40 feet by 20 feet by 12 feet and is made of dichroic glass, aluminum and stainless steel, with integral LED spot and flood lighting.

"Like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond, 'Radius' emanates outward through the Justice Center lobby, a reminder of the interconnectedness of the public with the agencies serving them, and suggesting a network of cause and effect in the public realm," the proposal states.


Another look at the $150,000 art project for the Justice Center lobby.

Courtesy image

Carpenter specializes in large-scale public installations ranging from architectural sculpture to infrastructure design. He works internationally from his studio in Portland, Ore.

His work can be found inside the Portland Justice Center, Michigan State University's Brody Hall, Rockefeller Center in New York, Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, a U.S. Courthouse in Seattle, Orlando City Hall and many other places.

Aaron Seagraves, the city's public art administrator, said one of the reasons Carpenter's proposal was preferred was because it uses more of the lobby space than the other proposals, and it will be visible both indoors and outdoors, day and night.

John Kotarski, who was recently appointed to the art commission, said he particularly likes the concept behind the project.

"It places our police department, our justice department, at the center of our community, as it should be," he said. "It demonstrates that very effectively."

Mural at Allmendinger Park

The mural at Allmendinger Park will take shape on a shelter at the park that has 12 concrete pillars, which are to be the surface for the mural.

Art Commissioner Wiltrud Simbuerger, who served on the selection panel for the project, said Thiefels was chosen for the project because she wants to work with members of the community and get others to bring personal artifacts or "found items" to contribute.

"So these pieces would be implemented into the pillars," she said. "People could come and we could create like a library of the neighborhood. We really like this concept."

The selection panel for the project met on Nov. 21 and considered the qualifications of 13 artists who showed interest in the project.

At the time, four semi-finalists chosen: Yami Duarte of California, Bethany Kalk of Kentucky, Jefferson Nelson of Ohio, and Thiefels of Ann Arbor.

The commission decided on Wednesday it liked Thiefels' general concept but wants to work further with her to refine her proposal.

The commission previously agreed on a project budget of $10,000 and an overall budget of $12,200, allowing for a contingency of up to $2,200. Funding sources include $7,200 in donated funds and $2,800 to $5,000 from the city's pooled public art funds.


This general concept for a mural on the pillars of a shelter at Allmendinger Park is still being refined but members of the art commission like the idea of involving the community in the project.

Courtesy image

Thiefels is the owner of TreeTown Murals in Ann Arbor. A recent winner of Ann Arbor's Golden Paint Brush Award, she is known for painting a number of public murals, including one depicting the faces of veterans on the side of Alley Bar on Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

Thiefels wrote in her proposal for the mural at Allmendinger Park that it's a timeless design meant to inspire people all year, with each of the 12 pillars representing a month of the year, divided into four seasons — with three pillars to a season.

"In the spring, lilac bushes blossom, children come out of hibernation to play hide and go seek, birds nest again in the oak and hickory trees, the playground comes alive with activity and laughter," she wrote. "On the summer pillars, kites fly and sports abound, like basketball, volleyball, tennis, baseball, and soccer. On the fall pillars, you see, colors changing, tree climbing, dog walking and frisbee tossing, sunny day picnics, and morning martial arts. Winter offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow angels."

She proposes painting those illustrations onto a third of each pillar. The remaining area would be made up of tile or glass mosaic and a section of collected and found materials, which is where the community comes in.

"Here is where I intend to involve the adjacent neighborhood, local schools, general Ann Arbor community, and basically anyone who has a history with the park or an interest in leaving their mark," she writes. "I will invite anyone interested to contribute a stone, tile, marble, metal key, fossil, small trinket, shell, broken ceramic or parts of personal dishes, mirror, beads, or beach glass. These contributions represent, a wish, memory, or prayer."

Simbuerger said the art commission would like to work with Thiefels on the community theme, maybe also setting up a website for the project with stories behind the items being used.

"To me, this really grabs me," Kotarski said of the project. "It's that narrative thread … and I like that it's a neighborhood project. It brings the neighborhood in with those artifacts."

He also likes that Thiefels is a local artist.

"I really believe that one of the challenges we face and one of the things we need to constantly think of is developing a sustainable community of artists that could work in the public," he said.

Tony Derezinski, who is both an art commissioner and City Council member, said members of the Allmendinger family still living in the area also could contribute to the project.

Allmendinger Park, where the project is set to take place, is named after David Allmendinger who emigrated from Germany to Ann Arbor in 1851 and in 1872 started his own business, the Allmendinger Organ Co., which later became the Ann Arbor Organ Co.

The 8-acre park is located on Pauline between Hutchins and Edgewood. It contains softball fields, a restroom facility and water fountain, a play area nestled in an oak and hickory grove, picnic tables, a tennis court, grass volleyball court, basketball court, and soon, a mural.

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.


John C

Tue, Feb 21, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Thoughts on creating a thriving community of creative talent in Ann Arbor Most companies that want to retain their talent make a big deal about "Promotion from Within". It is a foundation of Talent Management. When they have a great opportunity, excellent companies work very hard to find someone within to promote, and only after an extensive inside search do they go outside. As a result they retain their talent – a key to longterm success. Very simple principle. Let's assume the AA Art Commission wants to do good, and do what is most beneficial to Ann Arbor. Let's stop attacking them. They are trying. But, they also need to listen to the public – as this is public art and sponsored by public funds. What we need is a new way of supporting/promoting/developing local creative talent which will hopefully result in great public art – appreciated by the community. I propose a simple two step process. First an open call to local artists. In Ann Arbor you could limit it to Washtenaw County, as an example. Then, if no artist comes up with an outstanding idea – open it to others beyond the area. I guarantee you two things will happen. First, we will find that we have some amazing artists in this area. Second, we will launch careers that will enable international recognition for artists from our own Ann Arbor. The result – we'll have great public art, and begin to retain our creative talent by helping launch their careers.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Haha, Usual Suspect, thank you for pointing that out. What was I thinking???


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

I'm assuming there is a viable rendering scaled to the lobby with the metal detectors and exit as they stand currently or is that a pipe the people hanging around the lobby...


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

If you want to see a very cool new mural, go check out the one the new owners had done inside the Stucchi's on State St. It was done by local artist, Zeke Mallory, and I don't believe it cost the city or taxpayers a cent!

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

"It was done by local artist, Zeke Mallory" No, you lie. The AAPAC has explained to us over and over that there are no artists in Ann Arbor, or even Michigan. And Stucchi's had better get themselves a good lawyer, because our mayor says that limit your artist selection to just Ann Arbor is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Lets hope the City can see its way to cut the grass once or twice a year so that people can have an easy walk in and out of Allmendinger Park to view the "Art"

Usual Suspect

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Oh, come on, put on your pith helmet and suck it up! But don't forget your safari guide or you'll get lost.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

Of the three that were shown in an article recently, this is the one that came immediately to mind when I read the headline that one had been chosen. I think it will be beautiful, and it will be seen by anyone outside or passing by, day and night, as well as those in the lobby.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

"Like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond, 'Radius' emanates outward through the Justice Center lobby, a reminder of the interconnectedness of the public with the agencies serving them, and suggesting a network of cause and effect in the public realm," If I can't wow them with my wisdom, I'll baffle them with my BS.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

Two words; wasteful spending.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

although i was critical on the 'thing' outside of city hall, i'm not critical about this piece inside of city hall. the price seems right, it's in a good place that requires some art, and out of the 3 selections -- it is the one that i like the most. i think we could have some local art as well (in the lobby), but it's good to have something permanent on the ceiling. so... it might surprise others that i say this... with art... this is an example of a job well done. in the mean time... if you want to see something (artistic?), check out my photo of the huron river this week (if they hang photos in the lobby, can i place this photo in there?) it's on this page (look at the photo that accompanies the article) <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

thank you


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

Very cool photo, Kai.

Dog Guy

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

I hope that LED lights are used in this chandelier: they're more energy efficient, need replacing less often, and are not hot enough to char the dust.

Usual Suspect

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

&quot;Like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond, 'Radius' emanates outward through the Justice Center lobby, a reminder of the interconnectedness of the public with the agencies serving them, and suggesting a network of cause and effect in the public realm,&quot; That is an incredible piece of psychobabble. &quot;It places our police department, our justice department, at the center of our community, as it should be.&quot; As is that. What does that even mean? It doesn't mean anything, it's just random words arranged in a certain order with the intent of sounding profound. A piece of overpriced art added to a build doesn't place anything anywhere (aside from priorities being placed in the wrong place). This all reminds me of History Of The World: Part I, when Mel Brooks' character refers to himself as a stand-up philosopher, and the unemployment clerk (Bea Arthur) says, &quot;Oh, a B S artist!&quot;

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

@Les Gov: Robin Hood robbed only from the rich. This program takes money from the poor, middle class *and* rich in support of a single piece of art for the limited enjoyment of the few people who go in and out of the &quot;Rog Mahal&quot; building atrium each day.

Sam Smith

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Art in the Justice Center lobby hardly qualifies as &quot;public&quot; art. Who is going to go see it? Yep, load up the kids and let's visit Ann Arbor's Justice Center Lobby. That way the parents call tell their children what happens when you break the law while ooohhhing and aaahhhing the art. Are the people who go to court going to get a warm fuzzy feeling? &quot;This project places our police department, our justice department, at the center of our community, as it should be, it demonstrates that very efficiently,&quot; stated John Kotarski. I'll tell you what this demonstrates Mr. Kotarski, a complete disregard and disrespect of the community by the ruling elite, art commission included! I also like the sentence regarding Allmendinger Park, &quot;but members of the art commission like the idea of involving the community in the project.&quot; Really? Anyone care to place bets as to how long this mural lasts intact? Did the voters vote on the members of the art commission? Did the voters have any say or involvement in any of these art projects which is paid for with our taxes prior to the initiation of these art projects? Democracy at work Ann Arbor style.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

&quot;It places our police department, our justice department, at the center of our community, as it should be,&quot; he said. &quot;It demonstrates that very effectively.&quot; Demonstrates it by putting $150K worth of taxpayer-funded nonlocal art behind a metal detector and police security gauntlet No thanks - I get enough of that at the airport. And who really thinks of the &quot;justice department&quot; of being at the center of our fine community? Ne neither.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

&quot;That's nice.&quot;


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

I like it and think it is impressive. Nice recommendation, and I hope the council approves.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

That's great. We need more nonlocal art and we def need more pathetically ugly murals. Because we have an art commission with no taste and loads of money to spend while we eat cake. Term limits are the only solution here. Term limits.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Here's to hoping the beautiful mural planned for Allmendinger is made of steel tile and coated with Teflon . . . Allmendinger is the park where vandals have repeatedly destroyed renovated bathrooms, smashing fixtures to smithereens, effectively closing the bathrooms . . . Unfortunately, that mural will be lucky to survive a week . . . : (

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

Our money would be better spent on turning some or all of the free space of the interior of the building and its walls into a free art gallery for local artists, where the exhibits rotated through every three to six months. If a silent auction system were also set up for the art being displayed, this would have the added merit of enabling those artists to display and sell more of their art, get more exposure and transform the giant expenditure into something more beneficial for the city's signature art community and the vast majority of the community who never set foot inside the criminal justice system.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

@Stephen Have you considered running for mayor?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

I can only hope that city council or the mayor will veto the $150,000 art work proposal and direct them to use the open space and walls of the &quot;Rog Mahal&quot; as a rotating art gallery for local artists, which is clearly a much more popular idea. Of course our mayor hasn't used his veto *yet* in 11 years, so I'm not too hopeful.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Everyone should have a fantasy. The mayor or council veto this, not a chance.

Les Gov

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:22 a.m.

&quot;It places our police department, our justice department, at the center of our community, as it should be,&quot; he said. &quot;It demonstrates that very effectively.&quot; It sure does.....This is proof that the only thing important to this administration is that they build their castle by spending tax payer money on their own selfless wants...This is proof that this administration doesn't care about local people...Here was a great chance to make up for that last art fiasco by using this space…in what should be a public building….to show off and support local artists…..but clearly local artists aren't good enough for this administration. The Sheriff of Nottingham has found a great way to force us to open our wallets for his own personal use......where is Robin Hood?...We sure need him more than ever.