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Task force to explore future of Ann Arbor public art

By Farone Rasheed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 10, 2013

With voters' rejection of the proposed art millage on the November ballot and subsequent suspension of the Percent for Art program, the direction of Ann Arbor’s public art program remains undetermined.

To find a clear path for the project and to brainstorm possible funding options, the Ann Arbor City Council has created the Public Art Task Force. The group is composed of City Councilmembers Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3), Margie Teall (D–Ward 4), Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), Sally Hart Petersen (D–Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3).

The suspended Percent for Art program allowed art to be acquired, installed and maintained only if it's part of a capital improvement project. Briere said the city hasn’t done enough to find alternative sources of funding.

“There has been little or no effective effort to seek funding from sources other than taxes,” Briere said.

Taylor expressed a desire to collaborate and put forward the most viable financial proposal to the council by April 1, when funding for the Percent for Art program is scheduled to resume.

“Our aesthetic environment is important to the city’s success,” Taylor said, arguing in favor of the program. “Our goals remain the same, but we’ll move away from pooling funds in the way that we had before.”

Several projects already underway — including artwork for the East Stadium Bridge, Argo Cascades and a rain garden at First and Kingsley streets — were unaffected by funding freezes and have continued on schedule.

Marsha Chamberlin, chair of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission, said the public will have the opportunity to see presentation proposals from select artists for the East Stadium Bridge.

Despite the pending financial discussions among members of the City Council, the AAPAC continues to work on new projects. The Inside|Out Program of the Detroit Institute of Art has reproduced and installed temporary, outdoor pieces of its collection on buildings throughout Ann Arbor.

Chamberlin stressed the importance the AAPAC played in submitting the request, choosing locations for the pieces and promoting the community’s exhibits.

“They’re designed to bring art to the people,” Chamberlin said.

In addition, a lack of public funding is not likely to stop public art from being erected throughout the city. The AAPAC has also begun preliminary discussions for a collaborative project in 2014 at the Argo Canoe Livery and several non-profit art institutions, all of which would be privately funded but overseen by the AAPAC. Canoes at the livery would also be re-sculpted and re-imagined by the artists.