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City Council suspends public art program

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 4, 2012

Though Ann Arbor voters decided against supporting a millage to fund public art in the city in the election last month, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution on Monday that would also temporarily disband the current Percent for Art program.

The Council voted 10-1 to suspend the plan, which devotes 1 percent of capital project allocations to fund public art, until April, opting to seek out a new option for funding public art in the interim. Because the newly passed ordinance suspends the Percent for Art program until the spring, it is not expected to have a significant effect on the funding of public art in the near future since the program draws funds from capital projects that are typically non-existent during the winter.

During discussion on public art funding, Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) said she supported the suspension from the previous Council meeting, claiming that the Council has more pressing issues to tackle than public art.

But, later in the discussion, Mayor John Hieftje emphasized that expenditures for programs like the police and fire departments come from the city’s general fund, while funding for public art rarely does, meaning funding public art doesn’t equate to a loss of funding for city services.

Newly elected City Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) spoke about his ideas for improvements to a public art funding program in the city, noting he wants stronger community involvement in decisions made concerning art programs.

He added he would also like more community participation in physically helping create the art, as well as more community leverage, citing Toledo, Ohio as a city that he said has its public arts funded in part by donations.

When votes were cast, Councilmember Margie Teall (D–Ward 4) was the only member in opposition and even called for a roll-call vote, saying that it sent the wrong message to supporters of public art in the city.

“(The suspension) does put a chill on the ideas and the participants,” Teall said.

She said this direct involvement in public art funding was “micromanaging,” adding that she would like to see more staff for the Public Art Commission.

Kunselman, like other councilmembers, said that no one is against funding public art, but people disagree on how public art should be funded. And that’s regrettable, he said.

“I feel sad for AAPAC because they’ve been dealt a hand they can’t address,” Kunselman said.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated council's vote on Percent for Art.


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