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Council members to determine budget for art projects Monday

By Ariana Assaf, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 30, 2014

The city of Ann Arbor will decide on Monday the fate of a municipal budget allocation currently reserved for citywide art projects.

Last June, the City Council amended an ordinance to end the Percent for Art program. The ordinance set aside one percent of taxpayer dollars — originally intended for various capital improvement projects — to fund public art projects. Now, City Council members are in the process of returning the money left over from Percent for Art back to infrastructure needs.

Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) said the reallocation will not eliminate funding for current endeavors such as the Kingsley Rain Garden Project or the reconstruction of the Stadium bridges and the Argo Cascades.

“The proposal on the agenda for Monday is step one to amend the ordinance so that we can return unencumbered, unallocated funds back to their original sources, but it does not impact projects that are in the pipeline,” Lumm said.

At next Monday’s City Council meeting, members will also address the city’s contract with Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. Seagraves’ salary came out of the Percent for Art allocation.

“The mechanism for funding the position that I have now as it was funded before may go away, so they’d have to come up with a different way to pay for a public art administrator,” Seagraves said. “I can’t really direct the city on how to do that because I’m in the position currently.”

Although the city will still provide funding for some public art, it will be connected to specific capital projects like the construction of new buildings. Seagraves said the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission will select various new projects and recommend additional funding for public art at those locations that will have to be approved by the City Council.

New projects have already begun thanks to private funds and grants. Plans for a memorial for the late Coleman Jewett are in the works, and a project called Canoe Imagine Art has received a $21,000 grant.

Prior to the change, the ordinance required that “a portion of expenditures for capital improvement projects be devoted to the purchase and maintenance of public art.”

Now, the idea is that future art projects will be made possible by a combination of grants, private donations and money from the city. Changes to the ordinance were made in response to suggestions from a task force of City Council members.

AAPAC Chair Bob Miller said although the City Council now wants to put Percent for Art funds back toward things such as sewer and road repairs, this was not one of the task force’s original recommendations. They did, however, suggest using some money from Percent for Art to aid the transition away from that program.

Miller said the City Council would like to see AAPAC work with the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, which will make physical improvements to Ann Arbor. The CIP contains a long list of planned projects, and City Council has asked AAPAC to make a similar list for public art and enhanced artwork.

Lumm said to incorporate public art into upcoming building projects, AAPAC must start planning early. The ordinance also requires AAPAC to submit its plans for the following year to City Council by Feb. 1, but this has not happened yet.

“When we last renewed the contract in August, we were told that, by year-end, the plan for the public arts program would be fleshed out, and we’ve seen nothing,” Lumm said.

In terms of raising private funds outside of the CIP, Miller said, “this is what we’re trying to transfer into, but haven’t gotten there yet. We’re looking for more direction on how to get to that point.”

Lumm said being a member of the city’s insurance board provides her with a personal reminder of the city’s infrastructure needs. She said through her experience serving on various art boards, she has become confident that Ann Arbor is a city that can successfully fund a public arts program privately.

Miller said the main focus is to transition the structure of AAPAC, and it is up to the City Council to make decisions concerning its funding.

“I’m here to move things forward, ” he said.