As Congress battles over how to reduce the federal deficit, Ann Arbor has its own concerns: public art. Ann Arbor’s public art task force was created this past December after Proposal B failed to pass in the November elections. Proposal B called for the elimination of the Percent for Art funding in the city, which requires that one percent of the money from city capital projects be pooled for city art. Under the Percent for Arts funding, art must be permanent and somehow linked to the fund paying for the project. The task force recently enumerated several proposals to improve art in the community, including calls for an art supervisor, increased community donations, more community interaction and the elimination of Percent for Art. The task force’s recommendations are a reasonable restructure and will be essential in helping Ann Arbor stay culturally relevant.
A change is the city’s art funding is needed, and the city is right to address it. Forty-four percent of voters supported proposal B in November, which is a high percentage considering people’s instinctive response to vote no on ballot proposals. Ann Arbor citizens are clearly interested in changing the way art is funded. The task force is emblematic of a city council that is searching for new ways to include art in the city and make it an integral part of the community while balancing the community’s other needs.
The plan to end the Percent for Art program is a responsible decision. Percent for Art allowed the city to use money on art even if it didn’t have a plan. Now, the city must design an art project before funding is allocated. This ensures that the city’s art projects are well organized and better funded. The new ideas for donations from the community through crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter will help fund the art program, as well as engage the community.
Finally, the program keeps Ann Arbor weird. Ann Arbor hosts one of the best summer art fairs, is home to a prestigious, diverse university and is a cultural hub in the state of Michigan. Art deserves to be a focal point of this city. A less costly, streamlined art program will ensure that Ann Arbor will continue to thrive culturally, and continue to attract tourists from around the city and state.
It has organized a template that assumes a nuanced and responsible paradigm for art in Ann Arbor. The improvement of the art program underscores the importance of maintaining art and Ann Arbor’s distinct character.