Every April Fool’s Day, giant papier-mâché puppets parade down Main Street as part of Festifools, the annual festival that unites University artists and Ann Arbor residents. Though the program currently receives support from a number of small donors, it may be eligible for city funding if a new arts millage passes this fall.
The public art millage on the ballot for November aims to restructure the funding model for public art in Ann Arbor. Public art administrator Aaron Seagraves said if the millage is passed, it would eliminate strict restrictions and open funding to temporary work and performance art, including Festifools.
The millage would also take the place of Percent for Art, the current program that yields 1 percent of city-sponsored construction project funding into a permanent art display.
Seagraves said Percent for Art requires public art installations to be constructed on all city government developments in relation to the purpose of the department.
“Because the Percent for Art program was attached to those specific projects, those projects have particular funding sources,” Seagraves said. “So, in turn, the public art project that develops from the funding has to relate to the purpose of the funding source, so it’s kind of a complex scheme.”
For example, the water-themed sculpture in front of Ann Arbor’s Municipal Center was funded by the Water and Sewage Department, Seagraves said.
Rather than taking funding from specific departments, Seagraves said the newly-proposed funding will come directly from a tax that would last three years, bringing in $459,273 each year and costing households about $11 annually.
Mark Tucker — the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program art director and FestiFools founder, who teaches a class through LHSP that creates giant puppets for the April parade — said the steering committee for the festival has had trouble finding enough money to hold the event. According to Tucker, in the past, the event has been funded by LHSP, private donors to the School of Art & Design, grants and the LSA Dean’s Office.
“What we do now is just try to keep our head above water,” Tucker said. “It would be nice to see what’s ahead five years and what it could be like, where it could go creatively.”
Tucker said the new millage may open the community’s eyes to the city’s numerous art institutions.
“I think public art — if you start to see fantastic public art — it makes the invisible visible,” Tucker said. “And (Ann Arbor) is a town that embraces the arts and people should know about it,” Tucker said.
Tucker added that he feels it’s a public duty for the city to provide art to its residents
“(Art) adds to the whole cultural fabric of where we live,” Tucker said. “You can’t have something that’s great for only people who can afford it.”
Art & Design sophomore Gabby Holzer said she anticipates seeing more temporary art pieces in the city if the millage passes.
“I always like to see changing art.” Holzer said. “ … It will catch your eye and it gives you a good experience from a potentially mundane task, like if you are going to CVS or something.”
Grace Ludmer, an Art & Design sophomore and a FestiFools participant, said her appreciation for Ann Arbor is enhanced by its diverse art.
“(Art) creates so much more of a culture to the community, especially in Ann Arbor, in such an open and young community,” Ludmer said.
Jon Schwartz, Lissa Kryska and Kasey Cox contributed to his report.