EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline of this article has been reworded to more accurately reflect the article subject’s viewpoint.
Though Ann Arbor is adorned with sculptures and other art installments, one artist said the process of displaying sculptures is complicated by the red tape put up by the University, the City of Ann Arbor and the State of Michigan.
William Dennisuk, a visiting artist at the School of Art & Design, installed a public sculpture last week for display in Gallup Park but said he has had to contend with the bureaucracy of local regulatory committees for the past few months to keep his art intact.
He said Ann Arbor’s strict laws and regulations make it very difficult for artists to create and introduce their works to the public.
“It took some time to figure out who the people were that I was supposed to talk to,” Dennisuk said. “Even when you get all your ducks in a row you would still have to have a three-to-four-month period before you got something like this off the ground.”
The External Elements Design Review Committee for the City of Ann Arbor and the University’s Presidential Advisory Committee for Public Art are two organizations, Dennisuk said, that have stymied the progress of artists looking to display their work publicly.
The Presidential Advisory Committee for Public Art was created to monitor and regulate public works of art by presenting a piece of work to the public, according to its website. The Presidential Advisory Committee works in conjunction with the EEDRC to provide long-term solutions for public art displays.
Dennisuk added he has been in talks with the EEDRC and the Presidential Advisory Committee for Public Art committees to help streamline the process for giving artists and sculptors clearance to continue with their installations.
“I heard of artists who have come and tried to do short term things here and they just haven’t because of all the red tape and bureaucracy,” Dennisuk said.
In Finland – where he currently lives – Dennisuk said there are fewer restrictions on putting up public art installments. He said he would only need to get clearance from the town architect and the town gardener, and by that evening, his sculpture would be up for display.
Dennisuk added that he hopes to take what he learned about regulatory committees in displaying public art in Ann Arbor and pass it on to students in the School of Art & Design.
“(The visiting artist) would take people through the process, and they would learn how to present ideas and how to go through the bureaucracy,” he said. “By the time (the students) would graduate, they would be able to step in as a professional artist and be able to function in the realm of public art.”
As part of the Witt Residency Program, a program hosted by the School of Art & Design, Dennisuk said he has worked with students to construct sculptures but feels that there is a lack of commitment since they cannot earn credit for the project.
Dennisuk’s current project will be displayed in various water-based locations around the campus and Ann Arbor. His first sculpture was installed in the reflecting pool just outside the Industrial Operations Engineering building on North Campus. The second sculpture was placed in Gallup Park while the final sculpture was installed in Nichols Arboretum last week.
Dennisuk said his public sculpture project was originally conceived as a way to help bridge the gap between the natural scenery and the man-made scenery of Ann Arbor using water as a dynamic medium to represent the cohesiveness of both environments.