Art in Public Places

The debate about Public Art in Ann Arbor heated up after the defeat of the Public Art Millage during the November election. On the one hand, the prevaling sentiment bolstering the Public Art Ordinace is that the City of Ann Arbor, in some way or form, should be engaged with Art in Public Places. However, the existing funding mechanism, known as the "Percent for Art Program" has proven to be problematic.

The Percent for Art program provides that 1% of any capital improvement be set aside for art associated with that project, whether it be streets, water, sewar, or municipal buildings. It is problematic because funds must be held in a specific account for each project, and accounts may be pooled for a specific public art project that serves multiple capital improvements, such as with the Dreiseitl monument. This creates the need for a "nexus" which limits the scope of art forms that can be considered. 

I supported the Art in Public Places Millage that appeared on the November 6th ballot because it was intended to be a much more straightforward way to fund public art at a rate of about $11 per year for the average household. Also, it would have broadened the use of funds to include temporary, non-monumental or performace art. However, the ballot language did not specifically state that the Public Art Millage would have suspended the Percent for Art Program. A consequence of the  "No" vote is the permission for the Percent for Art Program to continue because voters were not given a choice between Art in Public Places and no Art in Public Places, just a choice between two funding mechanisms that were intended to be mutually exclusive. I have heard many different interpretations of the "No" vote including:

1. I would have voted yes if the Percent for Art was rescinded first;

2. I don't like paying taxes for Art in Public Places;

3. I don't want the Percent for Art program;

4. I think Ann Arbor should have Art in Public Places, I just don't want a millage or the Percent for Art program;

5. I thought the millage was in addition to the Percent for Art Funding
 
On November 19th, Ann Arbor City Council entertained three different amendments to the Public Art Ordinance and voted in favor of establishing a Public Art Taskforce in order to explore a feasible solution to the Art in Public Places conundrum. I am very pleased to be serving on the taskforce along with Sabra Briere, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall and  Steven Kunselman. We have met nearly every week since Thanksgiving, and I am hopeful that we will bring advice that recommends significant changes to the public Art Ordinace to City Council in early March. These meetings are open to the public and the Ann Arbor Chronicle has provided ample coverage. Please go to www.annarborchronicle.com for details.