Category Archives: Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor Art Commission Update, May 2015

Hi, everyone.

I have some exciting updates on public art projects in Ann Arbor.

Not in Ann Arbor, but still urban public art by Fra.Biancoshock.

Not in Ann Arbor, alas, but still urban public art by Fra.Biancoshock. It makes me happy for some reason…

But first, I’d like to ask those of you who are artists in the Ann Arbor AREA (hi Ypsi) to sign up with the Arts Alliance. They’ve been doing a great job of facilitating public art in Ann Arbor, and it’s a good organization to promote your art and find out about requests for proposals:

Okay, now that you’ve done that, fellow artists, on to the news!

Last time we got together, I went over some of the projects in the pipeline.

Here’s where they are now:

  1. The Coleman Jewett memorial has been fully funded, largely through private donations. We’ll have a date for installation sometime soon, and the city is now looking into the specifics. The memorial will be two bronze Adirondack chairs installed at the Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown.
  2. Canoe Imagine Art went to public vote, and the selections have been announced. I’m happy to be able to include some pictures this time around so you can see how great the final choices are. What’s fantastic about these is that Ann Arbor Parks & Rec has the option to keep them (except for 1) in perpetuity. These will be installed in June of 2015.This first one is the one selected by the public. I happen to know it’s also fairly complex to install, so mad props to the city for sorting out the engineering behind the scenes. This is the one I’m most excited about. Go public!TurbineTitle: Turbine
    Artist Team: Missouri Western State University: Heather Andrews (Student), Jake Proffit (Student), J. Neil Lawley (Faculty) and Dustin Lafromboise (Construction Professional)
    Artists’ Description: The name is in reference to the movement and occasional turbulence of the river and the history of hydroelectricity generated by the river.
    Location: Broadway Park

    The following were selected by the jury.

    Canoe Fan is the installation that the city only has for a certain period of time.

    Canoe Fan in progress.

    Canoe Fan in progress.

    Title: Canoe Fan
    Artist: Victoria Fuller
    Artist’s Description: Aluminum canoes create a half circle fan form that calls to mind the sun on the horizon, a woman’s hand held fan, a Native American headdress, or the spread of peacock tail feathers.
    Location: Gallup Park

    VueTitle: Canoe-vue
    Artist: Jeff Zischke
    Artist’s Description: Two vertical half canoe sculptures to be placed near the Huron River with a built-in seat to accommodate one or two people.
    Location: Island Park

    Title: Tulip
    Artist: Ray Katz
    Artist’s Description: Tulip will be constructed from ten canoes standing vertically meeting at one point in the center.
    Location: Bandemer Park

  3. PowerArt! public selections were made, and will start being installed in the month of May 2015 in downtown Ann Arbor. These will wrap power boxes, and the location is included. I was on the jury for this, and have some comments about the sentiment and process that went into some of them. There are potentially two more phases for this project, so please consider submitting for the next round; there was a $1500 stipend to the artists whose works were selected this time.

    The following two were selected by the public.

    Amusement Park
    Title: Amusement Park
    Artist: Carolyn Barritt
    Location: Washington & Division

    Title: Enchanted Forest
    Artist: Laila Kujala
    Location: Miller & Ashley

    The following were selected by the jury.

    The jury unanimously liked Show Horse 1.

    Show Horse 1
    Title: Show Horse 1
    Artist: K.A. Letts
    Location: Catherine & Fifth

    Tropicali is my personal favorite, and I believe it will be installed on a power box that I used to look at quite often from my apartment on S. Forest in University Towers as an undergraduate.

    Title: Tropicali
    Artist: Mike McAteer
    Location: South University & Washtenaw

    The jury is curious to see how the public will react to A Fly Stopped By.

    Title: A Fly Stopped By
    Artist: Danny Mooney
    Location: South University & Forest

    I wish I could remember more of the discussion around Traffic Light 1, but we all were fans.

    Traffic Light
    Title: Traffic Light 1
    Artist: Thomas Rosenbaum
    Location: Liberty & Main

    And still it will be wonderful was somewhat controversial, but we felt it was thought provoking and offered dynamism as you moved around the box to view it.

    Title: And it will still be wonderful
    Artist: Sophia Zhou
    Location: Liberty & Thompson

    And David Zinn wins for most completely thought-out rendering with Selfie Monster.

    Title: Selfie Monster
    Artist: David Zinn
    Location: Liberty & First

Finally, Art in the Sky is under way, and I encourage you to submit a design for the water tower that I see every day when I go to and from work, when I run through County Farm Park… make it interesting!

Read more and submit a design! ($500 to the winner!)

I hope you enjoy — there is more to come.

Civic Engagement

Every other Monday, I usually watch Ann Arbor City Council meet while tweeting commentary under the hashtag #A2Council. It’s kind of like Pokemon, but without the fun names. For those of you who are annoyed by it, my apologies. Tonight’s an off week, so I thought I’d write about other ways to engage the city besides throwing tomatoes. City-of-Ann-Arbor-color-medium

I recently attended a local “unconference” for people who want to make a difference in their community. There were a number of different tracks, and I chose to participate in the civics track. I heard a lot of great ideas, one of which I’d like to highlight, and two other things outside the conference that I’d like to share.

  • If you care about civics in Ann Arbor, please consider making a donation to CivCity, the next project of Mary Morgan, one of the founders of the Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle has been an indispensable tool when it comes to researching decisions made by city council and the various commissions in the city. Ultimately, I’d like to see the city be able to offer the kind of transparency the Chronicle brought, but in the meantime, CivCity is a great followup.
  • Did you know Ann Arbor has an online forum to solicit input from the public about different topics? No? Welcome to the club of almost everyone in the city! Okay, maybe it’s just my usual club of me by myself, but in case you’re like me, it’s called A2 Open City Hall. Currently, they’re soliciting feedback regarding dog parks. Nobody has responded. You could be the first.
  • You can participate in your city government! If you’re not ready to run for mayor or city council, there are boards and commissions you can participate in. The hardest part for me was figuring out how to get onto one. I shall lead you to the elephants’ graveyard.
  1. Decide you really want to devote an hour or two a month to civics. Don’t be a flake.
  2. See what vacancies are available on various boards and commissions:
  3. If none of those interest you, please review this list of boards and commissions, and write down the ones you might be interested in:
  4. Fill out this application (maybe someday it will be online), and include different boards and commissions you might be interested in:
  5. Return or mail it to:
    Mayor’s Office
    City Hall – 3rd Floor
    301 E. Huron St.
    PO Box 8647
    Ann Arbor, MI 48107-8647
  6. Wait.
  7. Eventually, you’ll receive a notice in the mail if you’ve been confirmed to be on a board. Or, you can watch City Council live and hear your name and confirmation when and if it happens. Don’t blink.

You can read more here about boards and commissions:

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission Update – January 2015

Does Ann Arbor still have a public art commission?

Yes, and we’re:

  • Seeing the completion of projects started before the public art fund was de-funded
  • Advising city staff on projects that may have a public art component
  • Determining how the commission moves forward

A quick recap: I was appointed about a year ago, during the same city council meeting where public art was de-funded—having an Irish sense of humor has proven useful.

The one remaining big project from the old budget is the Stadium bridges project. There have been a couple of planning issues regarding lighting and foundations, but the plan is still for a late 2015 installation. If the art piece had been considered and chosen prior to construction, foundation and electrical work could have been done during construction. This is the idea behind “baked-in” funding for art.

There are three other projects the commission is involved with, and a new one for an elevated water tank on Manchester Road in Ann Arbor.

  1. The Jewett memorial is a set of bronze adirondack chairs to be installed at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market commemorating Coleman Jewett, who was an admired local educator, and a fixture at the farmer’s market for years selling his chairs. This project is largely funded by private donations and grants, with commissioner Marsha Chamberlin acting as program manager. The project is nearly completely funded—”everything but the plaque”, and the city will be considering next steps soon.

    If you’d like to help complete funding, you can make a donation via the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation:

  2. Canoe Imagine Art, which is being managed by the Arts Alliance. Three pieces have already been chosen, with one more to be chosen by the public from 3 finalists this February — I’ll be sure to share a link when I have one. The plan is for a public celebration in July 2015 to coincide with Huron River Days. The project differs from its initial conception in that the installations will be in Ann Arbor parks instead of scattered around downtown, and the parks will decide where they go. The city also reserves the right to keep them up. Commissioner John Kotarski was one of the jurors, and I concur with his delight in the quality of proposal submitted by artists. Most are interactive in some way, and will make a great addition to the parks.
  3. I’ve been selected to be a juror for another project managed by the Arts Alliance, “PowerArt!“. The first of three phases involves wrapping 8 traffic boxes around downtown Ann Arbor with canvases that display the work of local artists. The jury will select 6 submissions, and the public will select the remaining 2. Again, when I have a link, I’ll share it. The jury will take place in February, and the celebration will be in May 2015, followed by two months of community response before moving on to the next phases.

The Manchester Elevated tank is up for repainting, which came up back in 2012 as a potential project in 2013.

This is the first example of “baked-in” art, where the city identifies a project that may lend itself to public art prior to engaging the commission. The plan is very similar to the water tower on Plymouth road, where there will be a public request for designs, a jury will choose finalists whose submissions will be put to a public vote, with the winner being recognized. The commission had questions about the pros and cons of various materials (paint vs. vinyl), and made project suggestions that largely mirrored the previously successful project on Plymouth road. The project manager for the job will be handling the logistics behind managing design submissions, etc.

2012 Michigan Supreme Court and 22nd Circuit Court Ballot Information

Tuesday’s ballot has a few sections for electing judges—you know, that part of the ballot where you go OH HELL, I WISH I’D READ / STILL HAD A CITY PAPER—so here’s where it matters. Nobody’s challenging some of the incumbents, so we’ll just skip those. The Michigan Supreme Court nominees are elected to eight-year terms for the entire state; the 22nd Circuit Court is specific to Washtenaw County. I’m not going to tell you who I’m voting for, but if you know me well as a person and a designer, you’re not going to be surprised. I did this mostly so I’ll remember who to vote for… writing things down makes it easier to remember them later.

Justice of the Supreme Court—U Pick 2, like @ Panera

Justice of the Supreme Court (Partial Term ending Jan. 1, 2015)—Pick 1

22nd Circuit Court Judge, Incumbent—Pick 1

22nd Circuit Court Judge—Pick 1

In the news…

Every once in awhile, the company I work for appears in the local news.  A little background on the local news…  a few years ago, we had an actual printed newspaper, and a few years prior to that, they’d spent a great deal of money updating the printing presses to do color in a more compact form factor.

So it came as a surprise when the people who owned the paper decided Ann Arbor would be a great place to try a new experiment: they decided we’d be the first community to have a completely on-line newspaper since we’re so cyber.  They closed the paper, and now we have  Unfortunately, it’s not quite the same.  The stories aren’t as well-written—and some feel the prior paper didn’t exactly have qualiy reporting—and often aren’t written by actual journalists.  It’s meant to be a community-oriented paper, which means community members often write for it.  There’s something to be said for having a journalism degree.

You can also comment on articles, too, which begs the question of how useful comments are.  The same people post over and over again to the point where you can predict what they’re going to say based on the long-term pet peeve they’re passively agressively tending to, and the unfortunate part is it becomes part of the dialog surrounding the article, sometimes to the point of obscuring the article.

We’ve been in the paper a few times, and I’m glad to see Ann Arbor is doing well by the company to extend some tax breaks.  We’ve been in the area for over 10 years now and hire people to stay here in Michigan.  We pay well, we have a great environment and we get to work on cool things.  In addition to working here, we also live and spend our money here, which has a multiplier effect.  Tax breaks in this case are a pretty good investment.

I take issue when people speak without any firsthand knowledge.  I can say that economics did in fact put us in a more conservative posture after the financial meltdown in 2008, but we’re in a good position to do more local hiring again finally.  I’ve also been part of the interview process for nearly everyone we’ve hired in Ann Arbor in the last six years, so I’ve seen the kind of candidates we get.  We’re not in Silicon Valley, so it’s hard to attract people to Michigan.  And it’s hard to keep young graduates in the state, although we’re trying.  The other thing to consider is that computer programmers are not interchangeable cogs.  Just because there are people looking for work in Michigan who have programming experience doesn’t mean they’ll be the best match in terms of skills at our company.  We work in a niche market, and we do it well.  It’s why we’re good.  We happen to look for a niche skillset, although if you’re a really good programmer, it’ll probably work out.

It’s only a comment on an article that not many very people care about, but it’s unfortunate when a company that does well by its community is still attacked, and the person attacking it isn’t held accountable for his or her assertions.

Have you created any jobs today?