ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ann Arbor City Council has voted to send roughly $943,000 in unspent money for art back into city services such as road work and water system infrastructure.
Money from the Percent For Art Program, which the city ended last year, will go into various city funds, including about $448,000 to the sewer fund, around $219,000 to the street millage fund and nearly $210,000 to the water fund, The Ann Arbor News reported.
The vote was 10-1 Monday night. Backers of the decision say it’s a matter of priorities and that the money will be better spent on items other than public art.
City officials envision a new program where future capital projects will be evaluated case by case to determine whether it’s appropriate to include public art, while other public art efforts could be funded by a combination of public and private dollars.
Still, there are questions about funding as the city contemplates setting aside $80,000 for a full-time public art administrator next fiscal year.
“Given that we have so many unfunded needs in public safety and infrastructure, our roads are a mess, and our sewers and water infrastructure are failing, I can’t support making a commitment on public art funding for the next two years,” said council member Jane Lumm.
Mayor John Hieftje said he doesn’t agree that the city shouldn’t fund public art until every last pothole is filled, every broken water pipe is repaired and every criminal is arrested. By those criteria, he said, no city could ever fund public art.
“This is a very, very small portion of our budget,” he said. “By having a robust public art program, we can increase economic development in the city and have it more than pay for itself in the tax revenue that comes back.
“That is why so many cities are engaged in public art,” he said.
The council’s action Monday leaves money in place, to complete two major art projects: new Stadium bridges and a rain garden. The council also opted to leave $5,000 for the Coleman Jewett memorial project to dedicate two bronze chairs in honor of the educator.
The council also left $21,000 in matching funds so the city doesn’t lose a $21,000 grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for Canoe Imagine Art. The project aims to recycle old canoes and have artists transform them into works of art.