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Arts & Culture : Development News

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Ann Arbor looks for artist for West Park art project

The city of Ann Arbor is looking for public art proposals in West Park as part of the plans to redevelop the green space on Seventh Street just west of downtown.

The City of Ann Arbor Public Art Commission and the Park Advisory Commission are looking for a Michigan artist or artist collaborators to create artwork(s) for a trio of concrete seating structures in front of the West Park band shell.

"We want to introduce artwork to our parks in general," says Amy Kuras, a landscape architect for Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation Services. "We're just trying to add some artistic flair."

The park consists of open playing fields, the historic band shell and pergola, tennis courts, basketball, pathways, picnic areas, a playground, and a baseball field near the intersection of Seventh and Miller streets. The city has budgeted up to $10,000 for the artist and their project. More information on the request for proposals here.

Source: Amy Kuras, a landscape architect for Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti plans to reform zoning to accommodate artists

The city of Ypsilanti is making it easier for artists of all stripes to set up shop in the college town now that it is revamping its zoning rules to accommodate them.

The City Council will look at approving creating one classification of artist studio on Nov. 17. Currently there are several different zoning classifications for artist studios, including photographer, performance, crafts, gallery and film, among others.

"It's an attempt to clean up and streamline some of that language our zoning has for artist studios," says Richard Murphy, a city planner with Ypsilanti.

The different classifications are an accumulation of zoning variations that have evolved over the years. It's created a confusing patchwork of red tape that says what's allowed and not allowed in certain districts in the city.

"It's reasonable to treat these equally across zoning districts," Murphy says.

Source: Richard Murphy, a city planner with Ypsilanti
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Chelsea unveils new mural

Chelsea is celebrating 175 years with one big-arse painting, a mural to be precise.

The city just unveiled a 16 feet by 20 foot mural on the back side of Merkel Furniture building, 205 Main Street. The Chelsea Center for the Arts commissioned the piece to celebrate the founding of the city 175 years ago.

The mural was painted on several aluminum composite panels by Mary Thiefels. City workers hung the complete piece of art on the side of the building. The Chelsea Community Foundation, state and Chelsea Downtown Development Authority have all pledged or given up to $9,000 for the mural, which is reminiscent of the famous Pied Piper painting in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

"We're still looking for additional contributions to cover the costs," says Aubrey Martinson, executive director of the Chelsea Center for the Arts.

Source: Aubrey Martinson, executive director of the Chelsea Center for the Arts
Writer: Jon Zemke

ICON Creative Tech finishes move into old Ann Arbor Art Center

What was once the second home for the Ann Arbor Art Center just outside of Ann Arbor is now the main office for ICON Creative Technologies Group.

The 14 year-old Internet firm bought the 11,000 square-foot space at 220 Felch earlier this summer after outgrowing its old 3,500-square-feet of downtown office space. The company's 20 employees (including two new hires) are now in the space.

Even with all of these people, there is still plenty of room to spare. So much so that ICON has taken on a tenant - Pure Barre. For now ICON is settling into just over half the space, 6000 sq feet, and expects to grow into the rest within five years when it hits 60 employees.

The single-story structure, a block west of Main Street just north of downtown. For years it served as an annex for the Ann Arbor Art Center, which has its headquarters in the heart of downtown.

Source: Sara Johns, project manager for ICON Creative Technologies Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Peaceworks to create mural for downtown Ann Arbor

More art is on its way to downtown Ann Arbor, and itís only going to reinforce the stereotype that Ann Arbor is made up of a bunch of art-loving peaceniks.

Michigan Peaceworks, which is headquartered downtown, plans to begin work on a mural this fall. The mural will be centered on, you guessed it, peace in Ann Arbor and go up on the side of the Alley Bar. It should be finished by next spring.

"It's going to be a pretty large mural," says Laura Russello, executive director of Michigan Peaceworks.

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and Main Street Association are chipping in $2,000 to pay for the project. The rest of the cost is coming from fundraising and private donations.

Weekly updates will be posted on the DDAís website once work begins. The project still have to be approved by the city before it can go forward.

Source: Laura Russello, executive director of Michigan Peaceworks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor Public Art Comm holds open house Thursday

Ever see a piece of public art and wonder, "What the hell is that doing there?"

Ann Arbor residents will have the chance to ask that question Thursday evening.

The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is hosting an open house for the local community. They will explain the cityís new Percent for Art Program and what new projects itís planning to take on. It will also let the public speak its mind about what type of public art it wants to see and where, and meet the people who are in charge of making it happen.

"This is kind of a general introduction," says Katherine Talcott, administrator for Ann Arbor's Percent for Art Program.

The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is responsible for a number of pieces of art throughout not only downtown but the whole city. Itís latest project is the proposed rain garden for City Hall. The work will combine both art and sustainability, two of Ann Arbor's favorite pet causes. It will be designed by Herbert Dreiseitl, a world renowned artist and urban planner. The rain garden for the City Hall expansion will be the most visible piece of art in the project.

The open house will be held between 5-7 p.m. in the Galleries of the Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 West Liberty in downtown. For information, contact Talcott at (734) 794-310 ext. 43730 or at ktalcott@a2gov.org.

Source: Katherine Talcott, administrator for Ann Arbor's Percent for Art Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Theater upgrades to new digital projector

The Michigan Theater is in line for a new, fancy digital projector; specifically a DCI Cinema Server and Project System.

That's theater jargon for a 4K Cinema Server System. Still confused? It really boils down to a $100,000 projector that allows the Ann Arbor vintage theater to show a great variety of movies, such as 3-D films. The plan is to have it installed in early May in time for "UP," Pixar's first 3-D film.

"It's the best you can get," says Russ Collins, CEO and executive director of The Michigan Theater. "It can show normal digital movies you see in a commercial theater or student movies."

The downtown theater ,across Liberty Street from Borders Store No. 1, has had digital projector capability since the mid 1990s. Collins compared the digital projectors to computers that need to be replaced every 3-5 years. This latest piece of state-of-the-art technology will launch The Michigan Theater to the front of the technology curve.

"We will probably be at the leading edge of digital cinema in the Ann Arbor for a while," he adds.

Source: Russ Collins, CEO and executive director of The Michigan Theater
Writer: Jon Zemke

What's next for Ann Arbor's Percent for Art Program?

It took a few years but Ann Arbor got its Percent for Art Program. Now comes the hard part - successfully implementing it.

The city recently hired Katherine Talcott to administer the program. Its first big test will be applying it to the construction of the City Hall expansion this year. The new program mandates that at least one percent of the construction budget for public projects be put aside for public art installation.

"The goal is to ensure that arts and culture are an integral part of city vision and planning," Talcott says.

Talcott and the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission are set to announce a public forum on the City Hall public art projects later this month. The Annual Public Art Plan, which will set priorities for this year and next, will be released in June.

The big project is the proposed rain garden for City Hall. The work will combine both art and sustainability, two of Ann Arbor's favorite pet causes. It will be designed by Herbert Dreiseitl, a world renowned artist and urban planner. The rain garden for the City Hall expansion will be the most visible piece of art in the project.

Source: Katherine Talcott, administrator for Ann Arbor's Percent for Art Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M Museum of Art ready to open after extensive renovations

The people behind the newly refurbished University of Michigan Museum of Art weren't trying to make a better art museum as much as they were trying to make a better Diag.

They wanted to turn the Museum of Art into an indoor version of the Diag where students, staff and community members would gather, interact. In essence the new facility would serve as a gateway to the university.

"Philosophically, we were thinking how can me make the art museum a more essential part of the university and the community," says James Steward, director of the U-M Museum of Art.

The new Museum of Art is also much bigger, functional and fancier now that the university has poured $41.9 million into it. It's bigger because the old version was 41,000 square feet and the new version is 94,000 square feet.

Functional because its Alumni Memorial Hall, designed by Allied Works Architecture, includes room for displays, research, exhibitions, educational programs, classrooms, a cafe and a 225-seat auditorium. Fancier because all of this lets the university display the museumís 150-year-old collection of art (18,000 pieces) capable of making an eyebrow go high while still serving as a hub for the local arts community.

The opening also returns one of the campus' high-traffic corners back to normal. The Museum of Art is located at the corner of State and South University streets. Most students walking from the South and West quads have trekked past the construction at the Museum of Art for years now. No longer now that the construction cranes and cement trucks have moved to another corner of campus.

Source: James Steward, director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art
Writer: Jon Zemke

ICON Creative Tech buys Ann Arbor Art Center annex

Creative people have inhabited 220 Felch for years but the type of creatives are changing now that ICON Creative Technologies Group has bought the building from the Ann Arbor Art Center.

The single-story structure, a block west of Main Street just north of downtown, served as an annex for the Ann Arbor Art Center, which has its headquarters in the heart of downtown. ICON plans to slowly-yet-steadily renovate and move into the space. The idea is to establish a bigger home for the 14-year-old Internet firm, which is about to burst at the beams at its current office. 

The company has 20 people at its 3,500-square-foot office on State Street in downtown. It expects to grow its staff to 60 people within five years. The 11,000 square feet of 220 Felch gives the company more than enough room for that growth.

"As we continue to grow, we don't want to be confronted with space issues every few years," says Rob Cleveland, CEO of ICON Creative Technologies Group. "With this footprint, we can easily accommodate our 5-year-growth plans and open up other opportunities for services that we previously were not able to provide to our customers."

ICON will occupy 6,000 square feet of the space this year, allowing a few of the building's tenants to stay on for the time being. Some of the space will also be leased back to the Ann Arbor Art Center so it can finish its classes through June.

Purchasing 220 Felch gives ICON a bit of a port in the financial storm these days. Rents in downtown Ann Arbor have been steadily increasing and the other costs have swung violently. The addition of 220 Felch gives ICON a dependable and controllable overhead cost while giving the company enough space to expand.

Source: Sara Johns, project manager for ICON Creative Technologies Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor asks developers for new plans for 415 W Washington

The city of Ann Arbor is pulling a bit of a Mulligan with the redevelopment of 415 W Washington.

The city is about to ask the three developers who presented plans for the 2.5-acre property just northwest of downtown to resubmit updated plans for slightly changed guidelines. The new request for proposals will probably go out by mid March. Only the original three developers can submit proposals.

"It's very similar to the previous one," says Wendy Rampson, city planner for Ann Arbor. "It presents some additional guidelines in a couple of areas."

Among the changes to guidelines regard the flood plain, use of space and access points to the site. City officials would like to see the developers present plans that lets the city keep the flood plain as a greenway, incorporate residential space and have vehicle entryways to both Liberty and Washington streets.

Besides that, pretty much everything remains the same. It's still same-sized parcel next to the railroad tracks that once served as the city's old Department of Public Works. The city no longer has use for it and issued a request for proposals early last year.

The three developers that responded include the Ann Arbor Art Center, Chicago-based developer Morningside Group (the Liberty Lofts people) and the Old West Square LLC (a partnership that includes Peter Allen of Kingsley Lane and Lower Town fame).

Source: Wendy Rampson, city planner for Ann Arbor
Writer: Jon Zemke

Construction wraps up on Dexter library, March opening set

At long last, books in Dexter have a new home. The new Dexter District Library is finished.

Construction workers are putting the finishing touches on the new building while movers begin to move the library's stacks into their new home. Library officials are planning for an early March opening.

"It's all sort of hitting us pretty fast but it's great," says Paul McCann, library director for the Dexter District Library.

The new building is in downtown Dexter, 3255 Alpine Street, and overlooks Warrior Creek Park and the Mill Creek bridge. The $7.8 million structure measures out at 25,000-square-feet and two stories. It features more space for books and other materials, studying and reading space and meeting rooms. There will also be computer rooms and wireless Internet access for library patrons.

There will be expanded computer resources, significantly more study space, a quiet reading area and more comfortable seating throughout the building. The meeting room space will comfortably accommodate 200 people without the moving book stacks to free up space, which must be done in the current library.

It replaces the 4,200-square-foot old library, formerly the Methodist Church Education Building, it moved into in 1996. The future of the old building has been tossed around ever since the library announced it was moving.

The village at one time intended to move its offices into it, and is still considering that option. McCann says the library is also looking at selling the building to DISS Data by the time it moves into its new home.

Source: Paul McCann, library director for the Dexter District Library
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor makes plans for waterscape public art project

Leave it to Ann Arbor to find a way to fuse two of the community's favorite pet causes - sustainability and public art.

Local officials are putting the finishing touches on the main piece of public art for the City Hall expansion, which also looks to play a significant part in the building's sustainability. The work of art, a key piece of the project's LEED application, is a rain garden designed by Herbert Dreiseitl, who was commissioned by the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission.

Dreiseitl is a world renowned artist and urban planner who specializes in integrating drab things like storm water into sexy subjects such as public art. His rain garden for the City Hall expansion will be the most visible piece of art in the project.

The rain garden will also go a long ways toward satisfying Ann Arbor's new "Percent for Art" ordinance for new public buildings. The ordinance calls for projects to dedicate 1 percent of the project's budget for public art. Similar policies have been used for decades in other cities, such as New York and Portland.

In December, AAPAC Chair, Margaret Parker, presented the Ann Arbor Public Art Commissionís (AAPAC) 2009 Annual Public Art Plan to City Council. One of AAPACís 2009 priorities includes the installation of interior and exterior artwork at the Ann Arbor Municipal Center.

Source: Margaret Parker, chair of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor hosts public speaker on public art on Thursday

Ann Arbor is bringing in a speaker on public art Thursday at a time when the city is really starting to encourage more and more public art in its downtown.

The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission, along with a number of other local organizations, is hosting Anne Pasternak, the President and Artistic Director of Creative Time.

Pasternak is well-known advocate of public art and her organization has been commissioning innovative art in New York City since 1972. She has worked closely with artists such as Doug Aitken, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Jenny Holzer, Gary Hume, Vik Muniz, Takashi Murakami, Shirin Neshat, Steve Powers and Cai Guo Qiang.

The lecture will begin at 5 p.m. in the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, in downtown Ann Arbor. For information, call (734) 764-3464.

Source: Margaret Parker, chair of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M's Walgreen Drama Center takes bow for architecture award

"I'd like to thank my mother. And my wife. And my architect..."

Miller Theatre will take home a nice, new shiny award for the building's architecture.

The USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) will give U-M an Architecture Merit Award. USITT is association of design, production and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry.

The 97,500-square-foot drama center was built last year. Its two floors include classrooms, studios, U-M Theatre & Drama Department offices, wardrobe and scene-building space, and auditorium and the 250-seat Arthur Miller Theatre. The theatre is the only venue named after U-M alumnus Arthur Miller.

USITT awards have recognized architectural excellence since 1994. The award helps broaden awareness of innovative and significant designs for contemporary theaters.

Source: University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke
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