By Rosemary K. Otzman
At its regular meeting on Aug. 21, the Belleville Downtown Development Authority set up a committee to consider public art to be displayed in downtown Belleville.
On the committee are DDA Treasurer
Sabrina Richardson-Williams, who has worked over the past few years to try to get a mural in the downtown, and DDA member Tom Fielder, who is enthusiastic about getting a discussion going on public art in Belleville.
Belleville Area Council for the Arts president Steve Jones said his group would be glad to send someone to serve on the committee.
Also on the committee is DDA coordinator Carol Thompson, who started the public art discussion by presenting a proposal from the Midwest Sculpture Initiative that provides outdoor sculpture exhibits in “art underserved” communities.
Such a program, which involves renting a minimum of six sculptures for a year, would cost between $10,000 and $11,000, Thompson said.
The sculptures are created by professional artists from around the country. The deadline for a community’s commitment letter for sculptures is Nov. 1 and then a call goes out for artists November through February, with judging in March and sculpture installation beginning April 15.
The date of a community’s commitment establishes its order for sculpture selection.
The exhibit artwork is available for purchase and the sales commission is split between MSI and the host community, with 20% going to the community.
Thompson said MSI reports that some communities have been able to support the next year’s exhibit with sales commission income.
The MSI project has been in existence for ten years and other communities with MSI sculptures on exhibit include Canton, Dearborn, Adrian, Frankenmuth, Hastings, Okemos, and Tecumseh.
The on-loan sculpture is placed on a small concrete base three feet wide. The fee per sculpture is about $1,700, which includes a $750 stipend to the artist.
Thompson said businesses could sponsor sculptures and fund raisers could be held. MSI would work with the local community on site selection and programming ideas.
“It seems like it wouldn’t be different than the DIA, but it would be sculptures instead of paintings,” Thompson said, referring to a past DDA program that involved erecting outdoor paintings from
the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“I’ve always wanted public art in downtown Belleville,” said Richardson-Williams. She said her research on the mural showed it would cost about $10,000, but there was a problem with getting a publicly owned site. She had no problem with the cost of the sculptures.
“I think it would be something neat to have, to bring people here,” said DDA member Gary Snarski, adding he has seen people taking pictures of the flowers downtown.
Thompson said the insurance is easier if the sculptures are on public property.
Snarski said they should think of places to put it in the DDA district.
Fielder said there has been talk about duplicating the DIA project, but with local art.
Councilwoman Kim Tindall, a member of the Belleville Area Council for the Arts, spoke from the audience saying that as a taxpayer in the community, she thinks the cost of the sculpture lease is too much.
She said the DDA could commission local artwork for $1,700 each from the local thriving art community.
She said the problem is raising $10,000 to rent art when you could commission local artists in the tri community and own the art. She noted there are artists here who have won national and international awards.
DDA chairman John Hoops said the committee could consider a number of things and bring a recommendation back to the DDA.
“We can get the discussion going on public art,” Richardson-Williams said, adding if they could get the artists and the public property it would work.
Mayor Kerreen Conley, who serves on the DDA, said the public art idea is certainly worth exploring.
In other business at the one-hour-and-22-minute meeting on Aug. 21, the DDA:
• Encouraged the Wayfinding Signs committee to continue its work on the design and placement of signs to 11 different locations. The groups of signs will be in six different places, mainly at the north entrance to the city and at Five Points. For the most part they will use existing light poles, but will have to put up three new poles, without lights, to hold the signs around Five Points. This was the first time sample signs were displayed for the “work in progress.” There was some discussion about having better markings for the police department, which is not planned to be on a sign. Members of the committee are Rosemary Loria, Fielder, and Snarski;
• Heard a final report on the crosswalk repair at Main and Denton by Spicer engineer David Vallier, who said it was all done by the day of the Bridgewalk, as promised. He said there was a “little overspray” on the new section of the crosswalk, but Blue Ribbon will do a power wash within a few days. He said the bricks taken out are at the DPW yard and the invoice of $19,371 is ready to be paid;
• Heard a report from the Belleville National Strawberry Festival Executive Director Joan Bodnar and festival representative Sharon Pokerwinski on this year’s event. They said the electrical cost was $9,000 and they took $4,000 from the general fund and paid the police and fire workers from the general fund. All their bills were paid by the end of July. They said a couple of years ago they had to take out a loan to pay their bills, but that has not been necessary lately. Pokerwinski said there are two businesses they have problems with –Main Street Flowers and Frosty Boy — who don’t want the fronts of their businesses blocked by vendors. Fielder, who is president of the festival, said the money the festival makes is seed money for the following year. Hoops asked about the Belleville Strawberry Festival having its address in Allen Park. Bodnar said that is her home and Meijer, for one, prefers a home address rather than the other address, which is a post office box in Belleville. Hoops said the only way to fix that problem is for Bodnar to move to Belleville;
• Discussed what to do about the 20, teakwood benches at the DPW yard that were removed for the new streetscape and stored outside under weeds and vines. There was talk about a possible Eagle project for a scout, having artists paint them, refurbishing them and putting them in Victory or Village parks or selling them on ebay. “Scrapping them is out of the question,” Hoops said; and
• Heard City Manager Diana Kollmeyer report that juvenile court workers were at Village Park the previous week to clean up the play area. She said Police Chief Gene Taylor made arrangements for that.
By Rosemary K. Otzman