Public Art and Design

Public art & design programs exist in cities, towns and villages in the US and throughout the world. They make the places we live, work, play, learn and visit more welcoming and beautiful. Communities committed to providing high quality of life and place for citizens invest in public art & design.

Public art & design programs express a community’s identity and values. They  demonstrates pride in place and increase a community’s assets by creating images that define; adding dimension to civic spaces, differentiating neighborhoods; affirming the educational environment; and enhancing and beautifying way-finding, transportation systems  roadsides, pedestrian corridors and community gateways.

Washtenaw County Area Public Art & Design Projects 

Public Art & Design Best Practices

Creative Washtenaw does its best to follow  the principals and best practices of public art and design. It believes a community should have a public art and design plan that is developed by engaging its citizens, is authentic to its community and states is intent to reflect the breadth and depth of the community’s population and culture in calls for art, juries, commissioners, personnel, volunteers, etc.

The public art and design plan should embrace the intrinsic and aesthetic values of art and creativity as the determining factors of success by leaning in to listen to and act on how its community defines the intrinsic and aesthetic qualities of art and creativity be it by the cultural expert, the credentialed scholar, the journeyed or self-taught master and/or the astute consumer of the form.

Public art and design programs should include financial resources and assign qualified personnel to properly administer, manage the programs and maintain the community assets. The plan should be adopted by the community and the municipality. Then as adopted, the plan is the reference and guide for the decision making process for the goals, specifications, parameters and limits of each public art and design project are set.

Following industry best practices, The Arts Alliance believes that a well-rounded public art and design program is inclusive of local, regional, national and international artists. Why? Think about this: If the Michigan Theater were to only show films by Ann Arbor filmmakers or the Ann Arbor Public Library only had books by Ann Arbor authors or The Ark only presented Ann Arbor musicians or the Ann Arbor Hands on Museum only presented display by scientists from Ann Arbor, the opportunities and experiences of our residents and children would be grossly limited. Plus as fabulous as many of our artists are – and there are world renowned artists among them — the experience and expertise of our local artists does always meet the criteria of various public art and design requirements. Expertise in one media does not automatically translate to expertise in another. A painter is not an outdoor muralist, a pottery is not an outdoor sculptor and so on.

The Arts Alliance follows the tenet that each public art and design project needs to be considered independently, preferable within the overarching public art and design plan adopted by the community (which our community does not have in place).

Canoe Imagine Art!

Canoe Imagine Art is a public art project that celebrates the history and attributes of the HuronRiver and the City of Ann Arbor park system using repurposed canoes as inspiration. Four works of art were selected through a juried and public vote process for installations in City of Ann Arbor parks along the Huron River during the summer of 2015. Each selected artist was awarded a $5,000 honoraria plus recycled canoes for their installation. Canoe Imagine Art is supported by the City of Ann Arbor’s Public Art Commission and Parks and Recreation Department and the Michigan Council for Art and Cultural Affairs.

Canoe Imagine Art includes four temporary installations along the Huron River in Ann Arbor. The photos below feature these installations:

  • Broadway Park: Turbine by Missouri State Western University artists J. Neil Lawley, Heather Andrews, Jake Proffit, Dustin Lafromboise and Hausman Metal Works.
  • Gallup Park: Canoe Fan by Victoria Fuller
  • Bandemer Park: Tulip by Ray Katz
  • Island Park: Canoe-vue by Jeff Zischke

Further collaboration for this project comes from: Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department, Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Huron River Watershed Council, Stantec, Saladino Construction, Community Music School of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor District Library and Wolverine Rental.

Full Image Here
About J. Neil Lawley

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About the Artist

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About the Artist

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About the Artist

Reimagine Washtenaw Public Art and Design Plan

Commissioned by Washtenaw County, The Arts Alliance developed the ReImagine Washtenaw Public Art & Design Plan in accordance with the HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grant as a part of the ReImagine Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Study.

The ReImagine Washtenaw Avenue Public Art & Design Plan was informed by 11 community focus groups and two public surveys administered by The Arts Alliance from 2013-2014 in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti Township, the City of Ypsilanti and Pittsfield Township.  More than 750 community members participated.

Outlined in the plan are the findings from the focus groups and surveys as well as recommendations for future art and design along the Washtenaw Corridor, including the following:

  • Public art & design is important. The surveys showed that 80% of participants believe that public art and design is an important element of a rich and vibrant community.
  • Community involvement and transparency for public art & design. A community driven project that allows individuals to have input and participate with the process is essential to the success of installed pieces and design elements. Future public art and design projects should also consider how local community members can and will interact with the [artwork or design elements] – both during the creation process and upon completion.
  • Identify and publicize existing public art & design elements. Community education through a variety of avenues… should strive to identify and celebrate the public art and design elements that currently exist and encourage community members, developers and designers to think more creatively about how unique design elements – from paint colors to bike racks – can enrich the county by making public spaces more enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing.
The Ann Arbor Housing Commission

The Ann Arbor Housing Commission appreciates that everyone deserves to live with dignity, in safety and with beauty. As plans are made for the North Maple Estates and Lower Platt neighborhood redevelopments, the Commission contracted The Arts Alliance to help current residents impact the design of their future home: a pleasant, healthful, artful and green residential community that reflects their history, culture and dreams.

With the goals of being respectful and sensitive to the complexity of moving residents to temporary housing during construction, building trust and helping the residents impact the design of their future home, The Arts Alliance conducted resident gatherings, including cultural advisors, translators, storytellers, photographers, videographers and visual artists to allow residents to share their stories and provide input for the developments’ public art and design. Based on the residents’ input, The Arts Alliance created the Ann Arbor Public Housing Public Art and Design Infusion Plan, to inform the design and construction of the North Maple Estates and Lower Platt neighborhoods.

Creative Washtenaw - The Arts Alliance