President's Advisory Committee on Public Art
Overview, Background, Scope and Charge
The University of Michigan, as an institution committed to learning, inquiry, and creativity, seeks to provide a rich and variegated campus environment in which members of our community can engage in these activities and be at home in spaces that are uniquely “Michigan.” Public art can play a significant part in creating such an environment, an environment conducive to the development of mind, soul, and spirit by our faculty, students and staff. In this respect, the North Campus Sculpture and Public Art Program statement captures very well our guiding philosophy:
The University of Michigan’s outdoor sculpture should be an integral part of the educational and research mission of the university. In addition, it should provide constant visual enjoyment and excitement for members of the university community, the city, and the region.
We wish to develop an approach to public art that will, over time, transform U-M into a university distinguished for its public art environment and that will link art more closely to expression of our academic aspirations. Toward that end, we are establishing a President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, to help guide our decisions and planning and to facilitate development of a richer and more diverse collection of public art.
Although the University of Michigan possesses many fine works of public art, the public art environment on campus is neither as vibrant nor as engaging as befits a university of our stature and character. Public art at U-M has not been consistently developed in relation to our academic mission. Public art projects have generally been carried out opportunistically, typically in response to donor initiatives afforded to individual schools, colleges, and units. While this approach has resulted in a number of fine individual projects, it has not led thus far to a first-rate collection overall, in comparison with many peer universities. We have not developed a broad vision for public art in which works are sought for sites on campus that themselves form part of a broader plan. Neither has pursuit of art, as an expression of mission, been typically or consistently encouraged—although there have been notable exceptions.
Historically, public art efforts have fallen under the purview of the Exterior Elements Design Review Committee (EEDRC), which serves the University Planner in an advisory capacity on numerous outdoor design details but which has had relatively little focused specialization in the visual arts. More recently, the University Planner established the Public Art Review Group (PARG) to supplement the EEDRC’s efforts, and this group has functioned to review individual proposals from units. While PARG has facilitated the placement of some fine works of public art on campus, and provided an important review mechanism, it has not been proactive in planning or in pursuing works of art, and indeed, has lacked the mandate to do so.
As a result of these tendencies, artists of the first order are not adequately represented in the U-M’s public art collection. The President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art will replace the Public Art Review Group and, like the latter, will complement the work of the EEDRC, while also adopting a more strategic and long-term approach to public art on campus. The committee will be a standing committee.
The advisory committee will be appointed by the president and will be composed of 10 to 15 members of the University community—faculty, administrators, staff, and/or students—whose expertise and perspectives will contribute to planning and consideration of public art with respect to its academic, aesthetic, fundraising and practical dimensions. The Director of the Museum of Art and the University Planner will be ex officio voting members of the committee. The chair of the committee will be appointed by the president and will be an individual—typically a member of the faculty—knowledgeable and accomplished in the assessment of the aesthetic and academic dimensions of art.
For purposes of the work of this committee, “public art” is defined as installations of art—permanent or temporary—in public spaces of the University, including the exteriors of buildings, outdoor public areas, or interior public lobbies. Although we cannot always clearly separate public art from architectural elements or other exterior elements, the following guidelines will help us define the scope of the committee’s activities. We will expect that in situations of potential overlap, relevant committees and units will work cooperatively to resolve questions and develop recommendations.
Public art includes:
- Art works located outside of buildings on the campus grounds or in public lobbies.
- Free-standing original pieces of sculpture, made of any material, including those commissioned as part of new building construction.
- Art works such as decorative tiles or mosaics which are embedded in sidewalks, seatwalls, etc. (e.g., the “Trio” mosaic on the plaza wall west of EECS).
- Outdoor utilitarian elements—such as memorial and sculptural benches, nonstandard light fixtures, or drinking fountains—that are unique works of art (e.g., the “Science Benches” on Ingalls Mall).
- Works of art attached to or incorporated into the exterior facades of buildings (e.g., the bas reliefs on various buildings).
- Free-standing artifacts that have been in the landscape for a long period of time (e.g., the “Professors’ Monument” southeast of the Hatcher Graduate Library).
Public art does not include:
- Functional exterior building features. It should be noted, however, that in some situations functional exterior elements might also constitute essentially distinct, if not free-standing, works of public art or may also serve as decorative elements, and in these cases, the committee should be consulted.
- Art works displayed inside buildings, which thereby fall under the purview of the unit responsible for the building. Similarly, art works installed in courtyards that are enclosed within the footprint of a building also fall under the purview of the responsible unit or units. An exception to this policy is public lobby spaces, noted above; in such cases the Advisory Committee should be consulted. Units are welcome and encouraged to seek advice from the Advisory Committee for significant installations of art in their interior public spaces.
- Landscaped features (e.g., gardens, plantings, terrain)—except where undertaken as a form of land art or public art (e.g., the “Wave Field” sculpture on North Campus).
The Committee will:
- Advise the president on matters concerning public art.
- Develop and recommend to the president a brief statement of vision and principles to guide development of planning for public art and review of public art proposals and installations. This statement should be submitted to the president by January 2007. In this process, the committee should review and adopt, modify, or replace the current set of “Guidelines for Public Art” that is maintained by the University Planner.
- Recommend a strategic approach to the development of the public art environment on campus, consistent with the statements in this document and with such principles and guides as are developed by the committee and adopted by the president on behalf of the University. Such a strategic approach might include:
- Review of the current collection of public art on campus in terms of its diversity, as a means to informing future acquisitions.
- Periodic review and update of the potential sites for public art identified in the campus master plan.
- The initial strategic plan, including priority sites and preferred artists, should be submitted to the president by March 2007.
- As a first stage in implementation of the initial strategic plan, identify a small set of high-priority sites for new installations over the next several years, and a small set of preferred artists whose work might be sought or commissioned for those sites. These recommendations should be submitted with the strategic plan, by March 2007.
- Review models for long-term funding of the envisioned public art program at the U-M, and make recommendations to the president concerning possible means for ongoing, institutional support of public art, including acquisition, installation and maintenance. These recommendations should take into consideration:
- Maintenance of the current base of installed public art.
- Future periodic installation of new public art recommended by the committee, with inclusion of a maintenance plan.
- Multiple possible sources of funding and support, including University funds, unit funds, and gifts and other forms of external support.
- Review proposed gifts of public art and proposed installations of public art, in coordination with the University Planner and other relevant offices and committees, and make recommendations to the president.
- Advocate for public art and the University’s public art program and assist in the cultivation of resources for public art.
- Coordinate its efforts and reviews with the appropriate University units, offices, and committees, including but not necessarily limited to the Exterior Elements Design Review Committee and the History and Traditions Committee. In addition, the committee should be available when asked to lend input and advice on aesthetic matters that fall outside of the scope of its charge. To facilitate coordination, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Public Art will be an ex officio member of the Exterior Elements Design Review Committee, and the University Planner will be an ex officio member of the Advisory Committee on Public Art.
- The University Planner’s Office will provide technical support for the Committee. Other staffing for the committee will be supported by the Office of the President.
The committee will be reviewed before the end of three years of operation.