EL Arts Commission prepares for alley art selection

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By Mackenzie Mohr
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

© City of East Lansing

This fall there will be an artistic addition to the parking ramp between Charles and Division streets; a ramp well-known for its already colorful exterior. The East Lansing Arts Commission met last Thursday for their second gathering this year to discuss this and other ventures, such as planning updates for the annual folk, art, film and jazz festivals that the city hosts.

A guest at the table was Amy Schlusler-Owens, a community development specialist for the city. Thursday was her third appearance at the commission as she and city communications coordinator Ami Van Antwerp prepare a request for proposals document, or RFP.

The city is drafting the document so that artists can present artwork to the city Art Selection Panel for consideration. The artist proposal process closes April 2 and the goal for the completion of the work is August 2012, just as the Broad Art Museum opens, said Van Antwerp.

The commission’s goal Thursday was to iron out the kinks in the document so it could be published as soon as possible. One such issue was determining if the proposal should be open to national artists.

“I have spoken with some art teachers in the area,” Schlusler-Owens said, “and they were highly opinionated that this should only be (open to) Michigan artists.”

She said that much of the reason individuals want to restrict it to Michigan artists is because the project is hoping to encompass and community effect and feel, especially in recognition of the Broad Art Museum.

The commission decided it did not want to strictly define who a “Michigan artist” is, so instead proposed that the document read, “preference will be given to Michigan artists.”

The commission decided that artists’ proposals must include a detailed itemized budget. Whoever is chosen to establish their artwork in the ally will be granted $4,000 to cover expenses such as travel costs and and the cost of material required to create their artwork, said Van Antwerp.

Schlusler-Owens said that the artist must also include information about protecting the artwork from the elements. The artist’s method of protection must be agreed upon by the city because East Lansing will cover the cost as much as $500 in addition to the money granted to the artist.

A rendering of the site included in the requests for proposals document. Click the image to download the application.

Both Schlusler-Owens and Van Antwerp had visited the site Thursday and decided to extend the space that was available to the artist. Schlusler-Owens said that the artists will likely be inspired by the architecture and color of the ramp as well as the Broad Art Musuem, both of which are highly architectural in design.

“We’re probably anticipating more bright colors,” said Schlusler-Owens, “potentially something a little more abstract in nature.”

The artists are by no means confined to using paint as their medium, said Schlusler-Owens, as long as their work is safe and weather-resistant, it is acceptable.

“We can’t have shards of steel sticking out,” Schlusler-Owens joked.

Dan O’Connor, the city’s parking administrator, will be on the Art Selection Panel to determine the appropriateness of the artists’ material for the location, said Schlusler-Owens.

After rigorous discussion and a few amendments, the Arts Commission unanimously approved the mural request for proposals document. Soon enough, another Michigan artist will have the opportunity to add their thumbprint to East Lansing’s growing art scene.

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