Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lets Create a Public Art Plan for Downtown Petoskey

[Yeah that's right. I am back after a long hiatus}

I think it is about time Downtown Petoskey, Michigan, developed a public art plan and, as a big fan of our Downtown and our local artists as an artist myself and as part owner of the Northern Michigan Artists Market, I have decided to do something about it.


Petoskey is a great art town and Northern Michigan is a fantastic art region. For a town its size, there are quite a few art galleries in addition to the Northern Michigan Artists Market. We have several wonderful events that focus on art including the annual Gallery Walk. And, of course, lots of artists live here and in the surrounding woods and villages. In fact, Smithsonian Magazine recently selected Petoskey as the #6 best small town in the US to visit, largely based on our galleries, arts and culture.

Many of the activities and events in our Downtown, as well as our downtown parking and sidewalk snow removal, are financed an run through our Downtown Management Board (DMB). It is funded primarily through an assessment on Downtown businesses and on Downtown parking revenues. In 2007, the DMB adopted a Downtown Blueprint containing an aggressive set of planning and development objectives and projects for Downtown Petoskey. The vast majority of these goals have actually been achieved. However, nothing has been done about one of my favorite ideas -- the creation of a public art placement plan.

The Blueprint was revisited in 2012. The commitment to establish a public art plan was reestablished in the new Downtown Petoskey 2013-2017 Strategic Plan. Neither the current strategic plan nor the earlier one provided much detail concerning the nature or scope of the desired plan. At the DMB meeting where the new strategic plan was adopted, I submitted a proposed amendment to the plan providing more specific detail about a procedure for the creation of an art plan and possible aspects of the mission of that plan. The Board decided not to accept the proposed amendment at that time but suggested that it would consider beginning a planning process in the near future.

We already have some public art in Downtown Petoskey -- some murals painted on exterior building walls, some statues (including the one pictured above of Chief Petoskey dressed for the Northern Michigan winter), etc. and for a short time we even had a place for independent, creative graffiti art (see picture below)featured here in a previous post. But there is no plan for encouraging, creating and placing more creative works of art, particularly by local artists, around our Downtown to take advantage of the artistic character of the area and improve the esthetic and artistic atmosphere of the community.

I recently decided to see what I could do to get the process started. I have drafted a proposal outlining a public process for the creation of a public art plan and presented it to the DMB at its April 2013 meeting for review and comment. They were supportive of the general concept but had some reservations and want to consider some alternatives. Generally, they seem a bit anxious about my plan to have open meetings to gather broad, grassroots community input and support. Some want to rely more heavily on the advice of a paid consultant. Some of them would like a more formal role for the Crooked Tree Art Center. I am working on some revisions to my proposal that will preserve the importance of broad community input while answering some of their concerns. They will take up the issue again at their May meeting.

If you are interested in developing a community based process for developing an art plan for Downtown Petoskey, I would like to hear from you. I encourage you to attend the May DMB meeting to hear what they have to say and to lend your support for a publicly discussed and developed plan that will serve the interests of the people of Petoskey and the surrounding area. We particularly need input from other local artists.

I will continue to update the progress of this proposal here on the Northern Michigan Art Blog. For now, please leave a comment if you are interested in the project or if you have any ideas. Please call me at the Northern Michigan Artists Market: (231) 487-0000 (Join us and get involved in this exciting new project for Downtown Petoskey!

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