TRAVERSE CITY — Two new pieces of public art could be up in Traverse City's Clinch Park pedestrian tunnel and another on Traverse Area Community Sailing's boathouse by summer 2019.
Each artwork has its own goal, meeting documents show. A sculpted mural planned for the boathouse will honor a late family member of the project donor's family, while another mural for the Clinch Park tunnel will celebrate the Anishinaabek — a group that includes the Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawatomi peoples.
The sculpted mural — picture a flat, wall-hanging sculpture made of wood, metal or other materials — would be a permanent installation, and one of three planned along the Boardman Lake trail, Traverse City Arts Commission Director Nate Elkins said.
The Clinch Park Tunnel mural would be printed on 600 square feet of removable panels, Elkins said.
"The project really is a rotating public art project that's going to be retrospective and culturally reflective of the woodlands Indians of the Great Lakes, and specifically the Grand Traverse Band (of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)," he said.
The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa is working with the city on the Clinch Park tunnel mural, Elkins said. Its council already gave its support for the concept.
The project's estimated budget is $70,000. Arts commissioners would seek $15,000 from Traverse City Light & Power, and $10,000 from the city's arts trust fund.
Calls to tribal council Chairman Thurlow "Sam" McClellan and council member Mark Wilson, whom Elkins identified as being a project partner, weren't returned Friday.
Downtown Development Authority board members unanimously supported the Clinch Park tunnel mural concept Friday. Elkins told them about how each panel would have an anti-graffiti coating, and that the project would include lighting upgrades and sounds — the city would pay for maintenance and electrical costs.
“It’s a great project,” DDA CEO Jean Derenzy said. “I believe we should support it.”
Arts commissioners also will ask city commissioners for $5,000 from the arts trust fund for the boathouse mural, with the donor putting up $20,000, meeting documents show.
Elkins said the donor doesn't want recognition.
But Monday's city council meeting is just the beginning for the projects.
Elkins said there's no design for them yet. The city arts commission would ask artists to submit proposals for the boathouse mural in December and January. Artists would have until mid-February to submit qualifications, and the arts commission would make its choice by March.
The sculpture itself could be ready to install by early July, Elkins said. He expects a similar timeline for the Clinch Park tunnel mural project, which could be done by June.
City commissioner Roger Putman said he liked the idea of both projects on the agenda, particularly an art installation that honors the Anishinaabek.
"I think we have to understand that the history of Traverse City didn't start with Perry Hannah," he said. "The indigenous people have been here for a long time, and I'm glad to see a piece that will honor their heritage and existence and such."
Whether Putman believes either project to be a good use of city money remains to be seen, he said. There will always be a difference of opinion about art, and he pointed to the common experience of puzzling over just what a particular art museum piece is supposed to be.
But that's part of the beauty of art, Putman said. It's meant to provoke thought, and observing each viewer's differing opinions is part of the experience.
Commissioner Tim Werner also said he supports the general idea of both installations. The Clinch Park tunnel once had artwork, and he and others would like to see something there again.
Elkins said he believes the arts commission can avoid the public outcry stemming from a proposal to put murals on concrete walls at the Open Space. Arts commission and art selection committee meetings will be open to the public. The commission also has new social media accounts, and a new website where people can view and comment on proposals is on the way.
Werner said he believes much of the Open Space mural uproar came from people who were misinformed about the proposal. He's heard from people who want to see art that represents Native Americans return to the Clinch Park tunnel. And a mural on the boathouse's lake-facing wall would mostly only be seen from the lake.
"Most people will have to go out of their way to see it, which is fun in a way," he said.
Putman again pointed to expected differences in opinion, but that it's important city residents feel their voices are heard.
"I can guarantee that whatever is produced probably will not reach 100 percent favorability with everyone who sees it," he said. "Hopefully it'll appeal to the masses and people will look at it and say, 'Hey, that's pretty cool.'"
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a reporter's error. The story misstated the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians' funding commitment for the project. The tribal council supported the concept but had not yet considered a funding request. — Nov. 26, 2018