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 The Rochester Hills City Council approved a $75,000 project to install student artwork on Auburn Road, on the unused edges of parallel parking, between Culbertson and Hessel avenues.

The Rochester Hills City Council approved a $75,000 project to install student artwork on Auburn Road, on the unused edges of parallel parking, between Culbertson and Hessel avenues.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Student artwork to adorn Auburn Road

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 19, 2020


ROCHESTER HILLS — Student art will add another element of excitement to the new, vibrant, main street-style district on Auburn Road this year.

Rochester Hills Parks and Natural Resources Director Ken Elwert said a multi-departmental city team is working with the Paint Creek Center for the Arts and Rochester Community Schools to create asphalt art along Auburn Road.

The PCCA has agreed to work with RCS students — through a public art contest called Art on Auburn — that will result in the installation of asphalt art with the theme “What Community Means to You.”

Approximately 25 pieces of art will be selected for the project, then recreated by a vendor and heat-installed on the asphalt of individual sites along the unused edges of parallel parking, between Culbertson and Hessel avenues, on Auburn Road this fall.

Each art installation will consist of a 7-foot-diameter circle mural on the ground, where the parallel parking spaces meet the widened pathways, near the crosswalks. The artwork is temporary and should last about five to seven years, according to city officials.

The overall project is slated to cost around $75,000  — with an estimated $5,000 being provided by in-kind resources from the PCCA.

On Feb. 10, the Rochester Hills City Council agreed to provide up to $70,000 in funds to support the project and authorized the mayor to execute an agreement with the Paint Creek Center for the Arts to act as grant fiduciary and coordinate the project.

The motion passed 4-2, with council members Theresa Mungioli and Stephanie Morita dissenting. Councilwoman Susan Bowyer was absent from the meeting.

Mungioli said she would prefer to see the money used somewhere else in the city, since the artwork is temporary and would not even be visible year-round due to snow. She also had concerns about the corridor becoming too busy, visually.

“As I’m thinking through this process, I’m also thinking of a very old quote from CoCo Chanel that when you get dressed up and you walk out the door, you should stop and take one thing off because you may overdo it. I think at this point, putting the art on the street is just one too many things for me, and I think we are overdoing it,” Mungioli said.

Morita expressed concerns about the deterioration of the student artwork and said she would prefer to hold off on adding more to the corridor until the project is officially complete.

“I love the idea of it  … but I want to see what this corridor looks like when it’s done and if we really need that one extra accessory that maybe CoCo Chanel would not appreciate,” she said.

Councilman David Blair argued that the project is “innovative and inclusive.”

“I don’t know of any other municipality in the area or any other (area) that has ever done anything like this. … And it’s inclusive. This is an opportunity for residents — and kids, which makes it even more fun — to submit their art. It just seems like a great way to engage the community,” he said.

PCCA Executive Director Beth Chilton said public art has proven not only to increase economic growth and sustainability, but also to positively impact residents’ sense of social cohesion, cultural understanding, cultural identity and attachment to their community, according to research compiled by Americans for the Arts.

“Working in conjunction with (the city’s) amazing staff, we’ve developed this project to ensure we maximize these potential community impacts by including only work that is by artists within the community and focuses on points of community pride and belonging,” Chilton said in a statement.

The city of Rochester Hills has submitted a grant request to Bloomberg Philanthropies for $25,000 to install the asphalt art, which, if awarded, would bring the city’s cost down to $45,000. Grant notification is expected to occur in March, and if awarded, the project must be completed in 2020.