The commission will work as an advisory committee for art-related issues and events within Royal Oak. Policies and goals created by the art commission will help the City Commission in making various decisions on art and cultural matters. It is not meant to duplicate or replace already operating organizations. Rather, the new commission hopes to support and expand public art projects throughout the community.
“This committee with help us get organized on policies for the arts,” Mayor Jim Ellison said. “Various art projects have been presented to the City Commission and we weren’t sure how to handle them. With this commission, we will have a better direction and understanding of how to deal with the development of public art.”
Ellison said topics handled by the committee will include anything from street performers to sculpture installations.
“I’d even go so far as to discuss a designated location for graffiti,” Ellison said. “If we can create appropriate policies that work for everyone in our community – anything can be talked about.”
The commission is composed of seven members, including the mayor. Additionally, Stewart Meek, assistant to the city manager, will attend meetings to guide the commission through ordinance policies.
Members include Lesley Braden, development director at Stagecrafters; Jason Gittinger, owner of Royal Oak School of Rock and Pop; Debra Soverinsky, a Royal Oak resident for 23 years who has a bachelor's degree in art; Camille Lecoutre, a board member of Friends of the Royal Oak Public Library; Lisa Kimmel, a member of the Royal Oak Arts Council, and Keith Howart, owner of Noir Leather.
“I was given the honor of putting together this group of people,” Ellison said. “We wanted to make sure that we had a variety of backgrounds represented here. Everyone has something different to bring to the table.”
The committee elected Gittinger as chairperson, Braden as vice chairperson and Lecoutre as secretary.
Currently, the commission has no budget and will work to secure money through various means.
“A lot of programs we do in this town are self-sustaining,” City Manager Don Johnson said. “Programs such as Farmers Market and the Royal Oak Animal Shelter have found ways to finance themselves and this committee will have to do the same.”
Ellison hopes a variety of grants, sponsorships and partnerships will fund future public art projects.
Meetings for the Royal Oak Commission for the Arts will be scheduled at 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month. At its next meeting, members will work to establish goals and policies. Additionally, the committee will discuss a licensing agreement for the lion structure on display outside of Ariana Gallery on Main Street.
“The lion is a prime example of an issue that the City Commission was unsure of how to handle,” Ellison said.
On numerous occasions Ann Kuffler, owner of Ariana Gallery, has asked the City Commission for permission to display the metal lion. The City Commission has temporarily approved the display, but the new art commission will work to find a permanent solution.
“Royal Oak is really beginning to get a reputation in the arts throughout the nation," Ellison said. "Events like Arts, Beats and Eats have helped put us on the map. I don’t think it will be difficult to secure temporary or permanent art exhibits for our city. We just have to go out there and find them. I think this committee is a great way to promote that.”