Taylor Mentzer is constantly looking for open calls to further her artistic practice. When she saw the City of Ann Arbor’s open submission to design an otherwise overlooked part of the cityscape—manhole covers—she figured why not give it a shot.
“I felt like I could do a good design that would mean something to me and the city,” she said.
The public clearly agreed. Mentzer’s design, Kayak, ended up being one of the three winners of the project, along with Laurie Borggreve of Edina, MN for Horizon, and fellow Ann Arbor resident Shaun Whitehouse’s Tower and Tree.
Kayak depicts Mentzer’s favorite part of the city, Argo Park.
“I thought of it because I felt like a lot of other designs might be more city-focused, and I felt like the nature side of Ann Arbor doesn’t really get talked about as often,” Mentzer said.
Making sure all aspects of the city were well represented played a huge role in who was ultimately selected as the contest’s top six finalists, said Mae Skidmore, the Ann Arbor Art Center’s Creative Director. Designs also needed to be able to be produced in cast iron, and should stand out as original works of art. The Art Center was contracted by the City of Ann Arbor to manage the open call and selection of artists.
An advisory committee consisting of local professional artists, arts educators, business and community leaders whittled down the more than 240 submissions to just six final choices, culminating in a public vote of nearly 3,000 ballots.
Since the contest was open worldwide to all ages, some of the designs they received were less serious than others, including one child’s design of just a giant piece of poop.
“It’s fun to see kids submitting stuff, but some of the kids were also pretty cheeky, too,” Skidmore laughed.
As for the more serious submissions, and those who won, the next step in the project is waiting.
Chris Elenbaas, an engineer with the Public Works Department for the City of Ann Arbor, said they are currently in the process of signing an agreement to use the artwork, which has been submitted to EJ, a manufacturing company in East Jordan, MI that the city works with. The plan is to have a substantial run of each casting.
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