Blog: Jeremy Peters

Jeremy Peters has the kind of cool downtown job others long for. He's Ghostly International's Director of Licensing and Publishing. He also has strong opinions about how Ann Arbor views its downtown and the importance of arts and culture. So, guess what he'll be blogging about?

On Place and Beauty: Or, Why I'm Voting for Proposal B, and You Should Too

Places are living things, at once having an effect on the people who reside within them from day to day, and those who come across them in passing. The effect, however, that they have is completely up to the leaders, voters, and residents of a place. It comes down to deciding what exactly a community represents, how it represents itself, and how its citizens and visitors perceive it.

My hometown, Ann Arbor, is full of public places. In the city's long history, we've taken care to include ample parkland in the vision of our city, and have attempted to maintain this focus as we move forward. A walk around town yields small squares to gather and eat lunch, tree-lined parks, small vistas, and facets that the populace of a vibrant city deserves. Looking outward from the city's center, Ann Arbor not only has a large number of smaller neighborhood parks, but a series of larger, activity-focused spaces as well.

More than just green space, what are these things, these places, if you will? What makes a public place something memorable, that evokes a response, and that makes you want to return? For some, it is that space's usability: the number of park benches or ball fields, the quality of the grass or the height of the trees (yes, that pun was on purpose); for others, what the space means to them is more of an attraction: for me, my memories of playing softball in West Park, or seeing a play in the Bandshell there, or exploring the wetlands at Mary Beth Doyle Park, or eating lunch with a friend under the gaze of the Arch sculpture in front of the People's Food Co-Op. To some, these places are simply a line item in a budget.

In all likelihood, the most responsible way to think about these places is an amalgam of all the above. But when it comes time to make a decision about it, I'd argue that what makes our city memorable is its beauty. Ann Arbor is not just a city, but also a place that people are keen to visit, where we're proud to live, and a town longed for by those who've had to move away.

Part of that rose-colored vision is the memory of a city that imparted upon them good feelings, and I'd argue that a good deal of this comes from the care that we take as a community to create a welcoming atmosphere.  That atmosphere owes much to the citizens of our town, and to our reputation as a place of learning and culture.

We are known across the state (and even outside of it too!), as a cultural leader, and it is a proud banner that Ann Arborites can bear.

For a city with a long commitment to the arts, welcoming illustrious artists such as Arthur Miller, Bob Seger, John Sinclair, and Ken Burns among our ranks; a storied Art Fair; numerous galleries and a downtown art center; performance venues that rival many major cities; and museums to match, it seems only natural for people in such a cultural center to decide that a commitment to the beautification of public spaces is important to them, and now there's a chance to put that commitment into action in the ballot box.

Ann Arbor has decided to join the ranks of countless municipalities across the country that have made a strong commitment to art in public places by placing a small millage on this November's ballot. The average homeowner will pay less than a dollar (yes, less than a cup of coffee at Sweetwaters) per month to invest in the beauty of the city we love so dearly.  It is cheap, smart, and an investment not only in the future of our town, but your own property values as well, when push comes to shove.

So much of what we take for granted here is not found in other cities, and it pains me to think that being so blessed, we run the risk of missing an opportunity to build upon the great foundation available here and cement our reputation as a cultural mecca. I hope you'll join me in strengthening our city by voting yes, with me, on Proposal B, in November.