Mott College Library: An Exchange

There has been some discussion on the CCNA listserv of the color of the paint on the library of Mott Community College. Michael Kelly sent this email, addressed to Sherry Hayden and Mike Keeler, and which includes a request to post it to the CCNA blog:

Sherry & Mike –

I just returned from vacation to find your email complaining about the “new hideousness” and “ugly turn” on the Mott Library project.

I am quite surprised that there doesn’t appear to have been any attempt to contact me or someone at the college facilities office to inquire about the situation before sending out an emergency email calling for immediate protest action.

1)   The blue color is not to be the eventual color of the building.  That is a waterproof treatment which will be covered.  I am amazed that — without any checking on your part — you would make the assumption that we planned to have a “screaming blue” library.

2)   The “beautiful mosaic tile” is hardly “a major work of art.”  It isn’t even tile.  It consists of panels of crumbling precast concrete.  It isn’t art, it is decoration.  I understand that people may have differing aesthetics.  I, personally, always thought the library was one of the least attractive buildings on our campus but, hey, I’ve heard people praise the Flint City Hall as a beautiful example of architecture, so I guess it’s all a matter of taste.

3) The new exterior of the library will be similar to the Regional Technology Center.

This library project is a construction work site.  There will occasionally be insulation and other material visible for a period of time.  I would hope that MCC’s respect for its neighbors has been demonstrated often enough that you would give us the courtesy of asking questions before calling for public protest.

Feel free to call my direct line at 762-0456 if you have any questions.  I will make a stronger effort to attend future CCNA meetings to try to avoid any future misunderstandings.

I would appreciate it if you would send this message out to your email list, post it on the CCNA website and otherwise communicate it to those who might have received your earlier message.

– Michael Kelly

Sherry replies:

Dear Michael and neighbors,

I would like to clarify that Mike and I did not call for “immediate protest action.” We stated that we would would attend a meeting of the trustees to give our opinion and asked others to show support. Participation in public meetings is not something most people do routinely or even willingly, so I can see how questioning and voicing an opinion to which others may not agree might be seen as a protest. Big difference. I can see why there would be this worry, as we have organized numerous protests and rallies in the past, but this is not that. Public comment and questioning is part of civic responsibility. The best time to ask questions is when something can be done, not well after the fact. As we talked about this to our neighbors and others in the city, we praised MCC as a good neighbor, and the biggest response has been puzzlement.

Our mistake was knowing Michael was out of town and not thinking to contact facilities. For that we are truly sorry. I assumed there were people on the list who might know more and could talk us down. For instance, Tom Spademan was looking into the matter. I looked online and didn’t find much. It is regrettable that the architecture firm and the college didn’t tell people about the plans. We recalled the flashing sign from a few years ago. People are really concerned about this neighborhood and the concerns have heightened over the past year. Mike and I are hardly above being alarmed when we see something that appears not quite right. The big message here is that the neighborhood cares.

I thought the mosaic was art. It has always been art to me. Michael explains that it is in fact a decoration, and I accept that. Still, even precast concrete can be a medium that communicates beauty. I so wish I had taken a photo of it before it was covered. The first time I saw it, I was about 12 and I begged my parents to take me into that building. They said no, we didn’t belong there. I vowed that someday I would. Every time I looked at it, the message was there is a place in education, in society, for beauty and design for its own sake. It was quirky and had a pattern of movement, and I used it as a teaching tool when I taught design at Mott where we could see it from the windows of the old FIA building. This summer when I saw the repairs to the library and the new brownish paint, I was so excited because it really complemented the mosaic. Then, when it was painted, I was shocked, alarmed and truly wounded. I was resigned to having to avert my eyes if it was to be electric blue. This is what I wanted to tell the Board of Trustees.

(And to be clear, I have never thought Flint City Hall was in the least bit attractive.)

If anyone decides to attend the meeting tonight, please take these things into consideration. Mott has always been a good neighbor and we appreciate it.

Sherry Hayden