Archive for May 2021

May 26, 2021

Biden Just Purged 4 On The Arts Panel That Advises Congress On Public Architecture

By Elizabeth Blair | NPR

President Biden announced his intention Tuesday afternoon to appoint four new members to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the body that oversees design and architecture of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. Their positions are appointed by the president and do not need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The four intended appointees are meant to replace four commissioners who had been installed by former President Donald Trump, some of whom helped to shape a controversial executive order intended to promote neoclassical architecture as the official style for federal buildings in Washington and at new federal courthouses elsewhere.

A White House official told NPR: “President Biden is proud to nominate this extremely qualified and well-respected group of professionals to the Commission on Fine Arts. They will bring to the commission a diversity of background and experience, as well as a range of aesthetic viewpoints.”

The four are Peter Cook, a principal at HGA Architects whose past projects include the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Hazel Ruth Edwards, a professor and chair of Howard University’s Department of Architecture; Justin Garrett Moore, the inaugural program officer of the Humanities in Place program at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Billie Tsiena partner at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, whose firm designed the Barack Obama Presidential Center.

On Twitter in December, Moore quoted a Bloomberg article that noted of Trump’s choices: “All seven members of the Commission on Fine Arts are now white men…. Trump’s fully staffed commission is the first to include only men since 1963 and the first all-white one in a decade.”

The current chair of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts says he and three other commissioners were asked to resign or be fired by the Biden administration.

Justin Shubow, the commission chair and a fierce advocate of classical architecture, provided NPR with a copy of a letter he received from Catherine Russell, director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, requesting his resignation. The letter, dated May 24, says, “Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Commission will be terminated effective 6:00 pm tonight.”

Shubow, appointed to chair the commission by Trump in 2018, declined the invitation to resign.

The commission is an independent federal agency that advises the president, Congress and the D.C. government “on matters of design and aesthetics.” It reviews designs “proposed for memorials, coins, medals, and new or renovated government buildings.”

Shubow’s response to the White House’s request to resign says, “As chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that three of my fellow commissioners, along with myself, have been asked to resign or be terminated by the President. In the Commission’s 110-year history, no commissioner has ever been removed by a President, let alone the commission’s chairman. Any such removal would set a terrible precedent.”

When Trump appointed Shubow and the other commissioners to elevate a neoclassical style, many architects howled. Robert Ivy, CEO of the American Institute of Architects, told NPR, “In the 21st century, we’re very different people from the people who popularized Greek Revival architecture in the 19th century, as beautiful as it was,” he says. “To try to force-fit new systems in old forms is, in of itself difficult to do, inefficient, and is not who we are today.”

Biden revoked Trump’s executive order in February. Biden’s executive order also instructed the director of the Office of Management and Budget and any related departments and agencies to “promptly consider taking steps to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies, or portions thereof” that would’ve implemented Trump’s actions. The president also called for the abolishment of any “personnel positions, committees, task forces, or other entities established” to fulfill Trump’s actions “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.”

One of the three commissioners asked to resign, landscape architect Perry Guillot, says he was “disappointed” to receive the letter but accepts the decision that his position has been terminated. He was appointed to the commission by Trump and began his term in January. He says he does not believe the push for classical architecture was behind the request, telling NPR, “My work is not informed by classical ideals or part of that vocabulary.”

Guillot says he believes the request is more about “the math.” He points out that Biden gets four new appointments to the commission, including the chair. “I wish President Biden and the serving commissioners the best moving forward,” he says.

At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, NPR’s Asma Khalid asked press secretary Jen Psaki whether it was out of the ordinary for a president to ask for the resignations of members of the U.S. Fine Arts Commission, as Shubow suggested. Psaki replied, “Certainly any president coming in has the right to nominate their own people to serve on a commission or serve in any positions in their own administration.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: Uncategorized  
May 17, 2021

20 in Their Twenties: Monique Becker, 27, Elyse Wolf, 27

Co-founders, Mona Lisa Development

By Kirk Pinho | Crain’s Detroit Business

They grew up together and went to college together. Now they live together and have a development, general contracting and consulting firm together.

Not much can separate Monique Becker and Elyse Wolf, who have been best friends since they were 4 years old. Even the name of their company, Detroit-based Mona Lisa Development, is a combination of their first names, a testament to their lifelong bond.

The two University of Michigan graduates have also accumulated a small portfolio of rental housing, eight units so far. Five are done and occupied, referred to as naturally occurring affordable housing, in the Virginia Park neighborhood, and three are under construction and expected to be completed in the coming months.

In the two or so years since starting the company and leaving their full-time jobs, Becker, who was born in Detroit, and Wolf have invested over $500,000 in the neighborhood.

“We really always have been kind of attached at the hip,” Becker said. “We always wanted to start a business together, but really didn’t know how that would manifest.”

By the time the pair moved to the city, they became interested in real estate development. Becker has spent time as a teacher as well as working for Detroit-based development firms The Platform LLC and Shelborne Development. Wolf was with Eastern Market Corp. and then Meridian Health Plan.

They have since shed those jobs, instead running Mona Lisa full time after Becker went through a Peter Allen real estate class at UM and Chase Cantrell’s Building Community Value development training program.

“Her term project was on the house we live in today,” Wolf said. “That was the first house that we bought. We were just renovating it and putting our salaries into the house, renovating after hours and on weekends, and then we bought our second house and did the same thing there. And it was after that second project where we said, ‘OK, I think we are really onto something. We are going to make that jump and pursue this business full time, or it’s never gonna be something that is going to amount to a full-scale business.’”

All that laid the foundation for a growing company, which grew its revenue by more than 250 percent between 2019 and 2020 and has hired a full-time employee and two part-time workers.

The two are also active in the community in which they live, advocating for a fresh approach to neighborhood development in Virginia Park, where New York-based developer Ron Castellano’s Herman Kiefer hospital complex and neighborhood improvement project has yet to materialize as promised.

“We really kind of started to organize the summer of 2020 around this kind of reckoning that this isn’t just an isolated issue or a neighborhood grievance against the developer,” Becker said. “This is a systemic problem where we’re seeing who’s given the opportunity to purchase land, who’s being given the green light in terms of having capacity to impact change in the neighborhoods, this difference between kind of one sole savior of a community who is very well resourced versus many different folks chipping away at one house or three houses or something like that at a time. It’s really a more grassroots way of approaching neighborhood development.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: Uncategorized  
Previous Entries More Entries