Novi is now the proud owner of an art house and sculpture garden.
The Novi City Council voted unanimously Monday night to purchase the house and property of David and Beth Barr to use as a park, sculpture garden and cultural education center.
Many council members spoke of their support of the center, which they said will add to Novi's cultural diversity.
"I'm really excited to see our city invest in something that will engage our citizens in a different way," said council member Terry Margolis.
The property is located at 22600 Napier Road near Nine Mile Road and was purchased for $375,000 — the property's market value.
Artist David Barr has owned the four acres of property for the past 33 years and has worked to convert it into a studio and garden.
Novi will use the main house and backyard studio for programming, such as open studio time; lectures; and painting, drawing and 3-D art classes. Novi is also looking to partner with the College for Creative Studies to offer college-level courses.
The house will also be used to display art, and possibly host artists who would live in the house for a period of time while contributing pieces and teaching classes.
The grounds will continue to be used as a sculpture garden. Barr agreed to give the city six pieces of sculpture valued at $145,000 to start the collection.
Several council members admitted that art isn't for everybody, but that it does appeal to some and that the center will add breadth to the city.
"There are many residents in the city for whom art and culture is an important part of their lives, an important part of the community, an interest they have - whether professional or passing interest," said council member Andrew Mutch. "And I think as a community, we need to meet that wide range of interests that people have."
Landry Lends His Support
Former Mayor David Landry said he has been supporting the project for a year and thinks it provides a unique opportunity to the community.
"It's exactly what we in Novi have come to learn in the last 10 years, and that is, we are able to do what we do in this enviornment, in this state because we have concentrated on developing and presenting diverse oppotunities to everyone," he said.
Mayor Bob Gatt said he was hesitant about the city buying a house, which could require the city to pay for repairs in the future, but Landry's support quieted his concerns.
"When I found out that Mayor Landry was going to give more of his time and join the Parks Foundation and make a committment to raising money to buy art, that was good enough for me," Gatt said, speaking highly of Landry.
Novi plans to do some updates to make the property suitable for public use, including building a handicap-accessible restroom. The updates are estimated to cost $135,000.
Gatt said he will still have questions and reservations about the city owning a house, but that he trusts Landry's word.
"I think it's going to work out," he said.