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Thread: Public art 101

  1. #1
    Aug 2005

    Public art 101

    Our community is devoid of any public art except for a few memorial plaques. We have a developer that is interested in dedicating a portion of their landscaped front yard, at the intersection of two medium sized roads for public purposes.

    Our initial opinion is to go beyond the fountain, bench, clocktower cliche and find a artist who would do a site specific commission along with other features for a nice public space. For those working in communities that have experience in commissioning public art I would appreciate some insight into the following questions:

    1) Was the art located within an easement so that the public could "access", enjoy and interact with the art.
    2) Budget for the artwork. (we may have about $25,000, not much in the art world)
    3) Budget for maintenance and who maintained the art.
    4) How was an artist found, selected (RFP?)
    5) Suggested artists
    6) Any other "planning" hurdles experienced

    I am also tapping into our local arts scene (univeristies, galleries etc.) for more information

  2. #2
    With regard to suggested artists, I submit Steven Weitzman:

    Weitzman Studios

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    I have had to do some searching on this topic and can suggest the following links

    http://www.portlandmaine.gov/publicart.htm -thisprogram is fequently cited
    http://www.pps.org/info/pub_art/ - an overview of the philosophy
    http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/oca/publicart/faq.htm - answers to some of your questions
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4

    re: Public Art 101

    The answers to your questions can be found on the Public Art Network's web site: http://www.artsusa.org/services/public_art_network/

    If you navigate to "Services and Materials" you'll find sample contracts, RFQ's, and information on public art for private development. Our annual conference is June 1 - 3 in Las Vegas. Most of the arts administrators and many public artists will be there, along
    with a small tradeshow of fabricators who create work for artists out of mosaic, glass, terrazzo, etc.

    Good luck,

  5. #5
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
    May 2005
    Blog entries
    Public art is really a grassroots kind of thing, from my understanding. You just have to start with local artists you know. Post ads in the coffeeshops, the libraries, etc. Post ads in your local newspapers. Post ads in national art magazines. Get the word out. Then those local artists can spread the word to people they know in the art community and so on and so forth.

    Instead of having permanent artwork and sculptures, my community rotates the artwork every year. I also believe the art is temporarily donated. If we do pay the artists, I don't think it's so much that we can't afford it. It's at a manageable level. And you really have to have the backing of the town behind you that public art is important and something that should be budgeted for.

    Since my community is still growing, we require developers to dedicate space or money to accomodate the program. Otherwise, most of the art goes in public places such as schools, libraries, parks, and municipal buildings/properties/right-of-ways.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    This is a topic I have worked with a lot both in school and practice. My time is short right now - I have to into an interview (I am interviewing, not the other way around).

    I did want to recommend a great book, though, that may help you in many of your questions: Public Art by the Book by Barbara Goldstein. Check it out.


    I will try to post some more information a little later.

    Ok, I've got a little more time and wanted to offer some more information. To try and answer your questions, you should know that our city does have a public art program - a 1 percent for the arts type of deal where one percent of capital improvements funds are set aside for this purpose. This money goes toward commissioning work and continued maintenance as well as the cost of design and installation.

    We also have a state public art program through the state arts agency and they are actually a great way to publicize projects as public artists in the city, state, region and country all reference it to see what is going our for RFP. Many states have such a venue. Occassionally projects are also offered as an RFQ (request for qualifications) if the intention is for an artist to work with, say, a design team on a larger project. I personally prefer this kind of project because the artwork tends to be more intensely integrated into the actual design of public works. Believe it or not, Phoenix is the nation's leader in this approach as they passed a law requiring all new public works projects include a public artist on the design team and must express a public art component in the final design. That is why their amazing wastewater treatment plant has a waiting list for weddings - no lie!

    Anyway, its my suggestion to be open to attracting applicants from fairly far afield (the RFP or Q can delineate if an artist must be a resident of the city, county, state, region, whatever). The solicitation process is time consuming and you don't want to limit the field too much, get too few and poor applications, and have to run the process again. Sometimes one is surprised by the degree to which some dude (or dudette) from Ohio manages to express a particularly southwest theme (in our case, that is - I am in Albuquerque).

    We recently had a public art plaza piece installed on our organization's property and, yes, to qualify for the public funds, we established an easement at the corner of the property. It is a publicly accessible site (a parklet). The design was selected as part of an RFP process and the final piece has four tiled benches that also incorporate poetry that was selected through a separate process (done before the visual art component).

    As far as the nature of the space, my personal bias is that public art should contribute to the establishment of usable public places for people to gather or otherwise utilize (a bus stop, for example). The most successful projects I have seen integrate facets of things like benches and fountains (as tried and true components of well functioning public space), but these need not be conventional by any means. Check out the work of Christine Ten Eyck (http://www.teneyckla.com/) or Lily Yeh (http://www.pewarts.org/92/Yeh/index.html) for some examples of innovation in this regard.

    All that being said, we have also worked more under-the-radar with local artists (muralists, tile muralists, etc) who are working or interested on working with local communities. Working with youth is one of the most powerful community development tools I have seen (again, Lily Yeh's work with the Village of Arts and Humanities in Philly is a remarkable example). Generally these projects are driven by a visionary artist or artists who have managed to secure permission for a particular site from a private or public property owner. They then make solicitations for contributions of materials and other items. Sometimes local arts groups sponsor these projects as well. Over time, we (at my job) have built a program with state monies to actually pay teens during the summer to apprentice with two master artsists on the installation of an ongoing mural project on our convention center. The convention center folks absolutely love it and the long range plan is to create the nation's largest tile mosaic mural.

    The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (http://www.muralarts.org/) has developed a more standardized way of going about establishing community murals that has been very successful. They were originally a City program, but spun off into their own non-profit. Essentially, any community in the city can solicit them to create a mural and they have a whole process by which folks go in, engage with the local community, enlist teens and others, identify themes, local history, etc. and create a design in partnership with local folks. The quality of the work is outstanding. The Village of Arts and Humanities has a similar approach for reclamation of vacant lots. Communities can hire well-trained teens to clean-up a lot and then work with the local community on creating sculptural elements, murals, etc. to make productive and usable public space.

    Hopefully that is all useful information.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 25 May 2007 at 10:47 AM. Reason: double reply
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  7. #7
    Dec 2006
    Los Angeles, California
    Make It skateable art.

    Check out Spohn Ranches project in Vancover.

  8. #8

    Minneapolis has a good public art program

    See the website at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/dca/...blicplaces.asp

    The Public Art Coordinator is also very helpful if you have specific questions.

  9. #9
    Aug 2005


    Thank you to everyone for the links, suggestions and ideas. This really helps me get started!!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Apr 2003
    Somewhere between the mountains and the ocean.
    Great thread. I agree with a lot of what Wahday said.

    Just make sure that the art will be in a location that is always expected to be within a public area, make sure your contracts with the arts have time lines overage limits, and repair clauses!
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  11. #11

    Seeking Planners interested in Public Art

    As a planning in Florida, I am attempting to put together an online list of planners managing public art or interested in public art. Please email me in Coral Springs at cdgww@coralsprings.org if you would like to join the list.

    I write a blog on public art at www.artsjournal.com.aestheticgrounds

    Glenn Weiss
    Senior Planner, Coral Springs, Florida

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
    Aug 2005
    Clearwater, FL

    Public Art in Clearwater

    Here's a few more links for you:

    From wikipedia (it's accurate as far as I can tell although I didn't write it):

    The Clearwater Public Art and Design Program, adopted by City Council in 2005, is funded through a 1% allocation on all City capital improvement projects valued at more than $500,000 and includes a similar, citywide requirement on all private development projects valued in excess of $5,000,000. Eligible private developers have two options to satisfy the Public Art Ordinance: dedicate 1% of the project’s aggregate job value toward the installation of on-site public art; or contribute 0.75% of the project’s aggregate job value to the City’s Public Art Discretionary Fund, to be used to supplement and initiate public art projects throughout the city. The Public Art and Design Program is overseen by a seven-member Board, appointed by City Council and composed of local arts supporters and administrators, design professionals and private citizens. The Program seeks to “enhance Clearwater for those who visit and live within the city and to contribute to a legacy for generations to come” through the commission of unique, public artworks that enhance the City’s diversity, character and heritage.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

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