Public art can have functional purposes like lighting, signage,
paving and bridges, benches and furniture, drinking fountains, fences,
amphitheaters, and shelters. Or it can be commemorative or interpretive
additions to the environment, such as sculptures, landscape and
architiectural treatments, and murals. Art may also be expressed
in performances like puppet theater, dance, music, plays, or live
be temporary or permanent, a regular series or a single occurrence.
An activity or piece of artwork should be clearly aligned with the
vision and plans for a community. It may be the end result of a
specific action or a single element in an overall design.
art often attracts new partners who would not otherwise get involved
in a planning process. For instance, a project that is addressing
shoreline erosion would interest landowners and users such as boaters
and fishermen. If the improvement efforts called for the creation
and installation of unique benches and signage, designers and fabricators
would find they have a stake in voicing their ideas.
1. Get folks involved
a diverse group of citizens, businesses, government agencies, architects
and planners, practicing artists, art teachers, and others to form
a special committee. Make sure this group is as representative of
the community as possible. They might be a subcommittee of a planning
project’s task force or a stand-alone group. Their first efforts
should be to define the scope, set a budget, and estimate a timeline
for completing the work. Ongoing maintenance requirements also need
to be considered.
Decide on a
location or locations for public art. This may be defined in a site’s
master plan, but if not, brainstorm a list of different areas. Keep
in mind that art can have functional purposes. Consider roadways
that enter the community, areas in front of public buildings (libraries,
police and fire stations, town halls), and parks. Decide whether
the art should be a destination or an element along a path.
ideas for pieces
communities and see what they have done, research images, and interview
different artists. Collect as many ideas – both in regards to the
types of art and the mediums – as possible. Then prioritize the
list based on what is feasible (and affordable). Also be sure that
the art reflects the unique character and history of the community
and the resource where it will be placed.
While an artist
may be willing to do a piece or hold a demonstration or performance
for free, most likely there will still be costs for materials and
installation. There are several innovative programs that advocate
and fund public art including government, private nonprofits, professional
associations, developers and corporations, and foundations. Money
from one or more of these groups may supplement a special fundraising
drive. Another alternative is to approach art centers, public schools,
and other education institutions for in-kind services or hold a
5. Work with
Once an artist
is selected, involve him or her in the planning process. Talk through
every step of the project from design, to materials, to installation.
Listen to the artist’s opinion and advice. Have the artist submit
a budget detailing fees and materials, building of models, travel
costs, etc. To prepare for the installation, solicit the expertise
of architects and structural engineers.
Be sure to
show the community designs before any work begins. At a public space
like a library, town hall, or visitor’s center, display a model,
maps of location(s), and an explanation of the background and those
involved. If time permits, and the artist and the overseeing committee
find it feasible, consider asking for feedback or ideas such as
through a suggestion box at the display or a public meeting. If
this is done, be sure to incorporate, or at least respond to, any
suggestions; otherwise credibility will be sacrificed.
7. Plan an
Have a celebration
for the unveiling of a new piece or performance. Issue press releases,
pay for advertisements in newspapers or billboards, write articles,
and send out invitations. Consider creating a special brochure to
distribute at the event that describes the efforts that went into
the artwork, the names of those involved, any appropriate background
or history of the artist and the subject, photographs of the piece
being installed, and other elements that can help people feel a
part of what has taken place.
Be sure to also
give lasting credit to both the artist and any donors who made the
work possible. This might be done on a plaque, bylines in programs,
or text on a sign.