Demystifying Public Art – The Basics

work no. 2630, understanding (2016)

Martin Creed, “Understanding”, 2016; Martin Creed Work No. 2630 UNDERSTANDING, 2016. Courtesy the artist, Gavin Brown’s enterprise New York/Rome, and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Jason Wyche, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY © Martin Creed 2016

Delving into public art can seem like a daunting process. Between finding public art commissions, creating effective portfolios, and working out the difference between RFQs (Requests for Qualifications) and RFPs (Requests for Proposals), it’s easy to get lost before you’ve really begun.

On Thursday September 22nd, visual artist Lynn Basa, will be leading the Creative Capital webinar Demystifying Public Art.  Lynn Basa is the author of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions (2008),  and will be sharing from her extensive experience on all aspects of researching and applying for public art commissions. She will also tackle doubts and questions artists may have around the selection process, whether public art requires specific skills, and any lingering fears about the possibility of “selling out” by creating art for the general public. Register Here

In anticipation of her in-depth webinar, here are some starting points to help you understand the world of public art.

1. What do we mean by “Public Art”?
As the name implies, public art is art created with the intention of being accessible in a public space to the general public.

Funding for public art projects is generated through a variety of channels:

  1. Percent-for-art programs – Individual state, county and city governments decide through legislation that a certain percentage of capital funds dedicated to infrastructure or development be set side to fund public art projects.
  2. Private foundation grants – Private foundations can issue grants to individual artists or to art organizations with the express purpose of funding publicly accessible art.
  3. Corporation commissions– Corporations often commission artists to create work for their public spaces.
  4. Community sponsorships – Community groups can choose to sponsor a particular project for display in their neighborhood.
  5. Individual fundraising – Individual artists can raise the funds for a specific project.

2. What are potential benefits of working in public arts?
Public art projects present a variety of potential upsides to artists. Artists may be given the opportunity to:

  1. Work at a larger scale with new materials
  2. Think about their work in a completely different context
  3. Have their work seen by a new and varied audience
  4. Diversify their income stream

3. Where does one apply for public art commissions?
Applying for public arts commissions through percent-for-art programs is free – the trick is knowing where to look.

Commissions are publicized through “calls-for-artists” put out by public arts agencies in various states, cities or counties.

Artist leader Lynn Basa suggests signing up to receive regular updates on calls-for-artists from various public arts agencies as well as arts publications that compile lists of calls to increase your odds of finding a commission that interests you.

Here are some of our favorite public art resources to get you started:

jeppe hein mirror labyrinth NY 2015

Jeppe Hein Mirror Labyrinth NY, 2015 Courtesy of König Galerie, Berlin; 303 Gallery, New York; and Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen Photo: James Ewing, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

For more detailed information on finding and applying for public art commissions, register for artist Lynn Basa’s upcoming PDP webinar, Demystifying Public Art on Thursday, September 22 at 7:00pm EST. The 90-minute webinar will provide you with an overview of best practices for finding and securing public art commissions, as well as walk you step-by-step through the completion of an application. You’ll have the opportunity to contribute your thoughts and questions throughout, as well as participate in a live Q&A at the end of the session. 

Register Now

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This entry was posted in TIPS & TOOLS: Resources for Artists and tagged , , , , , , by Holly Ajala. Bookmark the permalink.
Holly Ajala

About Holly Ajala

Holly Ajala is a writer and storyteller with a fierce belief in the power of effective narrative to inspire empathy in the face of difference, to propel the reach of social justice and above all to challenge humans beings to be more human. To these ends, Holly has worked with the NYU Leadership Initiative, the ACLU Racial Justice Project , and the NYC Collaborative Writing Project to amplify the reach of marginalized voices, narratives, stories and communities. Holly currently writes for AYO Magazine, an online publication dedicated to honest and multifaceted portrayals of black women in search of joy. She is a recent NYU graduate with a B.A. in Politics and Africana Studies. She joined Creative Capital in 2016 and currently resides in Harlem.

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