Helen Lessick

There are three reasons public art file searches are performed: Cultural Tourism, Community Practice, and Critical Assessment.

1. Cultural Tourism: Where is the artwork (GPS/location info), what is it (art work title sometimes is what is being searched), who made it (artist’s name), and what does it look like (a clear image of piece as experienced by the viewer)?

2. Community Practice: How the community achieves the project, a lessons-learned toolkit, documenting what was done, who did it, and how. This type of material includes artist selection, proposal, contacts, contracts, maintenance report, community engagement, and fabrication records.

3. Critical Assessment: These are materials generated outside the work of the artist and any commissioning agency. They may include critical writing mentioning the project, press releases, art dedication, and project description. Currently, art administration educators and their TAs are building courses about our practice. Art critics and bloggers are writing about stuff in public. Professional media outlets seem to shout the loudest, and turn up first in online searches.  

Solution: Manage Your Data as you manage your project

Collections and projects are published online to be found. Artists hope their projects are noticed by art consultants and curators, architects, and critics. If a writer does notice the work, we want them to find accurate information and not regurgitate bad information.

Administrators publish their collections to get their municipality noticed – building and changing the municipality one public art project at a time. We hope our supervisors, elected officials, and voting public take note at budget time too. The time is now to get the work out there.

The ‘how’ is for a longer article, but the why is very clear.

Public art must make its case accurately, vocally, and online.

Everything we need is out there. We must only connect.

I suggest connecting first with a local visual resource professional and art librarian at a public university or public library. Is it time for your organization to have a Librarian in Residence?

Quick tip:

If you download or exchange any music you know that the songs online are usually MP3 files. Each file contains the artist’s name, title of song, and producer as well as the song itself as embedded data. It is sent with the song data when you forward it (legally!) to devices or friends.

You may not be aware that photo files, raw from camera and edit, can hold the same kind of information right in the file. But you have to enter it in the data fields, and treat your data with the same respect you treat printed photos and original art.

Go into your image then select ‘Edit file info.’

You can do this for individual shots in programs including Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, or batch tag assets through Graphic Converter or a similar program that came with your digital camera.

Resist just dumping files from your digital camera into a folder.

Project managers, collection managers and artists can do this for individual works.

Your art, your administrative career, your legacy and your copyright may depend on it.

Note: Helen Lessick will be discussing WRAP at the Public Art Preconference breakfast roundtables. Check out Part 1 of Helen’s post here.

Leave a Reply


ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.