Public art is a tough sell in a bad economy.
When senior centers are closing and library hours have been cut back, convincing city leaders to spend money on art feels like an exercise in futility.
Instead of focusing on how projects boost the economy after their completion or counting positive media reports, we’ve begun to look the people behind the scenes for numbers that count.
Artists create a concept and are given credit for the resulting project but they don’t work alone. There are many others who help make the project a reality. From fabricators to material suppliers, each firm brings expertise to the process to ensure that the project is designed and built to last.
We’ve asked artists and design leads to list each subcontractor they hire under their contract with our program. Then, we ask the contractor to do the same. These people equal JOBS.
We’ve tracked our projects this way for the past five years and found that 85 percent of the work created by our program has been completed by local firms. Each time we present a project or upcoming commission to city leaders, these job numbers are included and guess what? They’re listening.
Now, instead of thinking solely in terms of enhancing public space, we’re thinking like the Work Programs Administration. Instead of asking leaders to learn the language of art, we’re speaking in terms that they understand and appreciate.
The firms are delighted to be given the work as well as the credit for the job. City leaders are thrilled to have more people working here in Phoenix. We’re elated to have a great product in the end to add to our collection.
The result is a win for all, most notably the public.