The Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) is the ONLY professional network in the United States dedicated to advance the field and strengthen best practices to help communities create public art. PAN provides information through the PAN listserv, a benefit of membership, on project opportunities job listings, and a question and answer board on all topics related to public art.

Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review program is the only national program that specifically recognizes public art projects. Up to 50 projects are selected annually through an open-call application process and selected by two to three jurors. The projects are available on CD-Rom in our bookstore and include a PowerPoint, data and project list, and hundreds of project photos.

Our 2013 Public Art Year in Review nomination process is open through April 5, so be sure to nominate a project as we continue spotlight former honorees on ARTSblog.

Today’s project is Your Essential Magnificence by James Edward Talbot which was honored in 2012.

"Your Essential Magnificence" by James Edward Talbot

“Your Essential Magnificence” by James Edward Talbot (Photo by Philip Rogers)

Read the rest of this entry »

Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

“Open the Door and Come In,” a sweet phrase invented as a fortune cookie prediction by her granddaughter, fully expresses the life and work of Penny Balkin Bach, Public Art Dialogue’s (PAD) 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Penny is the longtime executive director of the Association for Public Art (APA; formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) in Philadelphia; an Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) Council member; and a curator, producer, educator, writer, activist, advocate, mentor, world traveler, bon vivant, and arts administrator extraordinaire.

Her brilliant leadership and vision in the field was deservedly recognized and honored at the award ceremony on February 15 at the annual College Art Association conference in New York City. Surrounded by friends; APA board, PAN, and PAD members; and other fans and colleagues, Penny provided a sweeping overview of exemplary projects she’s curated, shepherded, and protected over the past thirty years.

Her talk, “Separation Anxiety: Rites of Passage in Public Art,” provided an overarching theme that followed the philosophy of Joseph Campbell’s stages of a hero’s journey: departure, initiation, return—rather like the phases of the public art commissioning process (proposing, information gathering, idea testing, fabricating, etc.).  Read the rest of this entry »

Gladstone Payton

Gladstone Payton

The House and Senate finally passed the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution which incorporated most of the sequester cuts ordered on March 1.

Only a few programs were amended to restore some of their original funding with a large majority of the across-the-board reductions being maintained. As detailed in my previous post, funding decreases to the National Endowment for the Arts remain at $7 million shaved off the $146 million annual budget.

The funding measure officially closes the books on the last fiscal year as Congress advanced separate budget resolutions for FY 2014. These resolutions are non-binding and do not require the signature of the president to pass, but they do provide instructions that will guide the appropriations process and inform the upcoming tax debates. They are to be taken seriously as the bills represent each party’s “vision” for fiscal policy.

The House version proposes deep cuts to discretionary spending, major changes to entitlements and tax reform that would dramatically lower marginal and corporate tax rates while balancing the budget in 10 years. Also, the House budget contains language for the third year in a row that takes aim at federal cultural funding:  Read the rest of this entry »

Degree of Entry?RSS Feed

Posted by Todd Eric Hawkins On March - 20 - 20136 COMMENTS
Todd Eric Hawkins

Todd Eric Hawkins

During the last Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio, I had the privilege of facilitating a roundtable on how to navigate a mid-career shift to the arts. The remarkable individuals I met during that discussion reinforced one of the things I love about arts administration and the arts in general, their entry points were varied and all are vital to the field.

Since entering arts administration a few years ago, I have had numerous conversations with arts leaders of all ages regarding the question of getting a Masters Degree. Part of the reason for this is that I did get a Masters Degree in Arts Administration in 2010 and I am often called on to tout the benefits of my alma mater to prospective students, which I do enthusiastically.

When I graduated three years ago, I would have told you that a Masters Degree is absolutely necessary, which was completely true in my case. I would never have the opportunities I now have without my graduate program. In the past three years, however, I have discovered an additional inescapable path to leadership, the road.

The road is paved with obstacles and pitfalls that every leader must face and that no Masters Degree program could possibly teach. They only thing the very best ones can do, is prepare you for the journey.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rep. John Lewis (r) receives the 2009 Congressional Arts Award from Robert Lynch (l)

Rep. John Lewis (r) receives the 2009 Congressional Arts Award from Robert Lynch (l) during Arts Advocacy Day.

One of our great American leaders, Congressman John Lewis, has been celebrated in the news quite a bit recently. It is the 48th anniversary of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL. The march was led by a young John Lewis—his skull was fractured, and for that sacrifice an enormous gain for civil rights and for voting rights was realized.

Congressman John Lewis is also a great arts leader. For years he has personally led the fight for fair tax treatment of artists. Many times over the last several decades, he has brought his powerful story of how the arts and the Civil Rights Movement were invaluable allies to Americans for the Arts gatherings.

He has pointed out that the arts—from folk or gospel or classical music performed in jails or the streets or in concert halls, to the visual arts in portrayals of the struggle through posters and placards—were a key to motivation and hope as the Civil Rights Movement progressed. We all honored him last week as he, Vice President Joe Biden, and others reenacted that famous bridge crossing.

During the State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the civil rights of the broad face of America when he honored the battles and sacrifice at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. And during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama honored the transformative power of the arts and arts education for everyone when she said, “[The arts] are especially important for young people. Every day they engage in the arts, they learn to open their imaginations and dream just a little bigger and to strive everyday to reach those dreams.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review program is the only national program that specifically recognizes public art projects. Up to 50 projects are selected annually through an open-call application process and selected by two to three jurors. The projects are available on CD-Rom in our bookstore and include a PowerPoint, data and project list, and hundreds of project photos.

Our 2013 Public Art Year in Review nomination process is now open through April 5, so be sure to nominate a project as we continue spotlight former honorees on ARTSblog.

Today’s project is The Peanut Farmer which was honored in 2012.

"The Peanut Farmer" by Charles Johnston

“The Peanut Farmer” by Charles Johnston

Read the rest of this entry »

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call "Ten Questions with...", in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us. Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and  this week I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch. 1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less. Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting 2. What do the arts mean to you? There has been no time where I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures. I feel a real personal connection to the arts even though my stick figure drawings didn’t lead to a fashion career or visual arts (success?). I was in my first play at 7, playing a dwarf in “The Hobbit” and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college.  This includes “Barnum,” which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals.  Yes, I still make them. In college I started singing. Thinking back on the trajectory, I never thought of the arts as a career path until college, but the arts were always everywhere and inevitable in my life (maybe I owe something to my extreme lack of athletic ability). At summer camp, I picked the two art courses (Art, Politics, & Society and Philosophy of Art) to take as part of the academic program. My AP History paper was on the culture wars with the National Endowment for the Arts, but it never occurred to me that it would lead me somewhere. It was in my first art history class in college that I realized it all led up to that point and career path. The arts contextualized me in a lot of ways. I can reach back to arts experiences to make sense of where I was at that specific point in my life. I think a prevailing assumption is that acting helps you explore yourself through becoming someone else, and I think that’s true, but I used to walk alone into the dark theatre and sit on stage looking at the empty seats and it felt just as deeply personal—the arts were a safe space for me, but they were also a sacred space. Sitting on the dark stage was different in an elemental way than any other place. It wasn’t just the performances, it was the essence of the space and allowing myself to live in that place, even if for just a moment.  The arts have always provided an access point for me, guiding me to accept and appreciate the moment and the state in which I find myself—good, bad, or anything in between, the arts have always helped me to see the vibrancy of the world and gain a true sense of being present. 3. If you could have any career you wanted (talent, education not required), what would it be and why? I would own a bakery. 100%. I realize in the age of food blogging that suddenly this is hugely en vogue, and I have read MULTIPLE times that bakers say that it’s no fun, but I am going to pretend I don’t know that and stick with the fact that I love baking.  That’s what I would do. 4. How many places have you lived? Where? Six. I was born in Santa Monica, CA and moved to Los Angeles at two. We then moved to Ann Arbor, MI, but not before my brother and I ran around the dining room for hours screaming. I asked if I could bring Chinatown, the ocean, and our lemon tree with us. I moved to New Haven, CT for college, spent most summers at home in Michigan with the exception of one in D.C,. and a semester abroad in London before returning to live in D.C. 5. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received? My a cappella group was singing at Mory’s, a Yale dinner club, and after finishing my solo (“You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt), one patron said, “When they were giving out personalities, they gave you two!” I took that to mean I had a lot of personality (and I’m sticking with that interpretation!). He also said I had “come one to a box.” His compliments were delightfully odd and shockingly insightful. 6. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to sit down to dinner. I’m going to have to have two dinner parties. For a philosophical, somber wine and cheese gathering I would like to speak with Roland Barthes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Viktor Frankl. Barthes’ Camera Lucida is one of the most influential books I read during college in terms of my academic interests and the way I learned to think about and interpret visual art, Hurston’s autobiography is a spectacularly exuberant study of a life lived in full color, and Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is staggeringly beautiful, universally meaningful, and beyond all else, powerfully human…and it has not left me since I first picked it up at age sixteen. For a fun, outdoor picnic (preferably hosted by F.Scott Fitzgerald, but I’m flexible), I would love to spend time with Claude Monet (I have loved him since the age of three, when I encountered him in Linnea in Monet’s Garden), Ruth Reichl (her memoirs are fantastic), and Ben Franklin (I’m a colonial history dork and 1776 is my favorite movie).  If I can include fictional characters, I would invite Eloise in a heartbeat.  My idol. 7. Would others say that you can dance? Explain. People call my dancing style “the Hannah” (Editor’s Note: Which I would describe as a little Peanuts’ Sally Brown meets Hair). I was also known as Boppity Short Girl in my a cappella group (see video). 8. What is the earliest memory you have of being an audience member for a live arts event? I think my first memory was at 2 or 3 years-old at a Sharon, Lois, & Bram concert. I can remember twirling in the aisles incessantly. The most meaningful performance I can remember was “Kiss Me Kate” on Broadway. The show inspired me beyond measure. It made me see what’s possible as a performer and how engaging a live performance can be. 9. What would the title of your autobiography be? “Always Looking Up: Life from the Five Foot (and a Quarter Inch) Line” 10. Finally, if you could paint a picture or take more photos of a place you have been in your life what would you paint or photograph? First of all, I wish I could paint!! This is a tough question because, like Tim (link), I take a lot of pictures, so it’s rare that I need MORE pictures—in fact, it would probably be more helpful if I were a little better at editing. That said, I wish I had taken more pictures of places—my dorms and that part of my life—during college in addition to pictures of other people, each other, etc. When I travel I feel that I capture most of the experience, but those times when I was just hanging out—I tried to appreciate them, but I’m not sure I could have known how really special those were at the time. So I wish I had more pictures of “Flower Couch” (see photo, as we were leaving it behind at school, tears!) that we got from a hotel liquidation sale my first week of freshman year…and the other accoutrements of collegiate life! Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at the 2012 National Arts Policy Round Table (Photo by Fred Hayes)

Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at our 2012 National Arts Policy Roundtable (Photo by Fred Hayes)

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and this time I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch.

1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less.

Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting

2. What do the arts mean to you?

There has been no time when I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures.

I was in my first play at seven, playing a dwarf in The Hobbit, and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college. This includes Barnum, which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals. Yes, I still make them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review program is the only national program that specifically recognizes public art projects. Up to 50 projects are selected annually through an open-call application process and selected by two to three jurors. The projects are available on CD-Rom in our bookstore and include a PowerPoint, data and project list, and hundreds of project photos. With our 2013 Public Art Year in Review nomination process slated to open later this month, we will be spotlighting a few former winners on ARTSblog.

Today’s project is From Here to There: High Trestle Trail Bridge which was honored in 2012.

Photo by Kun Zhang

Photo by Kun Zhang

Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Jones

Ron Jones

In a few weeks, many of us will descend upon Washington, D.C. as part of Arts Advocacy Day.

The agenda is simple and powerful; first, everyone learns the talking points, the compelling arguments, and statistics, and then practices on legislators and/or their staff. We return home knowing we’ve made a positive impression upon those who make decisions that can have significant and long-lasting impact upon the arts in America.

For some of us, that’s it! That’s our contribution to the future of the arts. We return home and pick up our work where we left off, seeing little connection to our day-to-day activities, managing our budgets, developing programs, expanding audiences, and raising money.

Realistically, I suspect most of us would say that we think of our national effort and our local effort as mutually exclusive events with the consequence of each seeing little, if any, relevance to the other.

The fact is that “advocacy” in its broadest sense, is the same as branding. Through whatever efforts and means we select, the goals are the same—to cause others to hold views and find values that are in line with our views and values.

Arts Advocacy Day is only one point along a continuum of efforts that will culminate in moving others toward our view of the world, and the strategies recommended should serve as a blueprint for what we do locally. Read the rest of this entry »

My Sweet Tooth for Public ArtRSS Feed

Posted by Liesel Fenner On February - 15 - 20131 COMMENT
Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

We had a variety of best practices covered during our annual Public Art Network (PAN) Blog Salon this week.

Let’s wrap it all up with a major thanks to our ‘lucky’ 13 bloggers who shared their experience and lessons-learned of best practices from across the country.

According to Jimmy LeFlore’s post, we can have cake and eat it, too. If only public art were so easy to produce: mix ingredients, stir, set timer for one hour, ding, it’s done!

And cake baking requires partners as Jessica Cusick espoused, for the creation of all public art ‘Takes a Village!’ However, as Jimmy also said, we can’t eat our cake if we don’t if we go to the (best practices) gym.

Other lessons covered this week included:

Stacy Levy

Stacy Levy

When a public artwork is unveiled, we assume it was planned to look that way from the inception of the project: a straight arrow from proposal to completion. However, this is usually not the case.

Typically, there are a myriad of changes, alterations, trimming, and edits that take place at anytime during design as well as construction phases as a project progresses towards completion. The flexibility to revise the project and respond to proposed changes is the most valuable skill an artist can acquire when seeking to create public art. Changing situations and the resulting alterations are the common currency of public art and artists must accept and expect alterations when agreeing to a public art commission.

I have a solid foundation of built projects that underwent revision and will discuss various lessons-learned from my perspective as an artist at the Public Art Preconference prior to the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Pittsburgh this June.

At the session, I will be joined by other public art professionals who have worked on teams including: Natalie Plecity, a landscape architect from Pittsburgh, and Cath Brunner, public art director of 4Culture in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

Elysian McNiff

Elysian McNiff

After reading nuts and bolts ideas for marketing your public art in Part One yesterday, here are some innovative ways New England-based (and one Mid-Atlantic) public art programs get the word out:

8. Mapping public art & walking tours. State and municipal programs in New England use Google to create public art maps. You too can create a map by clicking on “My Places” in Google Maps and pinning locations. Public art walks are also effective. They can be in the form of downloadable maps, printed maps, and audio guides. The Boston Arts Commission taps into family audiences with its Family Walk called Public Art QUESTions—a guide for talking about public art with kids in Boston.

The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium utilizes the draw of Maine tourism. Its website proclaims “enjoy public art and Maine’s scenic vistas while you and your family visit the magnificent sculptures on the Symposium Sculpture Tour. Culture NOW is an online website that allow public art programs to upload and map their public art collections. The website features self-guided tours, podcasts, maps and smartphone apps.

9. Audio/Videotape it. Video narratives are effective ways to increase awareness of and access to public art. The Vermont Arts Council hired a filmmaker to create a documentary about the process and product of the Danville Project. The Middlebury College Museum of Art hired a student to create video versions of its downloadable audio walking tour. The Museum uploaded the videos to YouTube and visitors play audio/video on their smartphones while viewing the works. The Museum also added QR codes to the stone markers so that visitors can scan their way quickly to the content. Philadelphia’s Association of Public Art is leading the pack with its Museum Without Walls audio tours—a great model for all. Read the rest of this entry »

Elysian McNiff

Elysian McNiff

It is a challenge to produce effective marketing strategies for our public art projects and programs.

Public art administrators and artists are faced with limited resources; we all wish we had more time, money, and capacity.

How do we go beyond our websites and Facebook pages and get the word out about our public art projects?

This two-part post (check out part two tomorrow) is a compilation of methods from New England-based public art administrators. One fail proof marketing formula does not exist; public art projects and budgets, locations, and audiences can be vastly different.

Consider these suggestions a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story and use what works for you.

1. Post on your website. The Boston Arts Commission features projects with interviews and community photographs on its website. Connecticut Office of the Arts Art in Public Spaces Program Manager Tamara Dimitri wants to “build an army of supporters” and help protect her program, so she plans to provide information about the importance of collecting art on the Office of the Arts’ website.

2. Spread the word in press releases and newsletters. Vermont Arts Council Program Director Michele Bailey uses press releases to get community input on a project and announce unveilings; however, she laments that press releases only touch a small audience. This brings up an important question: how do we communicate to those outside of our circle and engage the general public? Check out some of the innovative methods in the next post. Read the rest of this entry »

Lajos Heder

Lajos Heder

As part of the effort to reinvigorate our public art conversations and bring more artists into the discussions, I agreed to enter the fray on best practices in the public art field.

I will bring up some instances when as artists we felt badly-used during project development and see if this can lead to a thoughtful conversation rather than just a bitching session.

I want to preface by saying that in 85% of the more than 40 built projects my partner Mags Harries and I have completed, we have had fair treatment and dedicated support from our project managers and client agencies for which we are very grateful. This is a very good batting average.

I should write a much longer entry singing the praises of our many project manager heroes. My apologies to all the good guys (actually mostly ladies) but hey, conflict makes for better stories and more blog comments. So this is about that other 15%.

What were the factors that caused these projects to go off the rails?

  1. There was confusion about what the client really wanted that did not jive with what the artist proposed to do—a fact revealed late in the process.
  2. The design team was not in agreement. There were personality conflicts within the team before the artist arrived and the other team members did not understand or agree on the artists’ role.  Read the rest of this entry »

"Flight Stop" at Eaton Centre.

“Flight Stop” at Eaton Centre.

A landmark decision stemming from altering a public artwork in Canada in 1982 changed the way the work of artists is respected and entrenched clauses of the Canadian Copyright Act for the betterment of all artists.

Michael Snow, an internationally acclaimed artist, was commissioned by the Eaton Centre in Toronto to create an artwork for this popular downtown shopping mall. Flight Stop, consisting of 60 fiberglass Canada geese, was installed in the atrium in 1979.

Soaring up six stories overhead, the work is both arresting and strangely calming as it juxtaposes an image of grand freedom with the frenetic business of commerce below.

During the Christmas season of 1981, the mall owners thought it would be festive to tie red ribbons around the necks of the geese. Michael Snow was not amused.

Snow brought legal action against the Eaton Centre, getting an injunction to have the ribbons removed. He argued that the decorations violated the intent of his work, infringed upon his moral rights, and damaged his reputation as an artist.

The court agreed and said “the plaintiff is adamant in his belief that his naturalistic composition has been made to look ridiculous by the addition of ribbons and suggests it is not unlike dangling earrings from the Venus de Milo. While the matter is not undisputed, the plaintiff’s opinion is shared by a number of other well-respected artists and people knowledgeable in his field.” Read the rest of this entry »

Need examples of public art projects?
Check out the Public Art Year in Review
Complete with powerpoint presentations, scripts and images - an invaluable resource!

Creating a "Percent for Art" program?
Bring in professional expertise! Review our Public Art Consultant Directory.

10 Easy Steps to Issuing a "Call for Artists"
Check out our Call for Artists Guidelines.

"We have to pay the artist?"
...and other Best Practice Goals and Guidelines.


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