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.
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.
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.
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.
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 »
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:
- Potential worst practices in the field.
- A reminder to make sure you take care of yourself when working on any aspect of public art projects.
- Artist selection was a big umbrella for the inclusion of lots of ideas on how best to administer the process, including best practices in RFPs.
- The thorny issue of copyright must be addressed in contracts before completion of a project.
- How well pieces will be maintained and conserved is vital. Dare we dictate a de-accessioning date?
- No public art administrator must go it alone.
- Remain connected to the PAN and form a regional group of colleagues in your locale.
- Our networks are how we not only get technical assistance and shore-up support, but it’s the critical lynch-pin in marketing your program and projects. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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?
- 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.
- 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 »
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 »
I have thought long and hard about ways to approach the conservation and maintenance of public art, particularly the thorny question of de-accessioning a piece.
What are the criteria? How do we make an informed decision? What is in the best interest of the public?
Historically, government entities have removed public artworks because they have deteriorated to the point where they pose a public safety hazard or they are so degraded they have become an eyesore, and the cost of repair exceeds 50% of their value (another hard thing to determine). The decision to remove an artwork in those cases is easier to make.
The more complex reasons to de-accession a public artwork stem from negative reactions to the content. What sort of process do we embark on if the public objects to the subject or style of an artwork? I think many folks, both arts professionals and the general public, are gun-shy about removing artworks because of subject or style after the precedents of Tilted Arc and John Ahearn’s installation, which remained for a brief five days on a plaza in front of a Bronx police station.
For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on de-accessioning public artworks because of conservation issues. Read the rest of this entry »
One of our most enjoyable tasks as public art administrators is telling an artist they have been chosen for a commission. Getting to that point is a long process, which differs across the country, but our goal is the same—select the best artist for the site and have those involved feel good about the process.
In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) oversees commuter rail and subways. MTA Arts for Transit (AFT) commissions permanent public art when stations are rehabilitated or constructed. Our selection process has worked well over the past 26 years, with 243 completed projects and 50 in process. With hundreds of stations in diverse communities, we have deep experience in the selection process for projects large and small. The process is the same for all.
Artist selection is different from buying widgets and we are fortunate to have internal colleagues who sanction and understand our need for arts professionals to participate in artist selection (MTA is a state agency). Over the years, we have learned to leave little to chance and to tightly organize the panel meetings, so that everyone feels satisfied the process was thorough and fair.
Artists respond to a “Call for Artists” that describes the project and submittal requirements which include digital selections from their portfolio of existing work and their credentials. These are posted at www.mta.info/art and promoted through arts organizations, or in publications for major projects. Most agencies use a similar approach. Read the rest of this entry »
It was late 2008, and I had recently taken up the position as Public Art Planner for the City of Richmond, British Columbia, when I was invited to two meetings in early 2009, discussing regional collaborative projects. These discussions took place during the run up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games when international media attention would be focussed on our region.
The first meeting was for the Necklace Project, ten communities surrounding the City of Vancouver, working together to develop best practices and creating a series of public art projects on a unified theme. The ten participating communities were Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Richmond, and Surrey.
The goal of the Necklace Project was to commission public art installations in all ten host municipalities and connect them through the theme of Illuminations, as well as encourage visitors to visit and experience each of the project sites.
For several of the communities this was their first public art project, and the support of more experienced communities, including administrative support from the Alliance for Arts and Culture and cultural planner, Oksana Dexter, were vital in realization of the projects.
As mutual support and best practices were crucial to the success of the Necklace Project (be sure to check out the Necklace Project website for a final report and critical essay coming soon!), one of the more experienced public art coordinators, Lori Phillips, serving both the City and District of North Vancouver, suggested we might want to formalize our collaboration to extend after the Necklace projects were complete and to and welcome other municipalities into our public art networking group. Read the rest of this entry »
When panelists review public art applications, they often view a wide range of artists and artworks. Some artists are quite experienced and others are applying for the first time. If you are new to the field, it is important to understand the difference between a Request For Proposals (RFP) and a Request For Qualifications (RFQ).
RFPs requires that you send a full project proposal. An artist will need to research the commission, (perform a site visit whenever possible), then submit a specific idea, including a full budget and information re: subcontractors, fabricators, and insurance. Unfortunately, artists are not typically paid for the proposed ideas unless they are chosen for the commission. This process is not considered best practice.
RFQs are a pre-qualifying round that requests images, resume, and sometimes a preliminary description of the type of work that you might create. This process operates under the premise that your background work qualifies you for round two finalist selection. Why would a commissioning agency waste your time generating a proposal, when your background experience is not aligned with the proposed project?
Do not request architectural plans during the RFQ stage. That information will come later if you are chosen as a finalist. Selection panelists are primarily looking at images of your background work, as well as CV, website, and any project reviews. Read the rest of this entry »