Minding Your RFPs And Qs

Posted by Elizabeth Keithline On February - 12 - 20136 COMMENTS
Elizabeth Keithline (Photo: Peter Goldberg)

Elizabeth Keithline (Photo: Peter Goldberg)

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 »

Let Them Eat Cake (or Not)

Posted by James LeFlore On February - 12 - 20131 COMMENT
James LeFlore

James LeFlore

In the Public Art Network (PAN), we all share and discuss our favorite recipes for success, i.e. “best practices.” And to make a comparison to the art of baking a delectable cake (imagine your favorite style here), there should be no surprise when you go off the recipe or use a stale batch of ingredients that your cake will come out of the oven tasting like the mess you put in it.

Agree with me or not, but I am starting to think that the majority of the general public sees the value of public art in a comparable manner to that of a slice of cake. Some are truly in love, seeing public art like a treat to be consumed in celebration of all the shared experiences of our lives. Others just have no sweet tooth for public art, they may be under a strict diet, or worse they blame cake and/or art for the destruction of our children’s future-children.

Maybe public art isn’t particularly suited as an entrée or even a side dish, but is good being a dessert—the last and memorable item on the menu.

I have observed a trend emerging in best practices. Public art has shown how we as cake makers can produce more and better recipes; how we can enlist more cooks and serve more customers; but before we eat more, let’s ensure we are all healthy and hit the gym.

So, first we need to define our trouble spots that require the most work. Here are a few of my proposed exercises (best practices) for the field, just to get us going:  Read the rest of this entry »

Clark Wiegman

Clark Wiegman

Although the Public Art Network (PAN) has provided public art guidelines regarding copyrights there are some notable challenges & exceptions to the rules that are worth examining. While there are many chapter & verse details within this discussion that deserve attention, my approach here is a little wider focus & idiosyncratic. There is definitely a lot of nuance to the issues and I pose many ideas as open-ended questions to invite discussion in the comments below.

Contract negotiations. Typical copyright language within public art contracts usually goes something like ‘upon approval of installation of the Artwork, the Client takes ownership while the Artist retains copyrights…’ What happens until that point during design and fabrication is an area that deserves greater scrutiny and clarification, as there is always the distinct possibility of a project terminating for any number of reasons. Considering this, should some sort of protective worst case scenario language be considered a best practice?

Registering a copyright. Don’t assume if you put © on your drawing/painting/sculpture/photo that you have sufficiently protected your artwork. No United States court has recognized an unregistered copyright as deserving financial remuneration for infringement. Spend the $35 and register your project if you want basic legal standing. Besides cost, are there any potential downsides to copyright registration?

Copyrighted items. Sculptures, drawings, photos, and other products of the artist’s individual original efforts can be copyrighted or trademarked. Ideas or concepts cannot be copyrighted. The item must be a tangible realization of the artist’s concept. Next time you toss out an idea during an interview or design team process and the idea shows up later, unaccredited or unremunerated (as potentially unethical as that may be) know you do not have a legal leg to stand on to pursue damages. On the other hand, if a conceptual artwork is somehow codified (such as words or phrases i.e. a Jenny Holzer truism) does that afford it protection? Read the rest of this entry »

Aliza Schiff

Aliza Schiff

Every two years Arlington Public Art contracts a conservator to review our collection of more than 60 permanent artworks and for the first time this year our portable works—60 framed artworks hung in county buildings. This year’s review was recently completed and I am now reviewing the condition reports and making decisions with the rest of the Public Art staff on specific conservation and maintenance actions to take.

Some of the findings in the reports are straightforward and the recommendations are simple to implement. For example, mend the fence around a play sculpture in a park; or clean the dust and dead bugs out of a stained glass skylight at a community center. We have good relationships with other county departments especially Parks & Recreation and our Public Art Master Plan (see page 82) makes clear that sponsoring county departments are responsible for maintaining artworks in their facilities or sites.

Artworks that were commissioned by private property owners as a community benefit through the county’s site plan process are also reviewed by our contract conservator. Our Public Art Master Plan states that the site owner is responsible for maintaining the work of art as a community benefit in perpetuity. When these artworks need attention, I contact the property owners to have the work done. This often includes recommending products or specialists and I consult with the artist, if possible, and the maintenance plan submitted at the project’s completion.  Read the rest of this entry »

Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown

So it is the start of a new year; a time to refresh, refocus and re-energize. The City of Austin Art in Public Places Program recently held a staff retreat where we did just that. In the last two years we have grown from two to seven staff members and with our full team assembled can effectively tackle the work before us.

But there is more to it than just having enough resources to “get it done.” As public art administrators (or as I like to say “jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-all!”), we also need periodic inspiration and creative endurance. The challenge is finding the time. At our staff retreat, we began the day with Show-and-Tell of our favorite projects and artists and current creative endeavors—and how refreshing it was!

Show-and-tell got me thinking about not only what inspires me, but why, and the importance of spending time figuring it out.

Here are a few things I came up with:

As a person of short stature (my cousin’s daughter once asked if I had “grown all the way” after learning that I was in fact, an adult), I have always been drawn to objects that challenge one’s sense of scale—like the proposal for deer-shaped power lines or a three-story bear. To me, these massive objects are breathtaking and at this large-scale diminish the relevancy of our individual size. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Cusick

Jessica Cusick

On Saturday, September 28, 2013, Glow, the first all-night arts event in the United States to emphasize the commissioning of new work, will transform the beach in Santa Monica into a world of interactive and engaging contemporary art installations.

Building on the success of Glow’s first two editions, it is expected, once again, to attract between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors to Santa Monica Beach during the course of one night, making it among the largest public art events in the U.S.

In order to produce the event, staff will ask City Council to adopt an ordinance that temporarily suspends local law in the Glow zone for the duration of the event, as was the case in 2008 and 2010. This was the unusual solution that we were able to craft, working closely with the City Attorney’s office.

Use of public space in Santa Monica is by necessity heavily regulated given the broad range of demands and the need to preserve access to one of the most iconic beaches in the country. When we first started discussing Glow we realized that in order to provide the artists the freedom they needed to reinvent our public spaces, and give the public the opportunity to experience them, the event that we were imagining would essentially break every rule in the book. These range from when the parks are open to the public to what can take place on the beach at various times of the year. In 2008, we even needed to take precautions not to impact the grunion runRead the rest of this entry »

Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) was formed and evolved in the 1990s when a group of public art administrators sought to establish professional standards for this rapidly-expanding sector at the intersection of art and design.

While the design professions have long-established best practices through their professional associations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), PAN has been moving steadily forward articulating guidelines for commissioning agencies and artists alike.

The drafting of these standards comes from volunteers—leaders in the field, in particular past and present PAN Council members leading committees, discussions, and drafting platform statements posted and updated on the PAN website (www.publicartnetwork.org).

For this week’s Blog Salon we invited PAN members—both administrators and artists—who are leading programs or projects that you may not have heard about yet. They discuss everything from the ever-popular topic of conservation to things to consider when de-accessioning work to suspending the rules to allow for public art events. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski selling our wares at the 2011 National Arts Marketing Project Conference.

Selling our wares at the 2011 National Arts Marketing Project Conference.

Last week we launched a new regular series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff here at Americans for the Arts. While Kristen Engebretsen happened to give an excellent podcast interview, not everyone has those opportunities; but, it got me thinking about coming up with a fun/interesting way for you to learn about the people behind the organization.

And that brainstorming led me to “Ten Questions with…” in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

Of course, I then realized I have to start with me since it will encourage the rest of the staff to share. With all that in mind, here is the debut of “Ten Questions with…” as I have interviewed myself:

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

ARTSblog editor; writer; part communications/part web team member; internal reporter.

2. What do the arts mean to you?

As I often say, I used to have musical talent—until my voice changed. I also acted a bit in middle school, high school, and one brief appearance in college. But, I have to admit that in addition to being something I enjoy attending or wish I had more talent or courage enough to try, the arts were a refuge for me as a kid. While struggling with your identity during that critical time period everyone reacts differently. For me, I had the whole The Tears of a Clown thing going on—I seemed happy on the surface, but felt very isolated on the inside. The arts, in this case mostly music and television, made me feel less alone. That’s one of the big reasons why I feel passionate about the arts and arts education.  Read the rest of this entry »

Shannon Litzenberger

Shannon Litzenberger

A new generation of arts development calls for new conversations about how to engage stakeholders and cultivate resources to support artistic activity. It’s clear that as public investment dwindles relative to industry growth, the future success of arts enterprises will include seeking new creative partners in the private sector by building relationships based on shared values and mutual goals.

Exploring national and international models of partnership, collaboration, and investment across the arts and business sectors formed the basis of a day-long symposium held late last year in Toronto.

Creative Partnerships: Connecting Business and the Arts brought together 100 leaders from across the arts, business, and public sectors to consider how we can build new capacities within our respective industries through creative collaboration. Hosted jointly by the Metcalf Foundation, Business for the Arts, the ASO Learning Network, the Manulife Centre, and the Canada Council for the Arts, Creative Partnership brought into focus a host of examples and opportunities aimed at increasing private sector engagement in the arts.

One of the day’s early highlights was a report on the performance of Canada’s new and quickly expanding program artsVest™. A flagship initiative at Business for the Arts, artsVest aims to help broker new relationships between arts organizations and business sponsors. With invested funds from the federal government, as well as participating provincial and city partners, the national initiative provides matching grants, free sponsorship training workshops, as well as community building and networking events that catalyze cross-sector partnerships. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Are Patriotic, Too

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 5 - 20131 COMMENT
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Imagine this scene: there is a band playing as you walk in. As the musicians wrap up their piece and take their seats, a large choir pops up, featuring top-notch a cappella performers. This performance segues into rousing solo performances from vocalists backed up by beautiful orchestrations. Great writers are celebrated. Poetry is recited. And the whole celebration is capped off with—what else?—dancing.

If you were in Washington D.C. last week, or anywhere near a television, you might recognize this event, not as an arts festival, a cabaret, or a musical, but as our Presidential Inauguration. It’s probably not the first thing most people noticed as they watched the pomp and circumstance of a centuries-old tradition play out, but it is certainly what struck me most: at our most essentially American moments, when we want to celebrate most fully and most impressively, we inevitably employ the arts.

What I saw was:

  • The presentation of our National Colors through military music and choreography.
  • The spectacular Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
  • Myrlie Evers-Williams reciting the words to a great, moving spiritual at the center of her comments.
  • The story of the Dome of the Capital—of architecture, art and fine craft—completed in the middle of the Civil War as an artistic symbol of our Union. And the story of the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome—a piece of art cast, assembled and put in place by slaves in 1863.
  • Musicians James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and the Marine Band each singing our national treasures: the great patriotic songs of our country.
  • Poet Richard Blanco reading “One Today”; references again and again to a movie, “Lincoln;” handcrafted crystal vases gifted to the president and vice president at lunch; the gifts given to all members of Congress, a portfolio of essays related to the Statue of Freedom—in the words of Nancy Pelosi: “Freedom stands on the Dome of the Capitol.”
  • And so many more examples, from the arts and music performances in the parade and balls, to Speaker John Boehner’s story of a team of mother and daughter seamstresses who made the huge flag that hung over Ft. McHenry and inspired our national anthem.  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 Community Garden which was honored in 2007. The project is a glass mosaic mural located on the mezzanine wall at the Bedford Boulevard Subway Station in The Bronx, NY. The imagery depicts a fantasy garden of colorful, larger than life-sized fruits, vines, insects, and animals. Through artist Andrea Dezsö’s garden, the community is able to experience colors and shapes that are different from those predominantly found in the area. Her garden delights commuters, inspiring them with the playfulness missing from their urban environment.

Photo by Rob Wilson for MTA Arts for Transit.

Photo by Rob Wilson for MTA Arts for Transit.

Check out more photos of Community Garden below and remember to nominate a project in your area when we open up our nominations for the 2013 Year in Review! Read the rest of this entry »

Danielle Brazell

Danielle Brazell

It’s election season in the City of Los Angeles. Eleven candidates are vying for the mayoral seat and a whopping 40 are vying for eight city council seats. Because of these changes in representation, the political landscape in Los Angeles will shift significantly.

We—as artists, as creative entrepreneurs, as arts administrators, curators, audience members, parents, and students—have the opportunity to leverage our collective voice to help chose who will represent our values.

Although forbidden by IRS regulations to endorse specific candidates, nonprofits can initiate a public dialogue about the role arts and culture play in building healthy, vibrant, and prosperous communities. And, for the past seven years, Arts for LA has been doing just that.

Our nonpartisan candidate survey is a way for prospective leaders to map out their vision for our city. Just four questions—and the 100 word responses from each candidate—have provided a window into what those running for office in the City of Los Angeles would do to invest in creativity:

  1. What was a meaningful arts and cultural experience you had growing up?
  1. What do you believe the role the City should play in the development and support of the region’s cultural infrastructure?
  1. How would you champion modifications to, or expansion of the City’s current funding stream for local arts and culture?
  1. What three things would you do to deepen the City’s investment in its creative economy (cultural tourism, in-direct and direct jobs, nonprofit, and for profit)?  Read the rest of this entry »

Steven Dawson

Steven Dawson

Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) is an annual meeting for young professionals who work in the arts—organized, executed, and run by American University (Washington, DC) Arts Management students. It is an opportunity to discuss the issues, unique or universal, that affect all arts organizations.

One of the goals of the 6th Annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is to address what is on the horizon for arts organizations and arts professionals.

With that in mind, we at EALS are very proud to announce that the opening plenary speaker for the event this year is Karen Brooks Hopkins!

Karen Brooks Hopkins is the president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where she has worked since 1979. As President, Hopkins oversees the institution’s 179 full-time employees and facilities, including the 2100-seat BAM Howard Gilman Opera House and 874-seat BAM Harvey Theater, the four-theater BAM Rose Cinemas, the BAMcafé, and the BAM Fisher–opening in fall 2012.

Since taking over as president of BAM in 1999, Hopkins has led the organization with stunning competency, riding the waves of financial and philanthropic ups and downs. The annual attendance has exploded, the budget has over doubled, and the organization’s endowment has almost tripled to over $80 million. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Leberecht

Tim Leberecht

Andy Warhol knew it all along: “Good business is the best art.” And lately, a number of business thinkers and leaders have begun to embrace the arts, not as an escapist notion, a parallel world after office hours, or a creative asset, but as an integral part of the human enterprise that ought to be woven into the fabric of every business—from the management team to operations to customer service.

John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and author of the book Redesigning Leadership, predicts that artists will emerge as the new business leaders and cites RISD graduates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, co-founders of Airbnb, as prominent examples. The author William Deresiewicz heralds reading as the most important task of any leader. John Coleman makes a compelling case for the role of poetry in business. Intel named pop musician will.i.am as director of creative innovation. And the World Economic Forum has been inviting arts and cultural leaders to its events for several years and this year added the ‘Role of the Arts’ to its Network of Global Agenda Councils.

Indeed, the “art” of business becomes ever more important as the “science” gets ever more ubiquitous. Against the backdrop of our hyper-connected economies and as Big Data and sophisticated analytical tools allow us to maximize process efficiencies and standardize best innovation practices worldwide, intuition and creativity remain as the only differentiating factors that enable truly game-changing innovations. Like any “soft asset,” they cannot be exploited, only explored. And like artists, innovators must develop a mindset and cultivate creative habits in order to see the world afresh and create something new.

How do artists think and behave? Here are twelve traits any individual aspires to make his or her mark on the world would do well to emulate:  Read the rest of this entry »

John Legend speaks while receiving a Citizen Artist Award from The United States Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts. Also picture are Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter (left), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

John Legend received a Citizen Artist Award from The United States Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts. Also pictured are Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter (left), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Photo via USCM)

Each year, Americans for the Arts presents a series of Public Leadership in the Arts Awards to elected officials at all levels of government and artists who speak out in favor of the arts and arts education.

We just recently presented the first of the 2013 awards at The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting in Washington, DC. The USCM is Americans for the Arts’ oldest public partnership going back more than two decades.

Each year, we also sponsor the “Mayor’s Arts Breakfast” were we present awards to two mayors, a governor, and one or more nationally-acclaimed artists. This event is very important as more than 350 of the country’s most powerful mayors gather to hear about how the arts are important to their cities.

I am happy to report that over the years, our nation’s mayors have become vocal advocates for arts funding as we provide them with a front row seat to learn the importance of arts and culture and the economic value the sector provides.

At this year’s breakfast, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Santa Fe Mayor David Coss were recognized for their support of the arts and culture in their cities. Both of these mayors, one from a fairly large city and the other of a fairly modest size, understand the importance and value of supporting their local nonprofit arts community and how that support generates substantial economic impact. Read the rest of this entry »