Best Practices in Public Art Project Selection

Posted by Lester Burg On February - 13 - 2013
Lester Burg

Lester Burg

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 and promoted through arts organizations, or in publications for major projects. Most agencies use a similar approach. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art and Transportation Partnership Adds to St. Paul Culture

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 24 - 2012

Although federal transportation funding has recently moved away from including public art projects, there is still state and local funding available to help bring the arts to more people in your community via murals and roadside/town square-type public art work.

In this video from, the presenter walks viewers through the city of St. Paul as murals are playing a large role in the installation of a new light rail system. Americans for the Arts member Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, also appears to help explain the project:

Are there similar marriages between public art and transportation in your community?

Tell (or show us via web links) us about them in the comments below!

Your Mayor Can Be Your Greatest Arts Ally

Posted by Nina Ozlu Tunceli On April - 29 - 2011

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

I’m here in Chicago at the National Mayors Summit on City Design sponsored by U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Architectural Foundation.

Yesterday, I participated in working sessions with mayors, city planners, and architects to develop a series of recommendations to federal officials of how to streamline partnerships to create economic development and improve city infrastructure.

Specifically, I made several recommendations, including creating incentive funding for cultural districts and public art programs in federal infrastructure projects and economic development zones.

I am pleased to say that I was not the only carrying messages about the importance of the arts.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Art in Transportation

Posted by Wendy Feuer On April - 15 - 2011

Wendy Feuer

Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner of Urban Design and Art, New York City Department of Transportation, will present her innovative program at the Built Infrastructure: Interdisciplinary Initiatives Public Art Preconference session in San Diego this June.

Feuer’s blog outlines proposal authored by the Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Art and Design Excellence in Transportation. The study will examine art in transportation program, feasibility, art and design in transportation projects, proposed funding of programs, and assessing value and outcomes – to offer successful models for how more transportation agencies can incorporate public art.

Transportation infrastructure is one of the leading ‘shovel-ready’ programs of our nation’s agenda, let’s add art to the equation. ~ Liesel

Many communities are interested in public art programs to further their economic development, tourism, and place-making initiatives. Art programs can enhance the quality of public spaces, reflect local culture, and provide a venue for community engagement in project planning and design decisions.

In these ways, art programs can support the Livability Principles of the Federal Partnership of DOT, HUD, and EPA.

As public transportation agencies (sponsoring urban and rural public transit, high-speed and intercity rail, air travel, passenger boat and ferry travel, bicycling infrastructure, and walkable neighborhoods) respond to community interest and incorporate art in their projects, the need has been demonstrated for a resource booklet of successful public art processes and practices specific to the context of public transportation.   Read the rest of this entry »

Embedded in Transportation

Posted by Vaughn Bell On April - 12 - 2011

Vaughn Bell

For the last couple years I have been the “staff artist” in the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), working on arts planning and as liaison for the 1% for art program and integrating design enhancements on SDOT projects.

I connect with a wide range of projects, from multi-modal trails and sidewalks to large bridges, and seek opportunities to incorporate art into the right-of-way.

I am embedded in the DOT offices, with a desk alongside the project managers in the Capital Projects and Roadway Structures Division.

In my art practice outside of the SDOT art role, I create immersive environments and installations, often involving living plants, which touch on our often paradoxical relationship to land and environment. How people relate to the urban spaces they inhabit and move through is always of interest to me.

In one project, I created a portable version of Mt. Rainier on a leash, available for walks in the city and accompanied by its own mountain soundtrack.   Read the rest of this entry »

Bridges, Archaeology, & Public Art

Posted by Leo Berk On April - 12 - 2011

In King County, WA, building roads and bridges gets us closer to understanding our region’s prehistoric time.

I found this out by taking a drive with Tom Minichillo who is the archaeologist for King County Road Services Division (which insiders just call “Roads”.)

As we were driving out to the active “dig” that Tom needed to check in on, he explained that whenever the county does road work in an area that could be an archaeological site, they dig a scattering of holes and sift through the dirt to see if anything comes up.

If they do find something, typically it’s little shards of rock that are the remnants of tool making.

These pieces can be very small, so they sift lots of dirt through ¼” screens to see what they can find. If they find enough of these shards in the test holes, then they dig a larger hole where they think they’ll find the most objects.   Read the rest of this entry »

Leo Berk

From Leo’s journal as mentioned in a previous post:

If you’ve driven around King County, WA, in the last five months, there’s a good chance you drove right over me.

I’m in the research phase of my project and have been underneath, as well as above and beside, many of the county’s inventory of bridges with a variety of Bridge Unit personnel.

I’ve been soaking up all the different perspectives—environmental, design, engineering, historical, maintenance—that I can about the many different kinds of bridges in the many different settings that we have here.

Last week, for example, King County Bridge Unit Engineer Jesse Jose took me out into the remote forest in eastern King County to visit the site where the Sunday Creek Bridge is being rebuilt, using funding from a federal grant.

Environmental Engineer Ron Melnikoff also joined us on the trip so that he could observe all of the environmental codes are being met concerning the creek during construction.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Embedded Artists

Posted by Tina Hoggat On April - 11 - 2011

In 2009, Public Art 4culture commissioned artist Leo Berk to develop a public art ‘kit of parts’ for short span bridges in King County, WA.

Berk worked collaboratively with the King County Bridge Unit to understand the function of short span bridges and explore design possibilities for bridge elements.

His residency included an extended period of learning the culture of the Bridge Unit, work methods and safety conventions as well as time spent in the field with engineers, ecologists, and archeologists.

In design phase, Berk worked with Bridge Unit staff to identify materials and bridge elements that would be feasible to use and easy to install.   Read the rest of this entry »