The Public Art Process

A great day to install art on a
pedestrian bridge in 2000

In the public sector selecting art typically entails the approval by at least one group of citizens. Government groups include committees, commissions, senior management and City Councils. By working with decision makers before the approval process begins it is possible to identify potential concerns. It is important to me to study both the history and character of the city before identifying artists. Next, a search for the right artist whose work would complement the site and community takes place. Any artist being considered must be experienced in large scale projects.

In a typical process, three artists will be identified and their past works are studied. After their selection, the client pays a fee to each artist to create a concept in the form of a drawing or model. The artist and I present the concepts to relevant groups. Once the final concept is approved, the parties enter into a legal agreement to have the art fabricated. The agreement will identify the payment and production schedules. The artwork may need a set of working drawings for approval by an engineer.

Many cities celebrate the installation of a new artwork to the collection with a dedication party and a permanent plaque. This event provides an opportunity to hear from the people involved with the project, including elected officials, the company president and of course, the artist. It is important to get as many people as possible to attend the event to begin the process of community acceptance and pride.

Of special importance is the development of a maintenance procedure for cleaning and care of the artwork. Most artworks are cleaned quarterly. An art maintenance document becomes part of the building's document or CC&Rs. Regular inspections by city employees can identify problems like sprinkler overspray and burned out lights. The contract usually makes the artist responsible for any repair needed during the first six months. If the artwork appears to have fabrication failure or graffiti, a professional art conservator can be hired to identify a treatment or repair.

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