Begin at the beginning: Public Art 101
Public art is a very specialized field with norms and practices that can be very difficult for a newcomer to just pick up. Very high-profile artists can seamlessly make the transition to doing work in public because they often have teams of people (practically an entourage!) in place to pick up the details, but most artists need a little bit of formal instruction before they leap into public commissions with both feet. That’s what this post is all about.
A number of public art programs around the country have developed “Public Art 101” courses, free or at minimal cost, that give artists the necessary background information on how to present their work, how to pull together a qualifications package or a proposal, how to read a public art agreement, and many other skills that are just not intuitive for most people. Some are offered annually, some occasionally, and some live online for access anytime.
There are also a host of other resources—organizations, books, periodicals, in-person gatherings—that have helped launch many artists into the field. These can be very useful starting points for those just getting going. And don’t forget social media! There are forums and groups out there to connect artists with each other to learn together about public art.
Feel free to browse the linked resources and contact them for more information. The Arts Council also stands ready to assist with any questions or to do private consultations to discuss individual readiness to pursue public work and provide pointers.
Julia Muney Moore, Director of Public Art, Arts Council of Indianapolis
Americans for the Arts has two excellent pre-recorded webinars that work together to get artists started in public art. Registration is required but is free; look on the right-hand side of the screen for the orange and yellow box marked “REGISTER”.
- https://artsu.americansforthearts.org/products/public-art-101-for-artists (2008) Charlotte Cohen from the U.S. General Services Administration and Porter Arneill, a longtime public art administrator, discuss a range of topics in this 90-minute webinar, including two case studies of artists who successfully made the leap from a studio practice to a public practice.
- https://artsu.americansforthearts.org/products/series-public-art-academy-for-artists (2010): a 3-part webinar series with artists, arts administrators, and city officials presenting a wealth of information in a workshop format, starting from the basics of transitioning from a studio practice to a public practice and finishing with how to ensure that your work is physically able to withstand the public realm.
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts has placed two excellent resources on their page at Public Art Archive: http://www.publicartarchive.org/rhode Although they were made for Rhode Island artists and the RI state program, the information is practical for any artist and is similar to most programs artists will encounter.
- Public Art 101: A general overview of public art basics, featuring artist/arts administrator Elizabeth Keithline
- Effective Application Strategies: a cut from the Public Art 101 workshop talking about how best to present your work to selection panels.
DOWNLOADS, BOOKS, MAGAZINES AND COURSE MATERIALS
Austin Art in Public Places, The Public Art Resource Guide (2015 edition, downloadable from http://austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/EGRSO/aipp_resourceguide_20150629_sm.pdf ) Although specific to the Austin program, there is much valuable information applicable to any public art program.
Basa, Lynn, The Artist’s Guide to Public Art (Allworth Press, 2008; available through online and bricks-and-mortar bookstores as well as http://www.allworth.com/)
City of Calgary, Canada: many downloads and videos here, along with notifications of next sessions: http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Recreation/Pages/Public-Art/Public-Art-101.aspx
Corner, Lee and Janet Summerton, Managing Public Art Projects: A Handbook for Artists (Public Art South West, 1996, revised 2006; downloadable from http://www.publicartonline.org.uk/resources/practicaladvice/adviceartists/artists_handbook_2006.php )
Forecast Public Art has created an online “toolkit” to learn the basics of the public art field. It is free to use, and although it was created for the Minnesota context it can be used by anyone. http://forecastpublicart.org/toolkit/
North Carolina Arts Council, Public Art Commissions: An Artist Handbook (NCArts, 2005; downloadable from http://www.seattle.gov/arts/public-art )
Seattle Arts Commission, Public Art 101 Curricular Book (Seattle Arts Commission, 1999) This book was created in limited edition for participants in a workshop held May 5-7, 1999; to see if stray copies are be available, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The following programs have recently presented half- or full-day workshops for public art beginners and may do so again: to find out whether another one is scheduled for the near future, please contact them directly. Some of these workshops may require a registration fee.
Eugene (OR) (last presented 4/27/2015): email@example.com
Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (last presented 5/2/2015): http://www.pittsburghartscouncil.org/resources/20/3183 For more information and any video documentation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
City of Calgary “Artists Working in Community” workshops (last presented Jan-May 2015): to find out next workshops and Public Art 101 course, use the contact form at http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Recreation/Pages/Public-Art/Contact-Public-Art.aspx
Dallas Art Dealers Association (last presented 9/13/14): email@example.com
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (last presented in May 2015): firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect and learn from arts administrators and other artists through the following:
Public Art Network Listserv: a membership benefit of Americans for the Arts. Individual memberships start at $50/yr. Join AFTA at http://www.americansforthearts.org/become-a-member and then register for the email listserv at http://listserv.artsusa.org/scripts/wa-ARTSUSA.exe?SUBED1=PUBLIC_ART-L&A=1
Public Artist Forum: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/publicartistforum/#sthash.bJINEc3A.dpuf
LinkedIn groups: Public Art for Artists, Public Art UK (search on the LinkedIn site for these group names)
Facebook groups: ABC’s of Public Art, European Public Art Network