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Public Art Planning

Several Massachusetts communities have developed public art plans in order to address the growing collection of public art in their city or town. Often these plans are the result of the town or city creating a coalition or citizen advisory group with an economic development department or existing public art commission to analyze and convene a public art plan in response to a particular need. Local Cultural Councils can be helpful local partners and advocates for public art plans.

Public Art in Arlington from Barbara Costa on Vimeo.

Public Art Planning Basics

Public art plans can include some of the following helpful information for your community:

  • An inventory of current works of art including information on year of commission, location, artist(s), composition materials and a cleaning or maintenance schedule or a plan to create such an inventory. Some communities have event developed public art maps.
  • A maintenance plan for current works — cleaning, repairs and de-accession of public art works.
  • A commission process for the creation of new works including calls to artists and selection processes.
  • Plans for funding public art such as a percent-for-art program or a public art fund that addresses public art needs.

Getting Started
An important first step to developing a public art plan is to research what the community already has. Establishing a list of resources and opportunities that already exist can then help determine what might be missing. It is also important to develop goals and community priorities using surveys or public meetings (consider incorporating into your Council's required Community Input process.) Be sure to involve all the possible stakeholders — city departments, art organizations, local businesses, and citizens.

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Shoes of Haverhil with Governor Patrick

Examples of Public Art Plans

  • City of Lowell — Hamilton Canal District
    The City of Lowell and the Lowell National Historical Park jointly undertake the creation of this public art plan for the Hamilton Canal District. This project builds on our ongoing efforts to revitalize the city with creative placemaking elements that define points of interest, strengthen neighborhoods and enhance the vibrancy of the city.
  • City of Salem
    In recognition of the value that public art can bring to the cultural, aesthetic, and economic vitality of the community, the City of Salem, working in partnership with the Salem Partnership and the Peabody Essex Museum, successfully sought a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the development of a Public Art Master Plan. Via Partnership was contracted to develop this master plan in collaboration with City staff and a Public Art Master Plan Working Group comprised of citizens of Salem. The resulting plan outlines recommendations for a basic administrative structure for Salem’s Public Art Initiative and potential public art opportunities.
  • City of Worcester
    The City of Worcester's Executive Office of Economic Development is spearheading an effort to increase the amount of publicly accessible art in Worcester. As part of these efforts, staff created a catalogue of existing public art as well as a public art map. In an effort to identify locations and opportunities throughout the city for the installation of additional permanent and/or temporary public art pieces, the Public Art Working Group (PAWG) was established. PAWG advocates for the creation and installation of new publicly accessible art and is currently working to identify possible sites for new public art. Dowload a copy of the Public Art Plan.
    *The Worcester Arts Council is a member of the Worcester Public Art Working Group (PAWG)

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Examples of Public Art Programs

  • Arlington Public Art
    Arlington Public Art (APA) is a collaboration of the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) and Vision 2020. In addition to these well-established organizations, its membership includes representatives of the K-12 visual arts program of Arlington Public Schools, the Arlington Committee on Tourism and Economic Development (A-TED), the Arlington Cultural Council, Sustainable Arlington, local business owners, the Town's Planning and Community Development department, and resident art professionals.
  • Boston Art Commission
    The Boston Art Commission, established in 1890, exercises legal authority to approve and site new public art on property owned by the City of Boston. These artworks, both permanent and temporary, range from traditional and new media public art pieces to municipal design elements, such as way-finding systems and artistic lighting. In addition, the Art Commission has care and custody of all paintings, murals, statues, bas-reliefs, sculptures, monuments, fountains, arches, and other permanent structures intended for ornament or commemoration on City property.
  • Cambridge Arts
    Cambridge Arts presents local, national, and international artists in exhibitions and educational programming that engage residents and visitors throughout the City. Permanent Public Art is constructed through the City's 1% for Art Ordinance. Ever-changing Temporary Public Art projects can be found throughout the year. Gallery 344 is located in the City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway is programmed with projects and events that highlight and explore ideas around art in the public realm. See below to find out what is currently happening in each of these areas.

Examples of Public Art Interactive Maps

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Watertown Mural

Calls for Artists

Local Cultural Councils can fund public artworks through either the regular grant process, a council-initiated project, or with their locally raised funds. If an LCC is leading the project for public art works, the LCC, as a public agency, should vet candidates in a competitive fashion. The LCC should provide an open and fair process and follow proper conflict of interest procedures. This is especially important in the case of any council-initiated project, in which the artist would be receiving state funding. A call for artists is usually a formal document (either a RFQ or a RFP) that is mailed, emailed or posted on an opportunities list announcing a project and requesting artists to apply for selection as project artist.

Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

This is a call for qualified candidates to submit an application (including resume, statement of interest and images of past work) for consideration by a selection panel. The RFQ outlines the project location, budget, scope, theme, timeline, and other specifics relevant to the project, and offers applicants instructions for submitting. A selection committee made up of key stakeholders is usually established to review submissions and narrow the pool of applicants to a smaller number of finalists who are then contracted to produce proposals. Finalists are given adequate time to develop proposals and then submit them for final review, often in an interview setting. An RFQ can be widely distributed or sent to only a select number of artists, depending on restrictions that may be imposed by the funding source, the budget and the administrative time available for the project. "Invitational RFQs" are RFQs that are sent to a pre-selected, qualified pool of artists, and not broadcast to all artists.
See a Sample RFQ.

Request for Proposals (RFP)

This is a call for artists to submit a full project proposal for a specific project. The project is outlined and general direction and client desires are included. There are two ways to conduct an RFP process: ask all applicants to include their proposal in the application materials; or select finalists based on the application process and then pay each finalists to develop proposals. An RFP might be issued in a limited invitational call. Proposals are usually requested from finalists after the selection panel has met for the first time. This approach can work out well if you have a specific project in mind and access to a small number of competent artists that you believe are qualified for the job.
See a Sample RFP.

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Art in the Orchard Sculpture

Public art programs have unique challenges and requires distinctive support. This section addresses those needs with best practices, readings, and sample information that you can utilize to develop and sustain a public art program.

  • Mass Cultural Council: Funds collaborative community public art programs through the Adams Arts Program as well as school artist residencies through the STARS Residency Program. Opportunities such as Calls for Artists are published weekly on the blog ArtSake.
  • Public Art Network at Americans for the Arts: Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) develops professional services for the broad array of individuals and organizations engaged in the diverse field of public art. PAN is the only professional network in the United States dedicated to advancing public art programs and projects through advocacy, policy, and information resources to further art and design in our built environment.
  • New England Foundation for the Arts: Regional arts council that supports artists and communities through grants and other opportunities in dance, music, theater, and public art.
  • Metropolitan Area Planning Council: Regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metro Boston.
  • Designing Outdoor Sculpture Today for Tomorrow: A 16 page booklet published by Save Outdoor Sculpture!, a program of Heritage Preservation and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This booklet gives strategies for incorporating plans for conservation and maintaining outdoor artwork in the planning process. The guide identifies elements in the design process of outdoor sculpture that can result in less costly and more effective programs of care after installation. This planning guide is aimed at those outdoor sculptures intended to endure for at least 20 years. The publication is free to download.
  • The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC): AIC exists to support the conservation professionals who preserve our cultural heritage. As the only national membership organization in the United States dedicated to the preservation of cultural material, the AIC plays a crucial role in establishing and upholding professional standards, promoting research and publications, providing educational opportunities, and fostering the exchange of knowledge among conservators, allied professionals, and the public.

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