Episode 255 – New Markets for Artists / Public Art and Independent Projects

Chapter 8

Public Art and Independent  Projects

Many artists do not feel that their work is suitable to become public art, or have never ever considered the possibility that it might be suitable. It is, however, an area where any artist can make a proposal, and it is one of the least competitive areas as well. To begin, let’s define what public art means.

What Is Public Art?

The definition of “public art” has changed dramatically over the past ten years. It used to refer to sculptures or murals that were displayed in public. Traditionally, the way artists got these types of commissions was by registering with a local council on the arts, or if they lived in a country outside the U.S., with a local government arts center. After completing the registration and application process they would be considered for future public commissions. This is still one way to be commissioned for public work. Each state has a council on the arts, and they can tell you how to become eligible for new projects. In most cases, you will have to send images and a resume to the agency that your local council on the arts directs you to.

Percent for Arts in the United States

There is federal money controlled by the state as a tax on new construction. The way it works is through “percent for arts,” which means that for every public building created in the United States, one percent of the total building cost must be set aside for the purchase of art. That can be a significant sum, because if a building cost two million dollars to build, there will be a $200,000 budget for artwork. Usually that budget includes the artist’s fee and material costs. Keep in mind that creating a work of art that can withstand all forms of weather can get quite costly. I will discuss how to create winning proposals for this traditional type of public art later in this chapter, but first I want to explore other forms of public art.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


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