Permanent, public art such as sculptures can still be created and sold, of course. College campuses, for example, often have monuments. If your college alma mater allows public art, you can go directly to them and ask to speak with the person in charge of acquiring public sculpture. This is often not as hard as it may seem. It just takes a call to set up a meeting with the right people, and then you can propose a site on campus and how you’d like to use the space. You can sometimes get your work purchased by being that direct. I have worked with art- ists who are very successful placing their art on college campuses, so if you are a sculptor or a painter with a mural idea, do not hesitate to take action. But be as detailed as possible. Have a picture of what the finished piece would look like in the space you want, and have a rough idea of the budget needed to create and install it.
A Good Proposal
At the beginning of this chapter we talked about traditional methods to get public art commissions by applying through local agencies for new construction projects. Remember to inquire at your local council on the arts about this, or if you are in a country that doesn’t have a council on the arts, inquire at the local art center. Now, I want to talk about how to make a good proposal.
Sometimes when there are competitions for public art proposals, there is more than one round of discussion. At the first meeting you will be asked to describe your idea, and you need to be as precise as possible, and have compelling, detailed images ready in case they want to see them. Remember that the architects and city planners evaluating your work want to know three things: 1) Is your work attractive and fitting for the environment? 2) Is the proposal clear and understand- able? and 3) Can you execute your project well? These are the questions you must answer convincingly. For question one, of course your art is good, but more importantly, it has to look good in the location it will be placed. It is helpful if you can place your art on a photograph of the site (imagine the way architects propose their buildings).
Rendering / Modeling Is Everything
Architects make cute scale models of their buildings and the surrounding buildings, complete with scale people, cars and trees. They also make composite images with people and street traffic which give a sense of what their finished product will look like. The closer you can come to that with your project, the better, because they will be able to visualize your project. If you can’t do that easily yourself, find someone who knows how to use Photoshop and ask for help. A beautiful image will make a huge difference. And as with an architect’s proposal, your writing should be clear and to the point. By clear, I mean that you should not talk too much about the work’s meaning, but focus instead on how it will affect the people that see it, and how it will complement its surroundings. The last thing to remember is that you must convince them that you can do it. If you have never done this kind of work before, you have two choices: Either include a partner who has public work on their resume, or be very detailed. By detailed, I mean show exactly how you will paint the mural and discuss the equipment and materials you will require and how you will obtain them, etc. The more you can demonstrate that you have thoroughly covered the logistics of your project, the better. If you expertly cover these three questions, the more likely you will be to get the commission.
If you choose to proceed with public art, you should be aware that more and more artists are redefining what it means to work in the public, and you, too, can help create new ways to reach your audience. Look at how many people are using platforms like kickstarter.com to raise money for public art projects. I explain about new platforms and kickstarter.com in detail in chapter 14
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.