Practicalities: funding and project management

First principles

There is no one way of setting up and implementing a commission for art in public, each location is different, the objectives of the project change and the amount of resources is widely variable. There are however certain general principles which are recognised to make a project more likely to be successful, whether temporary or permanent, a process of engagement with a site or community or the design and development of a product, object or manifestation. Overall success factors for projects are:

  • Clarity – it works best when the artist and the other professionals involved are clear about what the artist’s role is and what they are expected to do.
  • Remuneration – if artists are expected to contribute in like manner to other professionals they should be accordingly properly paid.
  • Timely appointment – if the artist is to contribute effectively to planning and developing a project, they have to be in place early.
  • Management – capacity has to be made available in a project to ensure that the artist’s involvement is managed and supported.
  • Support – a facilitated peer group network of artists working is beneficial to the success of projects. Organisations/communities/hosts receiving the input of artists also need support, particularly when this is breaking new ground.
  • Legacy –  human and financial resources should be made available specifically to promote the benefits of the scheme to a wider audience, to encourage other projects or related developments to take up the baton.

Download the full evaluation report by Comedia

Funding sources for art in public

Funding sources for public art projects change all the time, from planning gain, i.e. Section 106 agreements or the Community Infrastructure Levy (see here for a helpful guide by Mark Luck (2011) to the planning process and art), to government regeneration funds, lottery, trusts and foundations or corporate funds, all with their own focuses and agendas. Competition is usually fierce however the process of creating art in public space brings many potential benefits and outcomes (see Evidence) that mean a range of opportunities can be accessed.  In particular at this time of reduced public investment there is a need for lateral thinking in the rationale for developing art in public. For some ideas about the public art in an age of austerity its try Creative thinking in a time of financial constraint (2011), by Maggie Bolt, delivered as a presentation for the Wide Open Space workshop programme.

For local funding opportunities the best person to contact is usually the local authority arts officer, or other officer responsible for community investment. There are also a number of grant databases which can be used to make tailored searches for grants most of which have to be subscribed to, the most useful (free) database is the government site

Project management

Good management is one of the key factors in a successful project, whether undertaken by a professional project manager or done “in house”. The following is a digest of information on how to start, or where to find a project manager, mostly from

Advice on project management

Diana Hatton and Public Art South West (2008)

…there is a deficit of practical advice on the role of, and skills needed in order to undertake project management within the field of public art. PASW has therefore produced this brief overview and practical guidance paper which is intended to be of assistance to those wishing to appoint a project manager or undertake that role….

Commissioning Agencies, Public Art Consultants and Lead Artists

There are various specialist public art agencies and consultants in England, Scotland and Wales, who are able to advise on and manage all aspects of commissioning and Public Art/Percent for Art policy development. A list of specialists is here:

You can also search the database.

Commissioning Guidelines

Vivien Lovell and Arts Council England (2008)

…the wider role of public art consultant/curator – where consultants develop strategies and commissioning frameworks…There is no single methodology for commissioning art, whether for a gallery, home or the public realm. This guidance recognises that every opportunity is different, and recommends that strategies for commissioning art should be as unique and site-specific as the artworks they seek to generate…

Guidelines for Commissioning and Selecting Artists and Craftspeople

Public Art South West (2008)

The selection of an artist or craftsperson for a public art commission should be an intriguing and exciting task but it can also be fraught with difficulties. These notes are aimed at all potential commissioners and are intended to suggest ways of approaching this task, which result in the experience being beneficial and satisfactory for everyone. Ideally, allow the commission to be as open as possible with regard to site, material and content. Use the creative ability and knowledge of artists to inform the whole process, allowing the artist to ‘lead’ and give their thoughts on the brief. This approach will usually result in a far more cohesive and successful outcome.

Public Art Commissions – Good Practice (legal issues)

Henry Lydiate (2007)

Guidance on contracts in relation to public art commissions and the legal and practical issues involved in their successful execution and management e.g. legal protection of copyright

See also for information on Works of Joint Authorship – Copyright Guidance, Introduction to Copyright, Use of an Artistic Image and Art Lawyers and Legal Advice


Lee Gage (2003)

This guide by Lee Gage introduces the basic concepts of copyright law and offers practical advice on protecting work against possible infringement…

Working with people

Rosemary Shirley (2003)

Artist’s skills are valuable and can be applied in community, outreach and educational projects. This guide by Rosemary Shirley offers practical advice for artists wanting to gain experience and develop their practice in this area – also useful as a guide to the practicalities of running workshops – includes links to access organisations and health and safety guidance.

Artists in the Public Realm Health and Safety

Emma Larkinson (2006)

The challenge is to create projects where artists have the opportunity to work creatively whilst not being hindered by restrictions. This guidance note attempts to provide some broad principles and practical steps to address this challenge…

Be Prepared! Decommissioning Public Art

Hazel Colquhoun (2006)

It’s a sad fact that public artworks won’t last forever. Like most of the elements which make up our public realm, they deteriorate, become outdated, or need to be “redeveloped”…

Evaluation Strategies for Landmark Art Projects

Cathy Newberry (2000)

Evaluation strategies for landmark art projects based on a comparison of three european projects; the Irwell Sculpture Trail in Britain, Emscher Park in Germany and Artscape Norland in Norway…

For more information on evaluation strategies see also Evidence & evaluation

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