Most public art projects begin with a call for artists. Though they may be called by different names, the types of calls for artists described below are representative of the selection processes an artist is likely to encounter.
Calls for Artists
The types of calls for artists discussed here are:
Open competitions are the least restrictive of all calls for artists and are generally open to all interested artists. Limited competitions are more restrictive and may limit entry to artists living in a certain geographic area or working in a certain medium. In an invitational competition, several artists known to have a particular set of skills or interests are invited to submit proposals. Direct selection, in which art is purchased or commissioned directly from an artist without a competitive process, is a method that is occasionally used.
Calls for artists are usually in the form of either a request for proposals (RFP) or a request for qualifications (RFQ). An RFP seeks a preliminary proposal or concept for the public art project in question, while an RFQ seeks information about an artist's qualifications and interests before seeking the artist's concept for the specific project.
Most calls for artists are specific in their initial submission requirements, and almost every call for artists will require that an artist supply examples of past work. Artists are advised to view all submission requirements as inflexible. Do not assume, for example, that a deadline is a postmark date or that a maximum number of images of past work is negotiable.
In recent years, it has become more likely for public art selection processes to require images of past work in a digital format, rather than in the traditional slide format. In some situations, traditional slides will still be accepted, but this is not likely to be the case much longer. Except in unusual circumstances, all Cleveland Public Art calls for artists now require images in a digital format. For a more in-depth discussion of this topic, see the section titled "Transition to digital artwork images" further along in this document.
Selection panel review and design development
Most public art selection processes involve a selection panel, which may also be referred to as a jury, advisory committee, or some other similar name. The selection panel is charged with choosing an artist from among the various submissions for a project.
An initial group of submissions is likely to be narrowed down to a small group of finalists who will then be asked to advance to a next step. This next step is the design development phase of the project, in which the artists are expected to produce more advanced project-specific proposals. In many situations, finalists are paid a stipend or design fee to develop their final proposals.
Selection panels usually include people who are familiar with art and the art world as well as some who are not. For example, a resident of a community where public art will be installed„often someone who may not think about art often but who probably has some impressions or opinions about it„will often be on a selection panel. Artists should avoid jargon and condescension when preparing their submissions.
Once the finalists have developed design proposals for a public art project, the selection panel will select one of the finalists' proposals for fabrication and installation. In most cases, the selection panel will make a recommendation to a body that has final decision-making authority for a public art project. This body may be a city or town council or the governing body of a private commissioning organization, such as a museum or hospital.
Fabrication and installation
Once the artist has been selected, the next steps are fabrication and installation of the artwork. An artist will usually undertake the work of fabrication completely or partly on his or her own. However, an independent fabricator could be selected by the artist to construct the artwork to the artist's specifications.
Artists are advised to be aware of insurance requirements for the particular project, and should also determine, before work begins, if permits or additional approvals, such as from a planning or zoning board or a design review board, are needed for the project.
Provisions for ongoing maintenance
In most situations, the commissioning organization will require the artist to provide a detailed maintenance plan for the public artwork. The details of this plan should indicate clearly who will be responsible for the artwork's maintenance over time, as well as estimated costs.