Public Art FAQ's


The City of Phoenix Public Art Program is one of the most active and diverse municipal art programs in the United States. More than 180 projects have been completed since 1986 and approximately 30 more are in progress. Below are some frequently asked questions about the program:

Q: What is the City of Phoenix Public Art Program?
A: The Public Art Program was established by the Phoenix City Council to involve artists with other design professionals in making Phoenix a more beautiful and vibrant city. The program works on the public's behalf to select the highest quality artwork, create distinctive community landmarks, and involve the community in the design of essential public buildings, systems and spaces. It also offers professional development opportunities for Arizona artists to develop their careers.

Q: When was the Public Art Program established?
A: The program was created in 1986 through an ordinance that allocates one percent of the city's annual Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to public art projects.

Q: Where does Public Art funding come from?
A: Public art is supported with a penny from every CIP dollar used to build or improve city infrastructure, such as streets, parks, airports, libraries, community centers, recycling centers and more.

Q: Can this designated funding be used for other purposes?
A: No. CIP funds must be used to design and build city projects. They cannot be used to hire city workers, such as librarians, police or firefighters, or pay to operate public buildings, like libraries, senior centers, parks and swimming pools.

Q: Does the City's public art investment affect the local economy?
A: Yes. Because Phoenix public art enhances city buildings and infrastructure, most of the work is carried out by local construction and fabrication trades. Since 2005, when POAC began tracking the flow of funds into the Arizona economy, more than 80 percent of public art spending has gone to local contractors and suppliers.  

Q: Which City department oversees the Public Art Program?
A: The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture oversees the program – or 602-262-4637

Q: How are artists selected?
A: Most artists are selected through a competitive process that begins with an open call, also known as a request for qualifications (RFQ). This insures that professional artists have the broadest possible access to City public art opportunities. A selection panel is assembled to recommend artists for each project. The panel includes artists, arts professionals, staff from the funding city department and representatives of the community where the project is located. Other selection methods may be used for projects requiring highly specialized talents or approaches.

Q: What is the panel's role?
A: The panel screens applicants for the quality of their work, their suitability for the project, and their ability to work well with the community and other design professionals. The panel can directly recommend an artist or team after reviewing the talent pool, or it can select finalists to develop concepts and interview before making a final recommendation.

Q: What occurs after the panel makes a recommendation?
A: Recommendations are reviewed by the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, a volunteer citizen advisory board, and approved by the Mayor and City Council before artists are placed under contract.

Q: How can Phoenix residents participate in the Public Art Program process? 
A: Artists work directly with city residents and other stakeholders to create projects that contribute to Phoenix's unique sense of place. Community meetings are held wherever projects are developed, so that residents can share their thoughts and insights with artists. Whenever possible, artists use those community insights to develop their designs.

Q: Where have art projects been placed?
A: Artwork has been integrated into a wide range of public buildings and spaces, including neighborhood parks, community centers, bridges, plazas, streets, canal banks, freeway overpasses, recycling centers, airports and other important civic features. Information about completed public art projects throughout the city can be found at

Q: Have any projects received special recognition?
A: The Public Art Program has garnered numerous awards for design excellence, including two Design for Transportation Awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, the program has been honored with many Arizona Forward Association Environmental Excellence Awards and Public Art Network Year in Review recognitions. Its achievements have been featured both online and in print in The New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Art in America, Places, The Atlantic Monthly, Landscape Architecture, Dezeen and many other publications and forums.

Q: How are projects picked?
A: The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture works with the community, other city departments and the Mayor and City Council to develop the annual Public Art Project Plan. The plan identifies capital improvement projects and sites that could benefit the most from public art enhancements. Projects are sometimes concentrated in specific areas of the city to maximize the benefits of where multiple capital improvement projects are underway.

Q: Who approves the annual public art plan?
A: The Public Art Project Plan is reviewed each spring by the Arts and Culture Commission and the Phoenix City Council. Budgets for individual projects range from less than $10,000 to more than $2.5 million.

Q: Where are the opportunities for Arizona artists?
A: The Public Art Program is committed to providing opportunities for professional Arizona artists. Since 1986, more than 50 percent of city-sponsored public art projects have been created by Arizona artists and designers. Professional Arizona artists are encouraged to compete for all city of Phoenix public art projects. Some Arizona public artists who get their start with projects in Phoenix go on to advance their careers through projects nationwide.

Q: Why don't you make all public art projects available only to Arizona artists?
A: Great cities attract great talent from throughout the world. This is especially true of creative economies at the heart of our increasingly global trade. That's why leading corporations, professional sports teams, and our ballet, symphony and theater companies hire the best brains, athletes and artists they can. Keeping Phoenix's cultural doors open to the world brings Phoenix the best return on its cultural investments. It also helps to assure that other cities will continue to welcome and hire Arizona artists, enabling our artists to build careers nationwide.

Q: I don't like some public art. What can I do?
A: Public art is no different from other public works in its power to stir discussion and controversy. For everyone who likes a project, it might be easy to find someone else who doesn't. In the end, public art is about community engagement and dialogue. Over time, artworks that are initially met with mixed public reaction eventually become accepted as part of the community's cultural fabric. If you would like to become involved in the public art process, contact the Office of Arts and Culture, 602-262-4637.

Q: Why should I care about public art?
A: Public art plays an important role in shaping our city and surroundings. By involving the public in improving the appearance and function of key civic buildings, spaces and systems, it can help make Phoenix a better place to live

Q: If the city has budget problems, why do you still do public art?
A: While the city's operating budget is challenged from time to time, new and expanded capital infrastructure is still needed to meet the needs of our growing community. By improving infrastructure design public art enriches our built environment and creates a more beautiful city.

Q: How does art benefit the public during difficult economic times?
A: Public art projects tied to improving our infrastructure support a wide range of local design, engineering, construction and fabrication jobs. People coming to see major new works of art also contribute money to the economy through local sales tax.

Q: Is Phoenix the only place with a public art program?
A: No. Most leading American cities and neighboring Valley cities have public art programs. Phoenix is among more than 300 publicly funded public art programs nationwide.

Q: Is government funding of the arts new?
A: No. The U.S. has a proud history of government support of the arts, dating back to the 1800s when Congress began funding the creation of murals, paintings and sculptures for the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Government arts support expanded in the 1930s, when the Works Progress Administration funded public infrastructure and art programs to create jobs by building a wide range of essential public works during the Great Depression. The City of Phoenix is proud to have a successful Public Art Program that involves residents and artists in the process of creating a more beautiful city.

For more information regarding the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and the Public Art Program call 602-262-4637 or visit .


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