FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The City of Phoenix Public Art Program is one of the most active and diverse municipal art programs in the United States. More than 170 projects have been completed since 1986 and approximately 40 more projects are currently in various stages of implementation. 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 acquire the highest quality artwork, create community landmarks that foster civic pride, and incorporate community input into the design of shared urban public spaces throughout the city. It also offers professional development opportunities to Arizona artists. Visual artists work with architects, engineers and city planners to help design the city’s infrastructure under the program.
Q: When was the Public Art Program established?
A: The program was created in 1986 through an ordinance that allocates up to one percent of the city’s annual Capital Improvement Program to public art projects.
Q: Where does Public Art funding come from?
A: Public art is funded through capital funds used to build city projects like libraries, parks, sewers and fire stations.
Q: Can this designated funding be used for other purposes?
A: No. The capital funding designated for the Public Art Program must be used for public art projects. Capital funds cannot be used to pay for city operating costs or to hire more city workers, such as librarians, police or firefighters.
Q: Which City department oversees the Public Art Program?
A: The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture oversees the program – phoenix.gov/arts or 602-262-4637
Q: How are artists selected?
A: An open artist call is the most common method of selecting artists. Through open calls, artists are made aware of the opportunity to apply for specific public art projects. This ensures the broadest possible access to the city’s public art opportunities. For each new public art project, artists are recommended by a panel that includes artists, arts professionals, staff from the funding city department and representatives of the community where the project is located.
Q: What is the panel’s role?
A: The panel screens applicants for the quality of their past work, their suitability for the project being developed and evidence of their ability to work well with the community and other design professionals. Selection panels can recommend an artist or team for the public art projects after reviewing the talent pool or they can develop a short-list of finalists to present project design concepts. The panel then reviews these initial concepts and interviews the artists before making a final recommendation for the project.
Q: What occurs after the panel makes a recommendation?
A: The panel’s recommendation must be reviewed by the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, an 18-member volunteer citizen advisory board and approved by the Mayor and City Council before the artist(s) can be placed under contract and begin work on the project.
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 being developed, so that residents can share their values, thoughts and insights with artists. Whenever possible, artists use the information they gather at public meetings to develop their designs.
Q: Where have art projects been placed?
A: Over the past 21 years, artwork has been placed in a wide range of public facilities and spaces, including neighborhood parks, community centers, bridges, plazas, streets, canal banks, overpasses, recycling centers, aviation facilities and other important civic features. Information about completed public art projects throughout the city can be found at phoenix.gov/arts.
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 several Valley Forward Association Environmental Excellence Awards, including the 2003 President's Award. It has also been featured in prominent articles in The New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Art in America, The Atlantic Monthly and Landscape Architecture, among others.
Q: How are projects picked?
A Each year, the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture works with other city departments and the Mayor and City Council to develop the annual Public Art Project Plan. The plan identifies capital improvement projects throughout Phoenix that offer the best opportunity for artwork that provide the greatest public benefit. Projects are sometimes concentrated in specific areas of the city where multiple capital improvement projects are underway.
Q: Does the Arts and Culture Commission play a part in this plan?
A: Yes. The yearly Public Art Project Plan is reviewed and recommended by the Arts and Culture Commission, which then presents the plan to the Mayor and City Council for review and approval. Budgets for individual projects range from $10,000 to more than $2.5 million. The total budget for each project includes the artist’s contract amount (which generally covers design, fabrication and installation) and the administrative costs for the project.
Q: Where are the opportunities for Arizona artists?
A: The Public Art Program is committed to providing opportunities for Arizona artists. Arizona artists are eligible to compete for city of Phoenix public art projects that involve national competitions. Many Arizona public artists get their start with Phoenix public art projects and go on to compete successfully for projects nationwide, thus advancing their careers.
Q: Why don’t you make all public art projects available only to Arizona artists?
A: As the nation’s sixth largest city, it is essential that Phoenix’s public art collection include works by both Arizona and national artists. As an analogy, would we want to only collect the works of Arizona authors in our public libraries? Public art programs in other major U.S. cities also provide opportunities for both in-state and out-of-state artists. We hope that Arizona artists will have the same opportunities in other cities as we provide to artists from other states.
Q: I don’t like some public art. What can I do?
A: Nationwide, the best public art often sparks controversy. Many artworks that are initially met with mixed public reaction eventually become accepted as part of the cultural fabric of the community. Historically, it's been discovered that for every resident who dislikes a piece of art, there is another who is favorably disposed to it. Public art is about community engagement and dialogue. 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 can be a change agent for the community. It creates and enhances neighborhood and community identity. It enhances the visual landscape and character of the city. It turns ordinary spaces into community landmarks and promotes community ownership of the city’s infrastructure. It promotes community dialogue, and, most importantly, it is accessible to everyone. This includes access to the creation process and to the content and meaning of the artwork.
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. Public art projects are part of the city’s Capital Improvement Program. As public amenities are designed and constructed, artwork is integrated to enhance those amenities. This enriches our built environment and creates a more visually interesting city. The public art process also provides opportunities for citizens to have input into the design of shared urban public spaces.
Q: How does art benefit the public during difficult economic times?
A: The selection and construction of art projects contributes money into the economy by creating jobs. Although some of these jobs may be temporary, they provide unique employment opportunities for individuals interested in working on art projects and other public works designed through collaborations with engineers, landscape architects and architects. 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. Many of the Valley’s neighboring 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 phoenix.gov/arts.