Make the budgets for public art more trasparent.

Creating a budget should be one of the first steps in establishing an art piece in a public space. Budgets are commonly defined early on in non-profit and government-funded projects, whereas budgets in the commercial sector are more flexible and frequently fluctuate with the project.  

Funders should reveal their budgets and what they anticipate them to cover, regardless of how a public art project is supported.  

In a request for qualifications or proposals, it’s typical to see a projected or estimated budget, but it’s uncommon to see one once the project is completed. An artist may be requested to propose their budget for a project on occasion.  

For arts professionals working in public spaces, setting a budget or requesting an artist fee is difficult due to a lack of budget transparency.  

It’s extremely difficult for rising artists, curators, and art consultants to propose new and innovative ideas when historical project finances aren’t readily available.  

You must either know or ask someone who has completed a similar endeavor. This necessitates investigation and access, which is easier for established arts workers and more difficult for newbies or less connected arts professionals.  

Project funds should be published with project documentation to increase diversity in who makes decisions regarding art in public space and who receives art commissions.  

This would enable artists and arts workers who do not have insider knowledge of budgets to be more competitive and confident in their work by providing them with additional budget information. Using an online database like Artwork Archive to manage public art projects is an easy way to keep track of and share a project budget.  

What does a public art budget cover?  

Sharing a total budget figure is useful, but sharing what the budget covers is even more so. The cost of public art can be very different. If you don’t know what it covers, a budget of $10,000, $50,000, or $1 million means nothing.  

  • Is the artist fee, transportation, fabrication, installation, meals and housing, insurance, permits, maintenance, and/or consultancy fees all included in the budget?  
  • Is there a design or proposal charge included?  

Funders should include what they expect the budget to cover when providing it, and then follow up after the project to share what was covered.  

How can an artist propose an artist fee for a project with confidence?  

When considering a new project, many artists construct their public art budget, which includes their artist fee. Because public art projects can be in many different media and sizes in varied environments, artists price their work in a variety of ways, sometimes even adjusting their strategy based on the project. For example, an artist’s charge can be set as a percentage of the entire budget, such as 20%, or based on the project’s square footage, such as $25-$/square foot, or a combination of both, and/or contain some standard fees, such as overhead, that remain constant regardless of the project.  

For a design concept, many artists ask a fee ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. This is sometimes required upfront to even propose a project, and sometimes an artist is fine with it being deducted from the entire project budget; however, this assumes that the artist will receive the commission.  It’s critical to be clear about what an artist will be paid and when they will be paid so that they can provide an appropriate quote.  

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