How to create award-winning public art
This year, Arlington Public Art received our seventh PAN Year in Review Award since the award program began in 2000. We feel honored to be so distinguished. Christian Moeller’s Quill (2014) joins Liquid Pixels by Ned Kahn (2002); Memory Bricks by Winnie Owens-Hart (2005); Cultivus Loci: Suckahanna by Jann Rosen-Queralt (2006); Flame by Ray King (2007); CO2LED by Jack Sanders, Robert Gay and Butch Anthony (2008); and Echo by Richard Deutsch (2012), our other Year in Review Award winners.
So how did we do it?
2. We actively cultivate our relationships with the real estate development community, members of which commissioned three of our seven award-winning projects.
3. We actively cultivate our relationships with fellow County staff in other departments, who commissioned three of the remaining four winners.
4. We directly commission projects that others aren’t doing and often directly select artists to create them; this resulted in our seventh winner.
5. We make sure to stay abreast of what is important to Arlington County and put artists in places where community resources (time, energy and money) are engaged. This is our unofficial motto.
6. We have always led with a placemaking mentality. Our policy directs us “to create exciting, appealing, and harmonious public spaces by integrating art into architecture, urban design and the planning of infrastructure at the earliest design stage.”
7. We strive for excellence in the artists, staff, consultants, and committee members we recruit. We never stop innovating, trying new things and learning from one another.
In my twenty five years commissioning public art, I have witnessed significant changes in the field, mostly for the better. Worldwide, there are more people interested in sponsoring and creating public art than ever before; both the folks who create the opportunities and those who answer their calls are expanding in definition. Many of us are moving beyond the dominant percent for art model and looking for new ways to fund and administer our projects.
Perhaps most important, many of us in the field are paying more attention to what active roles we can play in shaping the look and improving the civic “glue” of our cities and towns. It feels like our collective work in the field of public art has taken on greater relevance and potential at this critical moment in the history of urbanism -- an unquestionable golden age for public art in the U.S..
Kudos to AFTA’s Public Art Network on fifteen years of the Year in Review program. May we all continue to strive to provide the very best in public art for the communities that we serve.