What is Percent-for-Art?

Percent-for-art programs allocate a small portion of capital construction or renovation budgets (usually one percent) for the purchase, commissioning, and installation of artworks. Percent for art programs are one effective way for states and territories to foster access to the arts and increase the aesthetic value of state-owned public buildings and public places. In the US there are more than 350 percent for art programs. Percent-for-art was first utilized in Philadelphia in 1959. Governance and management systems vary.

Since 1959, over 350 public art programs have been established in the United States; many of these programs were established with funding generated from percent-for-art policies. The majority of percent-for-art policies are products of state legislation. Percent-for-art policies can apply to publicly funded capital improvement projects and/or private development. Programs in North America typically allocate one percent; some programs have increased it to two percent to reflect the costs of constructing and maintaining art and changes in the perceived market value of art.

Percent-for-art funding is frequently administered by established public art programs that are primarily operated by government. The public art programs funded in large part by these policies along with other funding mechanisms fulfill several essential duties including the selection, oversight, development, and maintenance of the art (see section on Public Art).

Below is an overview of both types of policies and the typical responsibilities of established public art programs. This content is adapted from public art resources developed by Americans for the Arts and the Creative City Network of Canada.

Private Development Percent-for-Art

A private sector percent-for-art policy and program allows the jurisdiction to secure resources for public art from developers in exchange for negotiated benefits, such as height and density bonuses. Through this type of program, government may work with developers in the following ways:

  1. work with the public art program to commission public art for public areas on development sites; or
  2. pay into a special fund for public art that is managed by the jurisdiction; this fund may be used for covering the cost of commissioning, constructing, and/or maintaining public art in a designated area.

A private sector public art policy helps ensure that developers recognize standards for selecting and commissioning site-specific projects, and identifies a role for the jurisdiction’s public art program to work with developers on the selection process for public art in public areas of development sites.

Public Development Percent-for-Art

A public development percent-for-art policy and program dedicates funds from a jurisdiction?s capital budget towards the development of public art projects as part of publicly funded capital improvements (also referred to as civic art). There are several ways in which this funding can be generated:

  1. levying a percentage against hard and soft capital project construction budgets;
  2. allocating a fixed amount of the municipality?s capital budget for public art (typically one percent or more.);
  3. partnering with other government departments, such as planning, public works, and parks and recreation to maximize funding by integrate public art into public infrastructure such as streetscape improvements, public seating, and public transit improvements; and
  4. partnering with regional partners, such as a business improvement district, main street association, regional transit authority, or academic institution to secure matching funds ad to integrate the public art into projects in public spaces.

While a majority of civic art programs operate within government agencies at the municipal, regional, county, or state levels, some are operated by external nonprofit organizations. This model may be advantageous as it may strengthen fundraising from non-government sources and may minimize political interference in the creative decision-making process.

Additional Percent-for-Art Policy Considerations

The following management provisions as essential to include in percent-for-art policies:

  • Designation of responsibilities, e.g., whether the legislature or a state agency will manage the program
  • Project parameters, e.g., policies establishing provisions for qualifying projects, such as baseline construction costs of minimum square footage, or cost caps
  • Exemptions for certain state properties or capital projects from the percent-for-art program
  • Site selection, e.g., specification of whether installations are sited indoors or outdoors at the location of capital projects and mechanisms pertaining to the funding of public art at other locations, and the responsibility for selection, e.g., a state arts agency, art committee, or state agency
  • Budget set-asides, e.g., saving a certain amount for art on other state properties (i.e., not at the location of the capital project under construction)
  • Administrative costs, e.g., a percentage/portion of funds that may be allocated to state arts agencies for their administration of the program
  • Policies and procedures and special funds for curation, contracting, installation, maintenance, conservation, loans, and deaccessioning, e.g., protocol for executing contracts, protocol for conservation and deaccessioning of public art and/or the creation of specific funds for any of the aforementioned topics
  • Public education
  • Accessibility considerations, e.g., specifications to ensure that the artwork is un public view or on property with heavy foot traffic (i.e., not in private offices and other areas restricted to the public)
  • Local preferences, e.g., preferences for awarding public art contracts to artists based within the state or jurisdiction
  • Ownership of art, e.g., which entity owns the artwork and whether artists possess copyright of the work
  • Public education and programs, e.g., educational programming aligned with art installations to advance public education and tourism goals

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