Develop a Maintenance Plan

Adapted from City of Seattle Public Art Roadmap

Before the implementation of a public art project, you and the artist need to determine that the artwork won?t pose a safety hazard and need to resolve how the project will be maintained and by whom.

Public artworks typically exist for long periods of time depending on the project type. It is important that a maintenance plan address the safety and appearance standards for appropriate lengths of time (murals typically 10 years and other public art typically 20 to 30 years). The group sponsoring the artwork is usually the party responsible for the maintenance, however in some scenarios agreements will be made with the property owner to transfer the maintenance of the artwork to them.

Material and Finishing

Material choice is one of the first steps in developing a long-term maintenance plan, while the decision is ultimately up to the artist, the choice of materials effects how one will care for the public artwork. There are many factors that should be considered in material selection. Environmental factors like sunlight, water, pollution, and extreme temperatures can cause internal and external corrosion on some materials. Societal factors also come into play, making the public artwork vandal resistant (anti-graffiti coating), as well as the wear and tear people will have via touching and interacting with the public artwork.


Establish a budget for long-term costs to maintain the artwork?s original appearance and structural integrity. Working with the artist, estimate what annual maintenance costs will be and determine where the funding will come from. The artist can also estimate the long-term maintenance costs that would include major and more routine maintenance. This budget should also include a contingency to cover the possibility that the artwork could be damaged or unsafe.

Long-Term Care

After the artwork is installed, it is helpful to obtain an object maintenance sheet or maintenance summary from the artist. Ask the artist to include a schedule and detailed instructions for both the routine and major maintenance. If paint is used, the artist should specify exactly what paint was used and where the paint can be purchased. The information obtained from the artist should also include drawings and diagrams with installation details, as well as names of fabricators and information about the fabrication processes if appropriate. If the work contains images or patterning you can ask the artist to provide templates or photo files. You can also ask for photo documentation of the artwork. This gives a permanent record of the artwork at the time of installation and helps to document materials, techniques, and conditions over time.

Remember if there is ever any discussion about changing the color or any aspect, character or element of the artwork, the artist needs to be consulted. Keep in mind the legal requirements regarding copyright issues and the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA.)10 As you develop your maintenance plan, another thing to keep in mind is that art can come to a premature end for a variety of reasons. It will be the responsibility of the sponsoring group to remove or replace the artwork should this happen. Moving site-specific artwork to another location also requires the artist?s permission, as artwork often reflects the character of the site and is designed specifically for that particular location.


  • City of Seattle Public Art Road Map


  • Object Maintenance Sheet (PDF)
  • Object Catalog Sheet (PDF)


  • Potential Maintenance Problems for Materials (PDF)
  • Maintenance Recommendations for Materials (PDF)

Art and Infrastructure