Percent for Art Programs


What are the indicators of a successful percent-for-art program? How do you move from an ordinance or policy document to a robust program? And how do communities of different sizes design and implement percent-for-art policies and programs? Because percent-for-art looks different for every community, we’ve identified four examples that illustrate how percent-for-art can work for jurisdictions of different sizes and governance types, as well as how these programs can secure resources from private or public sources—or a combination of the two.


Los Angeles County, CA

Population: 9,818,605 (2010 Census)

In 2004, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted the County’s first Civic Art Policy, which allocates one percent of design and construction costs of County capital projects to a Civic Art Special Fund. In August 2015, the Board of Supervisors approved a revision to the Civic Art Policy that extends the civic art requirement to include County capital projects delivered by private developers. Since the policy was established, the county has commissioned more than 200 works of art.

In addition to the county’s percent-for-art program, a 2011 study commissioned by the Civic Art Department of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission found that of the 88 municipalities in the county, 31 have a private percent-for-art requirement (ranging from .5% to 2%), and 16 municipalities have a private and public percent-for-art requirement (1%). According to the study, no municipalities in the county have only a public percent-for-art requirement.

King County, WA

Population: 1,931,249 (2010 Census)

Established by ordinance in 1973, Public Art 4Culture commissions contemporary art for shared public space in King County. 4Culture also stewards King County’s public art collection and offers expertise to public and private developers through consulting. The County’s Cultural Resources Division is responsible for management of the public art program. Past projects have included an artist-led participatory walk exploring the county’s regional trails, a documentary film and photo murals created for the Shoreline Transfer Station (2008), and land art at a former gravel pit designed by conceptual artist and sculptor Robert Morris (1979). 4Culture also manages SODO Track, a 2-mile stretch of industrial buildings along a light rail track featuring vibrant street art.

Nashville Metro Area (Davidson County), TN

Population: 626,681 (2010 Census)

Established in 1978, Metro Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts), the office of Arts & Culture for the city of Nashville and  Davidson County, staffs the public art program, including percent-for-art. Metro Arts’ strategic work is overseen by The Metro Nashville Arts Commission, a 15-member board appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Metro Council.

In 2001, The Council of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County adopted a Public Art Ordinance and Guidelines to establish a percent-for-art policy for the city of Nashville and the county-wide metropolitan area. Since then, the program has funded more than 50 permanent artworks through its percent-for-art policy. The program isn’t limited to permanent works of art. The Metro Arts Commission’s 2017 comprehensive public art plan made a series of recommendations for the funding, staffing, and governance necessary to realize new directions in public art, expanding beyond traditional site-based works.

Cambridge, MA

Population: 105,162 (2010 Census)

Established in 1974 by the City Council, the Cambridge Arts Council is a city agency that funds, promotes, and presents community-based arts programming. As a public nonprofit, Cambridge Arts operates with funding from local government, private foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donors. Cambridge Arts Council employees are responsible for staffing and managing the City’s percent-for art program.

Codified in 1979 with the adoption of the Public Development Arts Ordinance, the City of Cambridge’s percent-for-art policy requires that one percent of the construction costs on city capital projects be designated for the development of site-responsive public artworks. This policy requires that one percent of the construction costs of city developments be reserved for the investment of public artwork. Since this policy was passed, the Cambridge Arts Council has overseen the creation and development of more than 200 such artworks, such as Toshihiro Katayama’s landscape designs outside the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Porter Station and more than a dozen murals throughout the city.

Additional Resources

Americans for the Arts. “2017 Survey of Public Art Programs.” PDF File. Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts, 2017.

Carlin, Brad, Ed. “Percent for Art Ordinances.” PDF File. Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts, 2004.

City of Saint Paul, Minnesota. “Public Art Ordinance Program: Program Guidelines.”

Jackson Hole Public Art. “Places of Possibility: Public Art & Placemaking Toolkit for Rural Communities.” PDF File. 2012.

Miller, Susan M.; Hulstrand, Janet; Kagan, Janet; Kirkland, Larry. “Public Art and Private Development Resource Guide for Developers.” PDF File. Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts, 2010.

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. “State Percent for Art Programs.”

Riley, Kevin; Riley, Sarah; Wallace, Jean. “Making Small Towns Special: How to Afford Public Art.” Parks & Recreation Magazine. September 1, 2016.