How to Become a Public Artist

Many artists wish to venture into the realm of public art and it is a challenging yet noble profession.  The best way to begin is to alert the public art program coordinator in your community about your interest.  Your community’s public art coordinator can inform you of their program’s structure.  Take this opportunity to share your ideas as to how your artwork could be translated into public art.  If you find that your community does not offer a formal public art program, start asking questions as to why, and how a program could be started (refer them to this website for more information).

Your public art coordinator can help you to discern if you qualify as a public artist within the guidelines of the program.  They should also be able let you know about city directories, or image banks that you/your work could be added to, and share with you about any upcoming opportunities. 

It is best to start with a smaller commission as this will give you a chance to learn the processes with less stress, you will be more likely to receive such a commission, as it will be less risky for the city program.  Another way to develop experience is to find employment with established public artists where you can work on public art projects, learn the processes and build your resume.

Please remember that it is not ethical to create work for a public art program, where the artist receives little or no compensation.  While some artists are tempted to use such devises to start their careers, it would be participating in a practice that will limit available funding for projects in the future, making it more difficult for you to build your career to a profitable situation.  If a city is does not pay for your art now, why would they feel that they should ever be required to pay for art.  This practice will undercut your value as an artist.  It will diminish the value of art and hurt all artists in your community. 

It is difficult to be a quality artist; it takes education, years of study, hard work, and the development of advanced skills.  Artists should always be fairly compensated for their time and their skills.  No one ever asks a brain surgeon or a plumber to live in poverty while they work for free and no one should expect an artist to do this.  Public art provides beauty and enrichment to the community, good public art draws people from outside the community and those who come will bring money to spend within the community.  Why should your art provide benefit to everyone except for you the artist?