The Public Art Commissioning Process
The commissioning process is a dynamic process requiring commitment from both the commissioner and artist in terms of (a) setting out a vision (b) building good relations;(c) being flexible with time; (d) allowing for dialogue and discussions; (e) openness to ideas and changes that may arise through the process; (f) support with problems and issues as they arise.
For the Commissioner/Client, the process typically involves:
a) Considering, imagining and championing a public art commission - now, here! Rationalising whom it is for, and what value it will have in the near and more distant future.
b) Securing funding (through the State's Per Cent for Art Scheme or through other sources)
c) Engaging specialist arts expertise, support and resources for the duration of the commission process. Increasingly commissioners of public art projects are engaging art curators/consultants to assist in the creative process and to deliver the realization of a public artwork or public art project. Typically this is a curator, an artistic director, Local Authority public art officer or specialists in any in contemporary art such as music, theatre, dance, literature. Often commissioners/clients engage such an expert to devise a programme of public art commissions over a number of years.
The curator/art consultant will assist the commissioner/client in matters such as local consultation processes, making new links to a range of art forms and in bringing invaluable experience to assessment procedures, project planning and the delivery and exhibition/performance of the commissioned artwork.
The curator/art consultant is engaged to; offer advice on how to commission an artist/ a work of art; to work in close consultation with the client/commissioner and/or host community; to devise an exciting and enthusiastic commission brief which creatively reflects the vision and context of the commission and imaginatively proposes the scope of the opportunity; to oversee a competitive or curated selection process/appointment of an artist(s); and to draw up a contract between the client/commissioner and the artist; to budget the project with the client and artist and to assist in the project's financial management. They undertake negotiation, mediation, facilitation and advocacy. Agents assist steering groups, Community Development organisations and other key stakeholders in the course of a commission.
d) After selecting and appointing an artist, this same expert can be charged with the management of the entire project management through to realisation and outcomes and can support the client if problems and issues arise. This may include Health and Safety constraints, copyright issues and difficulties in resolving expectations; curatorial organisation around presentation and dissemination of final work or outcomes and, documentation, evaluation and review.
For the Artist, the commissioning process involves:
a) For the Proposal Stages: developing a proposal which presents your ideas, concept and scope vis a vis any requirements of the commissioner and takes account of the context and scope of the commission. Preliminary research may considers(a) what you are proposing (b) how, when and where this may happen and (c) for whom (who is your audience?) (d) outline budget (e) understanding of how to deal with any technical challenges involved in your idea.
b) After being awarded a commission: a further research and development phase may be necessary to consolidate and test your ideas and allow for a deeper consideration of the context; making work and/or co-ordinating participation in process-based approach; management of time and schedules; budgeting; co-ordinating of others, experts, participants, labour, designers etc.; presentation or dissemination of final work/outcomes; documentation, critical reflection and evaluation.
There is more, specific and practical advice for artists in the 'Preparing a Proposal' section below.
Greystones Educate Together National School appointed a voluntary committee with relevant expertise to oversee the per cent for art commissioning process. An external curator, Máire Davey, was appointed specifically for her expertise in working in a highly collaborative way as meaningful involvement from the students and school was viewed as central to the process. The procurement route chosen was limited invited competition.