Independent commissioners, curators and collectives
Involving independent curators and project manager at the start of the commissioning process can support a dynamic process and allow other ways of thinking around possibilities for the commission.
There is an emergence of an independent sector of individual artist-curators and specialist curators along with a number of small-scale artists-led organisations and collectives dedicated to research and practice. Often grounded in theoretical, social and political ethos and up-to-date in practice they bring another layer of understanding and questioning to public art discourses. They are interested in exploring other possibilities for commissioning, curating, discourse, facilitating and disseminating artists projects and programmes and push the boundaries of public art practice creating new contexts for interdisciplinary approaches.
Ireland doesn't have independent commissioning bodies such as Artangel, Locus+ or Situations, Bristol, but there are many small-scale organisations and individual curators, available to curate and manage commissions. They can offer alternative possibilities for both commissioning and processes around making art. In addition, a number of freelance curators offer services for the management and procurement of public art programmes providing direction on programmatic
Artists, by the nature of their practice, have always initiated projects from establishing collectives, running events and organising festivals, to setting up galleries and project spaces. More recently artists have been active in initiating and driving temporary art interventions and projects within the public domain.
In undertaking such projects the artist is involved in a practice - other than the pure making of art, and their role extends to become a curator, organiser and manager. This work involves them interacting and negotiating with others as they seek financial support, assistance in kind, promotional support and endorsement, or access or permission to public space, particular locations, sites or buildings. The local authority and other public and private bodies are often very helpful here.
When artists initiate such projects, they retain control of the process, act as commissioners or collaborators and need to be prepared to undertake managing and curating the project, forming links, finding sources of funding and good sources of support. Public art projects initiated by artists can seek funding through local sources or through Arts Council funding programmes. As projects develop can gain momentum and be attractive for partnership funding and for longer-term commitments supporting sustainability.
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.