In this section we have compiled FAQ's on the practicalities of applying for, commissioning of and working through public art projects.
What is a steering group/ committee?
This is a group which represents the concerns of the commissioner. This terminology is most usually applicable to local authorities and government bodies. Criticisms of steering committees are often levelled on the basis that there is not enough artistic representation. This can result in decisions or orientations for project which don't fully take advantage of potential scope of public art. Under representation of the artists on steering committees stymies the ability to engage with or represent current artistic practice.
What is the role of Steering group committee?
This can vary considerably, in a general sense the role of the group or committee is to guide a commission through the initial brief, selection and realisation of the project. The committee may seek a specialist curator to support them in drawing up a brief and in sourcing artists.
Why are steering groups so bureaucratic?
A committee based approach is most relevant to local authorities and government departments, which are spending public monies. As with all committees in these contexts there is an impetuous in their formation which is to support transparency and fair administrative procedures.
This can be true when working to the best sense of the word committee. As with all committee work, the orientation can take too hard a turn towards processes that don't reflect context, become introverted, self- serving rather than outward looking and thus fail in its initial vision of support. Ideally the committees should priorities a desire to take risks support innovation, new work or the consolidation of ideas and to allow space to develop an existing artistic practice in discussion with the artist.
Who sits on these committees?
Make-up of the steering group/ committee should operate like a strong company board, which should offer a good balance of skill sets and representative voices. If there are concerns about technical, social or finance issues or if the project has particular challenges the steering group might consider these, support, include and a range of opinions or take advice from associated professionals in order to make the best decision possible.
How involved are the steering committee in the whole process?
Involvement of the steering group varies the level of autonomy to support and skills of project manager /administrator who is engaged with the project. They are not 'hands-on' their role being in a similar vein to a good company board. Their best support is in a 'big picture' way. Once as project has commenced the project managers/ administrators (or in some cases artists) should work to support steering group keeping them well briefed on project time-lines, artistic direction/ changes and the general progression. Supporting the direction of project budget, the artists work and troubleshooting.
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.