Public Art Challenges

I’ve helped out on a few public art projects, and they are all staggeringly difficult to plan for. Here are some of the higher level ideas that I’d like to turn into a guide after some more research.

Problems we know how to solve

There are always creative people and resources available if you’re willing to focus on it. These steps thrwart many, but if you’re persistent and enthusiastic, almost anything is possible.

Have an idea

Obviously, right? This can wait until after you have a location, but you’ll have a better time securing a location if you have a good idea. Rendering your idea through sketches or renders is paramount to ensure everyone understands your vision, and it will make raising capital, stakeholder buy in, and permitting that much smoother.

Estimate costs

We’re not just talking about paint, but think about mistakes, time, permits, materials to block off your working area safely and them imagine all that stuff fell off a truck and you need to get it all again. This is a loaded part of the process and deserves its own article. Let me know below if you want me to write one up!

Raise the capital

Grants are available. Join your local arts council and see if any maker-spaces or other art community and academic art programs have mailing lists or get togethers. Raise your own money with your incredible idea on Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Make cool things happen with little to no money so folks can see your previous impact.

Problems we don’t know how to solve


We’re not only talking about graffiti, although some advances have been made to help thwart this. The first public art installation I was involved in was a light installation in the Boston Greenway. Almost every day many of the lights were stomped on and needed to be replaced.


If you can avoid the human problem that may plague your art, you still need to concern yourself with environmental challenges. Adding a line items called “retouching until the end of time” is never feasible in any proposal, and so this part is often overlooked.

So what exists, beyond bronze sculpture, that will stand the passage of time?

A Case Study

Here are some images for a site we’re working on a proposal for.

  • If we put sculptural elements on the sides of the building, how could we mount them to brick, wood and concrete while both doing as little damage as possible to the structure?

  • If we didn’t paint or vinyl wrap this building, what other kinds of media or materials could work?