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Public Art Process

When new capital projects like recreation centres, LRT stations, or roadway construction are approved by City Council, a portion of those budgets is used to fund new public art projects.

  • Capital projects under $50 million use one percent of the funds.
  • Capital projects over $50 million use one percent of the first $50 million and half a percent of the funds that exceed $50 million, up to a maximum of $4 million.

For example, if a capital project has a budget of $3 million then $30,000 is used for public art. This follows the Council Policy CSPS014: Corporate Public Art Policy.

All public art projects must follow The City of Calgary’s official procurement policies and procedures which are governed by trade legislation. Capital grants received from other levels of government have specific requirements and restrictions that may limit how and where the funds can be used.

Where the funding goes

The artist charges a fee of between 10 - 20 percent of the artwork budget to do the work. For example, if a piece of public art costs $30,000 to take from start to finish. The artist fee could range from $3,000 - $6,000. 

The rest of the budget goes toward community engagement, fabrication, installations, advertising, permits, inspections, geotechnical and engineering reports, local artist mentorships, etc.

How public art is created

The process of commissioning a new public art piece includes a series of steps. The process begins with defining a project plan, picking an artist, engaging citizens and experts, approving the concept, fabrication, and installation.

Start up

When there is a new capital project and the public art funding is confirmed, a project plan is created. This plan outlines the project goals, objectives, stakeholders, engagement strategies, administrative expenses, and budget. The project plan is shared with the Public Art Board for review and comment to ensure all established criteria are met.

Artist Selection

Once the plan is in place, The City advertises and accepts applications from artists who wish to work on the project. There are two ways this is done:

  • Projects over $75,000 are advertised as an open competition through a request for proposal (RFP). International and local artists are included in this competition.
  • Projects under $75,000 are advertised as a call to artists, which may be limited in one way or another. For example, it may be limited to local or national artists, to a specific discipline like sculptors who work in metal, or artists of indigenous heritage. We may also limit the call to artists who are already pre-selected for our local Artist Roster.

When the application period is over, a selection panel of seven citizens is put together. It consisting of three community members, three art professionals, and one City representative from the commissioning business unit. They review all of the applications and score them to determine the top three artists who are then invited to an interview. Once an artist is selected, we contract the artist to do the project.

Engagement

Before the artist starts working on a concept, they conduct research and take part in engagement sessions. Public engagement opportunities happen multiple times throughout the process of developing a concept for the artwork. They can take the form of focus groups, surveys, artist-led workshops, and public talks. The artist will learn about the location and its history, attend public information sessions with the commissioning business unit, meet with community members, and consult with subject matter experts.

Concept

Using their research, the artist develops a concept for the public artwork. The concept is presented to the same selection panel that chose the artists and they decide whether to approve, reject, or ask for changes to the concept. Depending on the project, the approved concept is then reviewed by experts and specialists in areas such as engineering, risk, environmental protection, and operations. They ensure that the concept meets all regulations such as building and fire codes as well as health and safety requirements.

Build

After the concept is reviewed and approved, the artist begins the process of creating and installing the artwork, in collaboration with fabricators, engineers, and construction trades.

Maintain

When the artwork is complete, the City of Calgary takes ownership of the piece and it becomes part of our Public Art Collection.