Letter from the Co-chair
Striving for Excellence in Public Art and Design
by Liesel Fenner, ASLA
The Public Art Network (PAN) is the only professional network in the United States dedicated to the field of public art. PAN is a program of Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. As part of its civic design infrastructure, PAN strengthens efforts to advocate for policies and best practices for communities that commission public art. Below is information for the landscape architecture community on the Public Art Network and the services and resources we provide for both the art and design professions. For more information on PAN go to: http://ww3.artsusa.org/ services/public_art_network/

Public art ranks among the most visible and rapidly growing segments of the arts in America. There are over 350 public art programs throughout the United States, both publicly and privately funded at the national, state and local levels. The Public Art Network serves a membership of more 1,000 public art administrators, artists, and allied professionals nationwide.

The commissioning methods used to develop a public art program include: creating artwork for temporary installation, purchasing existing artwork for permanent or temporary display, placing artists on design teams for civic infrastructure projects, and creating artist-inresidence opportunities. Programs and projects are usually administered within an umbrella organization such as a local arts agency, economic development, city planning, or parks and recreation department. The most popular commissioning model is the percent-for-art program. For example, a municipality may specify that one percent of the city capital improvement fund be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of artworks.

‘Safety Spires’ 2006. Artists: Norie Sato & Dan Corson Commissioning Agency: Sound Transit Light Rail Operations, Seattle, Washington.
Photo: Dan Corson, Jennifer Babuca

Ideally, team collaborations are the best models in which artists, architects, landscape architects and planners are brought together to work on the overall design of a site. Many landscape architects have worked with an artist or artist team on the integration of art for a public space. Involvement of an artist at the outset of design is a best practice advocated by PAN as it yields many more possibilities for the creative development of the overall project. Public involvement such as community visioning sessions or charrettes is an essential component of the process as well. Artists and designers working together have succeeded in more fully integrating public art into the landscape and urban fabric of civic spaces.

In supporting public art best practices, PAN has several tools and online resources available to the public. Americans for the Arts holds an annual convention with a specific track dedicated to public art. This year’s conference in Philadelphia, June 20-22, includes a stellar lineup of speakers, presentations, and tours that spotlight current public art practice and projects. A highlight of the convention is the presentation of the Public Art Network’s annual “Year in Review” which recognizes up to 40 exemplary projects completed in the previous year. This year’s jurors are Jody Pinto, artist, and Ted Landsmark, President of the Boston Architectural College. All projects recognized in “Year in Review” are produced on a CD-Rom and sold in our online bookstore The CD contains both Powerpoint and Flash presentations, as well as project description slide scripts and over 500 JPEG project images. The “Year in Review” CD is an excellent resource for artists, designers, art commissions, and design review boards that can serve as a reference tool of a diverse array of contemporary public art being produced today.

The Public Art Network also manages an online listserv with over 700 members representing public art administrators, artists, designers, planners, and other allied professionals. Similar to ASLA’s PPNs, the PAN listserv connects colleagues and serves as a project opportunities posting board, as well as a question and answer resource for knowledge sharing-and advancing best practices.

In addition to online resources, the Public Art Network will be debuting a new series of “Knowledge Exchange Convenings,” which are one and half day seminars that address a specific topic within the public art field. This fall, PAN will host a knowledge exchange addressing public art master planning that will bring together artists and designers, planners and private developers to discuss the basic components and case studies of successful public art master plans. More information on this will be posted on the Urban Planning and Design PPN.

Do stayed tuned to future issues of the Urban Planning and Design PPN newsletter for additional articles highlighting specific public art projects, artists, and design collaborations. I also encourage landscape architects to respond with suggestions and questions as we forge a dialog between the art and design professions. For more information, email me at pan@artsusa.org.

Liesel Fenner, ASLA, is Manager of Public Art at Americans for the Arts in Washington, DC
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Taner Özdil, ASLA, Co-Chair
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