Using PR to Build a Public-Art Program
A defined and broad-based constituency is critical for the implementation of a public art program. A Public Art Advisory Committee should be formed to become the driving force behind a systematic, lasting, and growing public relations campaign that targets media and the educational system at all levels. This city-wide campaign to promote and market a public art policy will help gain political and financial support for both the policy and public art, as well as develop a community-wide commitment and support for the arts. It will also raise the cultural importance of public art, so that it might become part of the planning process.
There are many ways that such a PR campaign may be undertaken. Among the approaches are to:
- Obtain buy-in from many levels of city government and a wide variety of governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure the successful implementation of the public art policy.
- Establish partnerships with private funders to help the art policy proponents and administrators work with and advise patrons who are funding public-art projects privately. This will help guarantee that these projects meet a set of agreed-upon requirements and fulfill the goals and vision set forth in this policy.
- Identify alliance opportunities with institutions, organizations, different levels of government, and the public. Partner with them to publicize the endeavor and discuss how public art can help further the mission of their specific organization.
- Raise support among the press to help the fundraising efforts that will be required to launch the public-art policy. Local newspapers could educate and inform the public about the many different types of public art, the successful art projects in other parts of the region, and the wealth and ability of the local arts community.
- If your city has a development commission, enlist its help. For example, in Mobile, AL, there is the Mobile Historic Development Commission (MHDC), which was started as a nonprofit organization and is now a city department. The MHDC has an independent board that represents a broad range of community members in the arts and in the government, including historic districts, a board of realtors, the Mayor, and the City Council. These connections can facilitate outreach efforts.
- Involve local artists and gallery owners who already have expressed an interest in being involved in, and in communicating news of, art events to the public.
- Develop a public art slide registry of artists (whether local, regional, or national) qualified to undertake public art commissions. Reach out to the artist community to solicit names of artists and materials. The slide registry will prove early on to be a handy tool for pairing artists with projects (particularly private-sector projects that may be fast-tracked).
- Keep the information flowing about the progress of any public art initiatives started. This can be accomplished in many different ways, ranging from showcasing artworks-in-progress to recruiting the local media. The more chances that people have to know what is going on, the more chances they have to be involved, and to greet the incoming artwork with enthusiasm.
Arts-related activities can also help build support for public art and reinforce the positive role it can play in urban revitalization. Among those to consider:
- An artist market (crafts, fine artwork, ceramics);
- Tours of existing public artworks in the city’s collection;
- Temporary art exhibits, openings, installations, and happenings inside vacant buildings to increase the sense of security in the downtown;
- Rotating art in local building lobbies.
(Images, from the top: Sculpture with a bite at the Tohono Tadai Bus Transfer Center, Tucson, AZ, and a depiction of multicultural life in Oakland, CA)