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Glossary of Terms



Archives: As the number of public art projects grow and impact communities around the world, there are a growing number of public art archives being established around the world. These typically take the form of digital databases accessible online. The Smithsonian, ARTstor, Art on File, and Community Arts Network (The Community Arts Network website is now achived on Archive-It courtesy of Indiana University.) are a few examples.

Artist-in-Residence: A method of engagement in which artists spend time with students (in schools) or residents (in communities) developing projects or producing artistic activities or events. Today there are many variations of this practice, including artists working alongside city staff to develop public art strategies and procedures.

Artist Registry: Its purpose is to provide a nonjuried listing of both artists who create public art, and images of their artwork. Minnesota Percent for Art Artist Registry is an example of this

Art in Public Places:It is useful to distinguish art in public places — art simply placed in a public setting — from “public art,” a practice that thoughtfully and effectively considers the context for art in public.


Biennial: A major contemporary art festival, usually featuring international artists, presented every two years. Several Biennials held around the world feature public art, outdoor installations, or new media projects. Among the better known are Venice, Liverpool, Shanghai, and New Orleans.

Built Environment: This is a broad term to describe the world created by humans, as opposed to nature. It most often pertains to the constructed or altered natural features of our daily lives, such as buildings, plazas, roadways, bridges, groomed parkland, rain gardens and other altered or pre-designed areas for everyday activity. 


CETA: The Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) was a jobs training program of the Carter administration in the late 1970s. The program put many artists in the US to work on a variety of public and community-based projects in a fashion similar to the Works Project Administration (WPA) and other New Deal programs of the 30s and early 40s. In Minneapolis, the CETA program was named City Art Productions. Groups such as Forecast Public Art, Artspace, and Wall Painting Artists (WPA) emerged from this watershed year.

Collaboration:The studio art tradition is full of creative individuals producing works in solitude. To a great extent, public art relies on the joint efforts of two or more individuals to fulfill a creative vision. Collaboration also refers to the give and take process that any combination of artists, administrators, community members, public agencies, funders, and others engage in to achieve consensus to meet the needs of a public art project. 

Commission:A commissioned work of art usually refers to any artwork created at the request of an entity—a public agency, corporation or individual—in which the funds to design and produce the art are provided by that entity (or an affiliated agency). Most permanent public artworks in the US have been commissioned. 

Community Art: A wide variety of activities are covered by this term, including neighborhood-generated murals, artists-in-residence, arts in the schools, and process-oriented art engaging the community at large. Artists working in and with the community dates back to the 1960s. Two major thrusts in MN occurred during the 1970s, with COMPAS and the CETA funded City Arts Productions. 

Computer-Aided Design (CAD): Many artists now take advantage of digital technologies that aid in the visualization and design of public art. With Photoshop and other software, artists have found it easier to present complex designs, in scale with their surroundings (actual or proposed).

Conservation: While most of the effort and funding goes into creating and installing public artworks, the ravages of weather and unfriendly humans can damage or degrade the work. More attention is now being paid to issues of long-term maintenance and conservation of permanent works of public art, including the efforts of Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!) and Rescue Public Murals.



Design Team: A trend emerged in the 1970s for artists and architects to collaborate on public improvement projects in which public art was an integral component. More artists today are recognized as valuable design team members, rather than decorators brought in late in the process.


Environment: This is a broad term to describe the world created by humans, as opposed to nature.  It most often pertains to the constructed or altered natural features of our daily lives such as; buildings, plazas, roadsides, bridges, groomed parkland, rain gardens and other altered or preened areas of everyday activity. 


Folk Art/Primitive Art: For more than a century, self-taught artists have created visionary environments and road-side attractions, often using scrap metal and found objects. Among the most famous is Simon Rodea’s Watts Tower in Los Angeles, recently undergoing a major restoration.


Featured Article

Public Art Review Issue 38SERVICE MEDIA: Community as Collaborator

How can artists engage others beyond the accepted aesthetic norms of public art? This engaging and collaborative form of public art, which I call "service media," is very different from typical group object-building art workshops, not to mention the simple plopping of a statue on the square. And it is gaining ground.

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1000 Print Summer1,000 Print Summer

Artist Dave Machacek facilitated printmaking workshops at public festivals throughout the state, using a small steamroller as a printing press.