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Glossary of Terms

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Percent-for-Art: There are more than 350 public art programs in the US, mostly funded by a “percent-for-art” strategy—first utilized in Philadelphia in 1959—in which a small portion of capital improvement funds (usually one percent) are allocated for acquiring or commissioning artworks. The State of Minnesota has a percent for art ordinance, as does the City of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, St. Cloud and Hennepin County. In the US there are more than 350 percent for art programs. Governance and management systems vary.

Performance Art: Performance art draws from multiple artistic disciplines such as painting, sculpture, music, dance, theater, cinema, and poetry. Artists engaged in performance art today often address social or political issues utilizing public spaces or conventional venues.

Placemaking: A term used to describe the design and development of common spaces, shared environments and civic places created for communities, often in urban settings. Artists’ involvement in placemaking is considered a best practice by urban planners, landscape architects and city builders.

Plop Art: A term coined in the 70s by artist James Wines—often used in a derogatory manner—to describe artwork created independently and without consideration for the environment in which it is sited.

Public Art: Public art is a multifaceted field of inquiry; it encompasses a wide variety of creative expressions in the public realm. From historical memorials and monuments to contemporary installations and performance events, the menu of possibilities is endless. The intention of each public art program also varies; definitions and generalizations are not commonly held. For some communities public art is seen as a means of enhancing or personalizing otherwise impersonal spaces. For others, it’s a way to activate civic dialogue, or provide a vehicle for communities to express their unique identity.

Public Art Program: Public art programs are charged with administering the development and management of public art in their communities. The methods used to build a public art program include—but are not limited to—commissioning artwork for permanent display, commissioning artwork for temporary installation, purchasing existing artwork for permanent or temporary display, placing artists on project design teams, and creating artist-in-residence opportunities. In addition to creating new work, public art programs often are charged with maintaining their public art collection, developing educational programming, creating public art resources including printed materials and websites, seeking out partnerships and opportunities with public and private organizations, and acting as a source for public art information.

Public Art Ordinance: A public art ordinance is the legislation establishing a public art program within a unit of government. Generally, a public art ordinance establishes the financial mechanism that funds the public art program, identifies the unit of government or private contractor that will manage the public art program, and establishes a basis for the development of public art policies and/or guidelines.

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Request for Proposal (RFP): A term used for competitive projects, in which applicants must submit a description of their idea for consideration. This process is no longer considered ethical by most professionals in the public art field as it requires work performed on behalf of the project without any pay.

Request for Qualification (RFQ): This process, more commonly accepted than RFPs, involves the submission of work samples, resumes and letters of interest to determine a small group of finalists. Once finalists are selected, they are usually paid to develop proposals, followed by the selection of an artist or team to be commissioned. 

Research and Development: (R&D) Research is usually required as a preliminary phase of a public art project. Information about the site and its audience is collected, historical data is studied, ideas are formulated and options are analyzed with regard to cost, dimensions, materials and time involved. 

Resume: A written summary of an artist’s education and career highlights, including exhibitions, commissions, and experience.  Resumes are often submitted with applications for public art RFQs or commission opportunities, together with work samples and descriptions of previous projects.

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Site-Specific: This term refers to works of art or projects that take into account, interface with, or are otherwise informed by the surrounding environment.  This includes the physical limitations of a site, weather conditions, history, audience demographics and usage, lighting and many other aspects. 

Sustainability: This is a broad term used to describe concern for longevity and care for our shared environment. Artists working in public are more commonly asked to consider the environmental impact of their projects.

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Web-based Art: As more people have access to the Internet, artists are drawn to create artworks and virtual environments for the online audience. The web, it can be argued, is a public space, accessible to almost everyone.

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