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Financing and Funding

Public art can be financed in a myriad of ways. Percent-for-art program fund a number of publically funded projects; private foundations offer grants to artists and arts organization to produce projects of their own design; corporations commission artists to design and build new works for their public spaces; communities sponsor projects or raise funds through various means. The city of Stevens Point, Wisconsin has a room tax fee that funds, among other initiatives, arts activities in the city. Sponsorships from local business are another option and sometimes artists fund their own projects through fundraising efforts or out of their own pocket. The famous artist team of Christo and Jean-Claude funded the Gates Project for Central Park by selling preliminary renderings to museums and collectors worldwide. Many community-based projects require a mix of various funding sources as well as in-kind contributions of goods and services. In Minnesota we are fortunate to have a variety of resources for art funding. The key is matching the project with the appropriate type of support.

Developing your budget is a critical phase of your project if you hope to secure funding from public or private sources. A simple “one pager” can be helpful for fundraising. It is wise to include compensation for the artist as well as any design phase required to develop the project. It is also a good idea to have two version (or more) of your budget. One should be “bare bones” budget (the minimum amount it would take to complete the project) and one should be a “pie in the sky” budget (the ideal scenario, in case there is strong support out there). This helps you to think big and expand your project but have a realistic back-up plan. Your real budget amount will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

A non-traditional funding idea: Kickstarter

Just as social media technology has added to the available options for increased community interaction, it has also added to funding options. Kickstarter is a third party funding system that can provide an avenue of fundraising that might be otherwise unavailable.

Kickstarter relies upon the idea that microtransactions can have a lasting impact if enough people contribute.  It works by creating a project on the Kickstarter website (this is definitely where a strong idea and a good plan help) and inviting people to contribute.  The interesting part of Kickstarter is the all or nothing funding, explained by the FAQ below:

"Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every month, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields...

...All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk. "

To learn more and to see the many projects go to

Statewide grant opportunities for public art

Regional grant opportunities for public art

Three Fundings

Return JourneyReturn Journey

Return Journey began with neighborhood grant to help get the idea off the ground. Once approved, and new cost estimates were obtained, more funds needed to be raised. As the project gained momentum the neighborhood fostered some pretty creative fundraising. With a design and scale-model in hand, community members rallied, and several benefit activities were organized. Over two years, children made and sold rocket jewelry, the neighborhood movie theater hosted a benefit movie, a new café hosted a pancake breakfast and a nearby bar organized a jazz concert. Sponsorships and foundation grants were raised. These fundraising events served to not only raise financial support for the project but were integral in giving the community the chance to participate in the excitement of the process! By the time the piece was installed the neighborhood had been informed and invested at every stage. The final artwork acknowledged community sponsors in a creative way—using metal tubes on the cables surrounding the sculpture. Major funders included Target, COMPAS Community Art Fund, and Longfellow Community Council.

1000 Print SummerSanford Center

Percent-for-art funding was essential to the Sanford Center (formerly the Bemidji Regional Event Center). In one sense it was the driver of the project. While many developments are designed and constructed without giving a thought to the aesthetic value or community involvement, percent-for-art funding often causes the process to slow down and consider meaningful integration of public art. Because the event center had dedicated funds for art, an art committee was formed to oversee the process. No additional fundraising was needed but the committee, along with the architect, developer and Forecast, devised ways to leverage additional funds for the art by tapping into related construction budgets, such as the terrazzo floor and the chandeliers.

While putting my design together, I contacted several sources to get a good handle on the budget. I used the full budget allotted, with most of the cost going towards the terrazzo company for the extra work it would take to make such a complicated design, as well as the brass fabricator, who cut out all of the animals and some other features.

– Terrazzo floor designer Barb Keith

1000 Print Summer1,000 Print Summer

1,000 Print Summer was a grant-funded project. The artist was able to raise additional funds, however, from participating sites stakeholders because he was adding value to the festivals and enhancing their programming. By communicating with the communities that he visited and joining forces with pre-planned initiatives Machacek was able to leverage his idea for additional resources. By contextualizing his art project as a service and acknowledging its cultural and experiential value, communities could pitch in to help the artist cover additional expenses not funded by his grant.

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Featured Image

Sculpture by Tim Cassidy, Burlington Northern Park, Wadena, image courtesy of the Five Wings Regional Arts Council