To help ensure the success of your public art project, a good first step is to define the community or communities being served. The community may be different than the audience being served, so it is good to consider both of these stakeholders. The community can—and, in some cases, should—be involved in every stage of the public art process. You can control how to involve the community to help ensure a positive, constructive experience. Education and media coverage about your project—and the process—are useful ways to connect with the community and extend the life of your project. Documentation is useful to have at various stages of any project. Still photos and video are beneficial for promoting your project at various stages. With viral marketing and photo sharing, this represents another way to engage the community in helping promote and discuss your project.
- Create a public art advisory committee made up of key stakeholders of the project (representatives from the city, the site, the neighborhood, individuals with a vested interest in the project). This advisory committee can help connect you to resources to enrich your project, help select the artist and serve as ambassadors for project by providing promotion and education.
- Hold educational workshops or presentations on public art and your project. These can take place in small venues that are highly accessible, and can include dialogues with artists and folks who have already done public art in the community.
- Invite the community to participate in the visioning of the project (but be clear about where their input will be used). This can be done in conversation, via project websites or through creative workshop settings.
- Utilize social media to keep the community up to date on your project. Before going this route, determine how many people prefer this type of communication.
- Invite people to participate in the creation or installation of your work, if appropriate (via workshops, generating content or ideas, volunteer labor etc). Be very clear about the skill sets you need and try to control expectations (if it’s not about letting everyone be the artist, make clear everyone’s roles).
- Hold a celebratory event. This could be intimate or massive in scale.
- Share your story—speak at schools, community groups, and other venues to tell people how the project came to be, what the process was like, and little know facts about the project.
- Be in contact with the media – let them know the story behind the story
- Utilize technology to create avenues for the public to interact with each other and the work (social media, a website with a comments section, etc)
- Documentation is crucial for the artist and commissioning agency, in order to promote the project, record the condition, and create a record.
The community initiated Return Journey. There was a great group of supporters behind the project. The Rocket Boosters became real cheerleaders and led community outreach and fundraising for the project, including creative initiatives like jewelry sales, rocket-themed events, securing sponsors and help with grant proposals. When it came time for the final celebration the neighborhood was a gracious host to a great dedication picnic with games, music, and entertainment. The final project was given to the city as a gift, which meant that additional work had to be done, and a maintenance fund had to be provided. This meant more fundraising. The Brackett Rocket Boosters also transformed into the Brackett Rocket Care Club, providing watering and weeding services to maintain the landscape around the rocket.
The Bemidji Regional Event Center was an excellent example of utilizing social media to keep the community energized and excited about their new building. Weekly Facebook posts shared images of the floor as it was installed and updated everyone on the progress of the art installations. Tours have been given of the artwork as well to inform the community about the work and the stories behind them. Community interaction was designed into the artwork itself at the request of the art committee and the final design for the terrazzo floor was selected in part because of the great opportunities for the public to seek out shapes and objects embedded in the floor.
1,000 Print Summer was all about community involvement, not so much in the planning, but in the implementation. This is a perfect example of a project that would not exist were it not for the help of the one thousand community members who created art alongside the artist. This project was designed to involve community members from the very beginning. Still, there were challenges. The artist needed to find a way to connect with the community to ensure an audience and even if people came out to his printmaking tent he needed to help them feel like it was okay for them to engage in the art making. Social media and well trained volunteers were key to make this project a success.