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Art in Public Places – What Does it Mean To The Citizens?

The Rickie Report is conducting ongoing research into Palm Beach County’s Art in Public Places program.  It stemmed from driving around the area and seeing some wonderful sculptures outside of buildings as well as beautiful pieces of art in public spaces.  Florida leads the country as the first state to establish a support organization for the many public art programs around the country’s 4th most populated state.  Palm Beach County is the largest land-hold county east of the Mississippi River!

In 2007  the non-profit arts and culture were a $209.06 million industry in Palm Beach County acccording to  Robert Lynch, President of Americans for the Arts.  His report goes on to state that this translated into supporting almost 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generated over $19 million in local and state government revenue.  Two years later, a report by Creative Industries found almost 5,000 arts-related businesses employed 15,000+ people in Palm Beach County.

Terry Olson, President of the Florida Association of Public Art Administrators 2010- 2012, states, “Public art is essential in creating dynamic communities because it gets people talking and gives them a common point of identity.  It attracts businesses and creative people…and gives residents pride.”

Clearly, the arts industry is crucial to our area not only in terms of tourism, but in terms of employment as well as resident appreciation and pride.  The challenge is our reliance on public funding and community donations.

Elayna Toby Singer,  Administrator of Art in Public Places of Palm Beach County spoke with The Rickie Report, taking us through the process of an Art in Public Places project.   Hired seven years ago, she is the first full time director starting this program from scratch.  Public artists have an opportunity to change people’s everyday environments physically, emotionally and intellectually.

Singer’s role covers not only the art itself, but establishing the infrastructure county-wide.  Her jurisdiction is county buildings, facilities, and lands.  There are at least 3  municipalities within county that have their own ordinances regarding Art in Public Places: Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Gardens.  In addition, there are public art projects that can happen privately.  Municipal programs get a percentage of new capital construction projects’ costs set aside for public art projects, which is some cases is a requirement by law.  An example are the various art objects placed on PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens.

The Rickie Report asked Singer about the process of choosing the artwork itself.  There is a committee comprised of planning/design professionals, professional non-profit visual art administrators, county citizens with a significant art background, a landscape architect and a member of the Palm Beach Cultural Council.  Their role is to advise the County Commission as to the overall policies regarding visual arts in the county.  They set the direction and conduct the selection of all works of art whether locaned, donated or acquired for county property.  They also provide the educational programming to expand the traditional understanding of the role of public art and the benefit of incorporating artwork into public work projects.  In addition, artists as well as a representative from the project itself are included on the committee.

Initially a budget and scope of the project is established and developed.  Next a call to artists is drafted and distributed.  Depending on the specific project this call to artists can be world-wide, can be limited to residents of Palm Beach County, and some are geared toward emerging artists.  Artists are asked to send letters of interest, a resume, and a list of any past artwork in public places.

A “short list” of artists are invited to develop a proposal.  If it is early enough in the project, the artists may work with the design team.  Some of the issues to consider beside cost are materials being proposed and maintenance after the project is installed.  Some projects are limited to artists who are residents of Palm Beach County.  The design has to be approved, fabricated and installed.

Palm Beach County is known for trying to integrate function into their public art projects.  A good example of this is the County Court House which uses the public art in front of the building as seating areas, barriers that block vehicles from getting too close to the building for public safety as well as city landscaping.

Front Plaza, Courthouse by Michael Singer

Singer is a member of Americans for the Art, a public art network which is a powerful tool to get the word out about projects.  It offers an opportunity for a national dialogue.  The Palm Beach Cultural Council, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, artists and administrators of Public Art work together, taking a wholistic view of public art.    Their goal is create a sense of place and tell a story associated with the art.  They want to transform the mundane to a space that becomes personal and special to the citizens who encounter it.

Citizens cannot currently access one cohesive list of public art installations in Palm Beach County.  Sadly, it is only in the recent projects that curatorial or intrepretive labels have been incorporated.  One has to go to the County and each municipality’s website to find the information.  The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is working with Singer’s Department to provide links to the different programs.

The Rickie Report proposed that one list be compiled to facilitate easier access to the art and for the public to know what they are looking at.  Many of the projects have not been labeled with the artist information or general data about the piece of art itself.  Culture Now: Museum Without Walls has a website and phone apps to access Boynton, Delray Beach, and County projects as well numerous places around the United States.

There is a state-wide group, the FL Public Art Professionals, who meet anually.  When they convened in 2011 in West Palm Beach, they were taken on a tour of the public art projects.  The Rickie Report suggested that docent-led tours be made available to enhance tourism as well as residents’ appreciation of these works of art.

How do citizens get involved?  Go to your local cultural council websites, read  The Rickie Report and go to the various events that are being sponsored.  If you are interested in being more involved and part of the committee, speak to your local county commissioners.  Singer encourages all artists both local and world-wide to sign up on the website to receive Calls to Artists, such as the one posted in The Rickie Report for “Art at the Airport”, should contact Singer’s office at:

For coverage of your events, listing of announcements in our events section, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact The Rickie Report at:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

The Rickie Report

P.O.Box 33423

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33420


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