Art commissioning

Preparation - The Vision

What, why, where, when

What do you want to achieve through your project?

  • A contribution to the quality of design of an architectural project.
  • A site-specific piece of work designed to enhance the existing environment.
  • Participatory work to build community cohesion and ownership.
  • A cultural contribution to developing a sense of place as part of a regeneration project or new development.
  • Increased local distinctiveness or contribution to tourism.
  • A contribution to economic regeneration.
  • Education or skills development for a particular sector of the community.

Think about Hampshire County Council’s objectives of maximising wellbeing and enhancing our quality of place.

Who will be the audience for the project?

Most public art works will impact on a particular audience or community.

  • Does there need to be consultation with the potential audience or community? For example, residents of a new housing development or office staff?
  • Will the audience or community be directly involved in production or selection of the work?
  • Does the audience have any special requirements?

Consultation can take many forms. Direct involvement in the design and making of the work, educational workshops, contribution to the selection process or perhaps informal discussion and feedback. Its main role is to keep the audience informed. Consultation does not necessarily mean that control over the design or final selection of artists needs to be given to those you are consulting with. Although in some cases it might be appropriate for the intended audience to play a major role in the decision process.

The key benefits of consultation are to keep the audience informed, to generate a sense of ownership of the work and help with advocacy for the project.

What kind of work would be appropriate?

  • Options are endless - painting, sculpture, photography, street furniture, landscaping, theatre, poetry, street performance, music/sound installation, stained glass, mosaic ceramics, textiles, dance, film/video, projection, web-based etc etc!
  • Does it need to fulfil a particular function?
  • Does it need to address a particular theme or issue?
  • Should it be abstract or figurative?
  • Do you need one piece of work, or more?
  • Could it be more than one piece, more then one artist?

Are there any particular skills you need the artist to have apart from their art-form expertise?

  • The ability to manage other artists on the same project.
  • Experience of running workshops for the community or other professionals.
  • Knowledge of community consultation projects.
  • Experience of collaborating with professionals in other sectors e.g. teachers, youth workers, health workers.
  • Communication and presentation skills.
  • Experience or willingness to deal with press and other media.
  • Health and Safety awareness
  • Technical skills
  • Experience of similar projects, with partners (ie. local authority)

The choice of artist and type of work will of course depend on….where you want it.

What are the nature, restrictions and requirements of the site?

  • Should the work be temporary or permanent?
  • Is the artwork to be installed inside or outside?
  • If interior, what are the lighting conditions?
  • What are the restrictions on scale or position?
  • If exterior, what sort of weather conditions will it have to withstand?
  • If it’s a ‘permanent’ piece how long will it be expected it to last?
  • Is there a large throughput of people?
  • Are there any access issues?
  • Will the work be subject to potential damage from vandals?
  • Is there a need or opportunity for community consultation?
  • Will the piece be easily visible or will people need help to find it?
  • If it’s a performance or temporary installation what permissions or licenses might be required?
  • If it’s a permanent exterior sculpture is planning permission necessary?
  • Are there other partners you and the artist will need to work with?
  • Will the work encourage or require interaction from an audience?
  • Will the artist work on site, in the local community, in their studio or a combination of these?
  • Will the artist be expected to be available to or work with the public?
  • What are the health and safety issues or risks connected with installing the work?

When does all this need to be ready by?

You will need to plan a timeline to consider installation periods, advertising and selection periods, as well as production periods.

Still unsure?
You could undertake some consultation at this stage either yourself or with the help of a public art consultant or experienced artist if you have funds available. An informal discussion with colleagues or other arts professionals, including artists can be useful at this stage but you should try to avoid demanding too much unpaid time from artists in developing the project.

…Let the artists solve the problem
It may be that you still don’t know what kind of work you want and there may be a number of possible limitations within your chosen site. Artists are creative problem-solvers. Provided you can clearly describe the site and the context, invite artists to offer a solution. Many artists will value the chance to respond to an open brief.


Your colleagues in the Arts Office at Hampshire County Council have significant knowledge and expertise in this area and also know who else in the County Council has useful experience to pass on. Use the web. If it’s visual arts you are interested in talk to curators in regional galleries, many galleries both public and commercial have web sites with examples of work to fire your imagination. Winchester School of Art has an extensive library with an excellent collection of books, current and archived magazines.

If you do know what the work is likely to be and exactly where it is likely to be located then you could undertake a risk assessment at this point. This can then feed into the budget in relation to insurance costs. If not then it can be done once the brief is developed.

Consultation, Documentation and Evaluation

We have briefly considered consultation but what about documenting and evaluating the project. This is important to both you and your colleagues in learning from your project and is also important to any external funders who may be involved. The process can be undertaken by you, the artist or perhaps an external evaluator. You don’t need to decide yet but do give it some thought at this stage.

Work by Tina Wallbridge



  • Directors of the Regional Galleries eg. Aspex, John Hansard Gallery, ArtSway, Winchester Gallery
  • Public Art Officer Arts Council England South East