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Show Me the Money! Public Art Budgets

In this top tip post, we will help with a much-maligned part of the public art concept development process: developing a budget.

Although this task can seem daunting, boring, or even down-right sleep inducing, it is a critical part of your concept development and can assist to push your creative ideas forward. It’s also good to remember that a well thought through budget could just be the thing that separates you from your competitors and lands you the gig.

You will often see project briefs with wording such as “the budget is inclusive of all artist fees, concept and design development, travel, prototyping, visualisations, specialist consultant fees, fabrication and installation, and miscellaneous costs”, but what do all these components mean?

Let’s break it down using a hypothetical budget of a nice round figure of $100,000. You will usually start with an estimated budget and refine your budget lines as you receive quotes or estimates from your suppliers.

*Please note the following percentages are a starting guide only. Each project will be unique in its requirements and needs, as will your concept, so keep coming back to your budget lines as the quotes come in and new components are added or taken away during concept development. Always get a few quotes from different fabricators etc to ensure that you are getting the best product/service/price.

Sample Public Art Budget $100,000 Project

Note – this example does not include the initial concept design fee which is often paid to 3 or more artists and is usually between 1% to 5% of the overall commission cost.

  • Artist Design and Project Management Fee (20%) $20,000.00

Includes artist design fee and costs of managing the project. You need to decide if this amount is to include your superannuation or if this will be included as a separate line item. Either way artists need to retire too, so make sure you have 9.5% of the Artist Design and Project Management Fee allocated for superannuation. In this example we have included super of $1,900.00 that you will need to pay into your super account yourself.

The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) publish a list of expected artist fees that you can consult if you are unsure about fees in relation to your level of experience.

For larger projects artists often employ a dedicated project manager which is worth considering depending on your skills, experience, and time commitments.

  • Fabrication (30%) $30,000.00

This can be paid to the fabricator(s) hired by the you or paid to yourself and any studio assistants who complete the fabrication, or a combination. Here we have included the cost of fabrication or design drawings, but you may like to separate this cost into another line item. These drawings are the translation of your artistic concept to a measured and precise technical drawing that can be used by the fabricator to ensure they meet your design specifications.

The cost of fabrication is often the most significant expense when creating a public artwork and should be carefully considered as part of you concept development. It is tempting to think that creating a bigger public artwork might get you the job, but an experienced selection panel will know what is feasible to produce within the allocated budget so be careful to be realistic about your scale, material choice and fabrication methods. A tight budget can help you make some tough concept development decisions. Project commissioners should want you to make a reasonable fee for work, anything less reflects poorly on the project and on them.

  • Installation (20%) $20,000.00

This is a budget item that can really blow out if you do not know what is needed, so it is a good idea to check with the commissioner or project manager for advice on specific site requirements and equipment. Here you should include all costs associated with site preparation, transportation of artwork, installation of artwork, lighting etc. Somethings to consider include: What size vehicle will you need? What is the access to the site? Will you need a crane? Will you need temporary fencing, cones, or barriers during the installation? Will you need to close a road or pedestrian area and employ traffic management? What permits are required? Will the commissioner provide any equipment, staff, or assistance? This last item is worth asking especially if you are commissioned by a local council as they often have some resources available.

  • Insurance (5%) $5,000.00

Types of insurance that you may need include public liability, professional indemnity, travel insurance, artwork insurance etc.

  • Artist Travel and Accommodation (5%) $5,000.00

Keep in mind not only how local you are to the site but also how you will travel to visit your fabricator, commissioner, funder, or other activities associated with the project.

  • Professional Consultant Fees (5-10%) $6,000.00

It takes a village to make a successful public artwork happen, the types of consultants you may employ include: an engineer and/or architect for calculations, design, approvals, or construction drawings; a building surveyor to approve any construction or change to existing building; a lighting consultant; a material conservator to assess your maintenance plan.

  • Documentation of Artwork (1%) $1,000.00

It is essential to engage a high-quality photographer or videographer to document projects so that you have the best possible still or moving images of the work to add to your portfolio.

  • Signage, Educational Materials and Programs (3%) $3,000.00

Depending on your project concept or what the commissioner will provide, you may like to commission a writer to produce an essay on the project, set up a website, or produce a display sign if this is not provided.

  • Contingency (10% of Budget) $10,000.00

A fund to pay for unforeseen costs or changes associated with the artwork. This is an essential and often overlooked item, which will protect the project from unexpected financial hiccups.


Remember review, review, and review your budget again and again, as you develop your concept. Budgets must be carefully considered, realistic and tightly managed to ensure that your project run as planned, artists fees are protected, and best outcomes achieved.

*DISCLAIMER: These blog posts are written by T Projects and are not necessarily reflective of the position or opinions of any of our clients


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