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Top tips for artists #3 - Public Art Concept Designs

We continue our top tips for artists. Previously we have discussed things to consider in written applications and the best visual content to submit, next we move onto concept design. This is the stage where a small number of preferred artists are selected and paid a fee to create a concept that outlines their proposed artwork for the final public art commission.



Artists should never be asked to create a concept without a fee. Expressions of Interest will not have fees at the submission stage, however these should require the artists to spend as little time as possible on their application and should not include concept development. Never jump ahead and spend time developing a concept without being asked to do so, this is a waste of your time and you have no legal agreement in place to protect your intellectual property.


Concept design submissions mean that you have made it over the first hurdle of the commissioning process. You are likely to have started in a project longlist – this is all the potential artists under consideration. The long list is then taken down to a shortlist, from the shortlist the concept artists are selected. There are usually anywhere between three (procurement minimum) to five artists (soemtimes there are more) who will be developing concepts. Always remember that this is a highly competitive process and only one person wins the commission, so it's vitally important to give this your very best shot, no shortcuts, no copy and paste...


Concept submissions should include


· An introduction to you and your artistic practice, include all career highlights to date and all relevant information to the project.


· Your conceptual response to the art commission brief. This is a written response that describes your ideas and vision for the commission.


· Visualisations – images of your concept, these can be drawings, CAD drawings, 3D renders, models or maquettes, CGI imagery, photography, moving image, VR/AR or other media. 'Back of a envelope' quality scribbles are not acceptable at all and will only make your submission look amateur.


· Proposed fabrication methodology. This is where you describe how the artwork will be made and you can include details of preferred suppliers, engineers, fabricators etc. You need to have a clear intention regarding fabrication at this stage, vague details will only raise red flags to commissioners.


· Overview of artwork materials which clearly demonstrates your understanding of suitable materials for the location. The requirements around suitable materials can vary depending on the final location for the artwork. Public artworks have to be extremely durable and safe, weatherproof if located outdoors.


Materials have to adhere to health and safety and fire regulations. These requirements can become even more stringent in complex locations such as train stations.


Healthcare settings have the additional requirement that all materials have to meet infection prevention and control regulations and specialist advice should be sought around what is acceptable for the settings.


· Maintenance and servicing requirements anticipated for the proposed artwork, this is where you must outline cleaning and maintenance requirements.


· Detailed budget including Artists fees (inclusive of superannuation); Visualisations and prototyping; fabrication; installation; all drawings and associated documentation; all professional advice and services such as architects, engineers, lighting specialists and legal representatives; insurance; contingencies (usually around 10%) and miscellaneous costs

· A timetable that estimates the design, fabrication and production periods

Dependent on your technical abilities you may not be able to create all of the visualisations yourself, but always remember that this is a highly competitive process and other artists producing concepts are likely to have invested in some professional assistance to produce architectural renders which clearly shown how you envisage the final artwork to look within the specified location. You might also want to consider working with a graphic designer to assist you to create a final concept submission. These are all valuable investments which will give you the best chance of securing the comission.


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