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8 Tips For Bringing Public Art To Your Small Town

You live in a rural place. Chances are, you travel to purchase your major supplies or you order some of your goods online. Your local coffeehouse or diner is a central gathering space. You read your local newspaper alongside national news, and you know most of the people who populate the stories. You choose to live in this place purposefully – maybe your family has history in this community. You weigh in on local issues because your voice counts. For all of these reasons and more, your rural location is perfect for placemaking and public art. Public art and art-making are community-based – informed, supported, and enriched by local participation.

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Jackson Hole Public Art / Via

1. Map It!

Map the places in your community that could benefit from a creative intervention. Make a list of underutilized spaces, sites targeted for new development, areas slated for public or private capital projects, and document existing artworks within your community. These are your places of possibility!

2. Create your action team (A TEAM)

Take inventory – identify the artists, makers, and creative entrepreneurs in your town, your region, and your state. Assemble an Action TEAM (A TEAM) selected for their diverse professional backgrounds and their interest in improving public places through art and thoughtful design.

3. Create Place

Start small before you go big. Begin with low cost, highly visible temporary installations like hosting a PARK(ing) Day event, or uber functional items like artist-designed manhole covers and benches.

4. Make your Case!

Define the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your project, to create a case study, a document you can present to elected officials, potential funders and key stakeholders. This document outlines your mission, vision, and goals for your program or project and is an important communication piece.

5. Fund it!

Building relationships is the heart of all potential funding. Start building relationships with individuals, and local businesses. Research grant opportunities, explore crowdsouring, and maybe even hold a fundraiser.

6. Amplify It

Have a clear, compelling and memorable message you can say about your project in one sentence. Show people examples of similar projects in other communities. Share visuals of the artist’s work, concept drawings, images of related projects that you’ve discovered, your town’s current artworks on social media channels and through newsletters.

7. Commission it!

This is where you get to put your temporary art making practice to the test...

Commissioning a permanent work requires significant funding, a clearly articulated process, and a plan to engage the community every step of the way and technical expertise.

8. Early integration of the artist onto the design team is key!
Artist selection process should be started well before (one year) the construction process. Integrate your public art into the construction schedule so you prove to be reliable and budget conscious.

For all these steps and more tips, check out our POP Toolkit for Public Art and Placemaking projects in rural towns!

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