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Appointing Artists – A peek behind the scenes

Appointing Artists – A peek behind the scenes

This month we delve into what goes on behind the scenes when finding the right artist for our clients.

Published date: 25 April 2022

Experience has taught us to consider each project with the individuality it deserves. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to artist selection.

The most important part commissioning an artist is to take time to consider the right fit, the experience required and maintaining as open a brief as possible whilst considering the requirements of the client team. Over the last couple of months we’ve used three different methods to appoint a range of artists, which are worth sharing:

Open Call – We recently advertised for a Principal Artist for a Major Urban Park. We were looking for an artist skilled in working with a design team at the very start of a project to assist in developing a public art plan to add a sense of place and purpose to the site, identifying areas for commissioning permanent public art works. The landscape architect and client joined us in the interview process.

An open call is targeted at specialist platforms for artists where we invite expressions of interest. It’s a good opportunity to discover new talent and diverse responses.

Longlist/Shortlist – one of the best parts of our jobs is researching artists, either seeing work in the flesh, discovering new talent on Instagram or disappearing into a Pinterest wormhole. A current public realm project has specific criteria to create a traditional, figurative, bronze sculpture. In this instance we invited a longlist to consider the brief before submitting an Expression of Interest. It can be difficult judging purely from a paper application and websites. So, three artists have been shortlisted and paid an honorarium to work up their proposals. We will let you know the outcome next month! This approach works well for projects where an artist with a particular skillset or experience in a specific medium is required.

Direct Approach – some projects have a very clear direction and require knowledge of practising artists that will be right for a project. In this scenario we know the right person for the job as soon as we have written the brief. Quite often there may be a local artist who has a natural affiliation with the area and is already knowledgeable of, and sympathetic to, the location.

We have two projects on the go at the moment where we have used the direct approach, one is to commission a standalone artwork in the middle of a village green, the other is to use community engagement as a tool to generate ideas for the public art. On both occasions we reached out to artists that we knew of or had worked with and know would be suitable.

Deciding on the best way to appoint an artist may not always be clear – FrancisKnight can advise on the best way forward, managing the entire process, while bringing our own artist network and years of experience to add additional value.

To learn more about working with us, view our full Process Map and download our free series of guides on Demystifying Public Art

For any artists interested in working with us on future projects – please contact us

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