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Torbay Connected

Commissioning an artist or creative

Torbay Connected promotes the use of artists and artworks in an integrated way to reinforce place and local area identity, assist orientation, wayfinding and sustainable patterns of movement. This is a different approach to traditional art commissioning, and one that will make a real difference to the way the Bay is perceived. It provides a focus for work and critically functions for the benefit of business, transport, culture, tourism and local people.

The selection of an artist or craftsperson should be an intriguing and exciting task but it can also be fraught with difficulties.  The advice below sets out some of the common issues that will need to be thought about when commissioning the work or artist’s work in the public realm.

The approach we are taking with Torbay Connected recognizes the need for the work of artists to be embedded within the wider urban design framework and particularly that of promoting natural legibility. 



When embarking upon any sort of commission is it essential to identify clearly the aims of the commission and establish a clear strategy or commissioning plan. Unless the commissioner is experienced in this area, it is recommended that professional advice is sought at the earliest stage. By involving an art consultant, agency or lead artist, the commissioner will benefit from specialist advice which can help identify the conceptual framework for the commissioning plan, methods of selection, implementation and the budget required. They can also assist with things like sources of funding and can undertake project management.

Be clear about the aims of the commission and what you hope to achieve by it and how in this context the work will add to the understanding and experience of place.  Consult widely with all those who will be affected by it. Establish the ownership of the site and whether planning permission will be needed. All permissions and restrictions must be known and be made clear to the artists. Consider scale, materials suitable for the site, special requirements and what advance preparation the site will require. Will the commission be permanent or temporary? Will the budget for the commission cover installation costs, related groundwork, landscaping or lighting requirements? A successful commission can take a long time to complete and allowing a realistic timescale for consultation and for the artist to develop the work is essential.

Clearly establish the role of the artist(s). Are artists to be part of a design team, to undertake a residency with a community building or public space, to create work on or off-site etc? Adopt a flexible approach to the methods which can be employed to undertake the commission.

Identify the selection process to be used and who will participate in the process. It is essential that all those who will be in a position to say 'yes' to the final design are involved from the outset - from the drawing up of the brief through to the final selection. This group, the steering or management group, should represent users, community, as well as the commissioner and funders. It should be a manageable group, which has the ability to remain involved throughout the whole process. Often it is also beneficial to have an independent opinion in the form of a professional public art consultant and/or artist.

Establish the budget and make sure it is confirmed. If the budget is not identified or if there is some doubt about the security of the budget, always let the potential candidates know. However, do not embark on a project when there are no funds available to pay for the initial design fees and expenses of artists. The budget should include:

*  advertising and selection costs

*  artist's design fees (set at an equitable level with other professionals)

*  exhibition costs (if client wishes to exhibit designs and maquettes for comment or information)

*  artist's commission fee - this should be equivalent to other design professionals involved (clarify the artist's tax status).

*  materials and fabrication costs - the artist's fee and materials budget does not necessarily have to be specified by the client; it can be left to the artist to identify their fee and material costs within the whole budget

*  travelling and workshop expenses

insurance/Public Liability costs

*  installation (site preparation, running electricity, water to site, landscaping, extra labour etc.)

*  transport and security costs

*  professional fees and legal costs

*  consultation costs

*  publicity, documentation and inauguration costs

*  maintenance costs

*  VAT

*  contingency

*  evaluation costs.

*  documentation


Managing the Commissioning Process

It is essential that the commission is overseen and monitored by a client or management group. This group could comprise members representing the community, the commissioner, funders, arts expertise in the form of an independent public art consultant and/or artist and other interested parties. The group should include the person responsible for the implementation of the commissioning process, who is the link person for the artist. Often, this role is undertaken by a public art consultant or lead artist.


Developing the Brief

The brief should include the following:

*  aims and objectives of the commission

*  context, history of project, maps, drawings, special requirements etc.

*  description of artist's role

*  details of the project team and their roles and responsibilities (including specialist project management for the commission)

*  description of site and conditions (take into account accessibility, impact, safety and financial implications and, where possible, involve the artist in selecting the site)

*  degree of community participation, who will manage the process etc

*  timetable and phasing, including deadline, short-listing and interview date (if applicable)

*  budget

*  planning permissions required

*  description of and criteria for selection process

*  maintenance and durability requirement and who will be responsible for maintenance

*  artist's copyright position and clarification of ownership of work

*  documentation required or planned

*  any review period planned

*  decommissioning policy.


Research and Selection Methods

The way in which artists are identified depends on the nature and scope of the commission.

To find a suitable artist:

*  consult registers and online resources such as Axis

*  work with a public art consultant

*  talk to the Arts Council's regional specialist officer or designated agency and gallery director or public art organisations, all of whom will be able to suggest artists and places to see

*  research case studies and websites of other initiatives and developments which match your aspirations

*  consult catalogues, books, art magazines

*  go and see exhibitions, galleries, sculpture parks and trails

* visit artists' studios

Once information has been compiled, make a long list of artists/craftspeople whose work is interesting and appropriate. Keep an open mind - artists are versatile and usually prefer to be in a pro-active situation, where they can offer ideas on the site, use of materials and perhaps move into an area of work that is new to their practice. It may be possible to borrow slides from the artists to take to committee meetings or community groups for local consultation.

There are three main ways of selecting an artist:

*  an open competition - inviting artists/craftspeople to submit applications

*  a limited competition - compiling a selected short list from which a limited number of artists can be invited to work up proposals

*  a direct invitation to an artist to propose work for a site, or participate in the design process, or act as lead artist.


Advertising the commission: Arts Council England offer a service called ‘arts jobs’: this is a free online service which details current vacancies and opportunities in the arts community. The website is Another principal publication where commissions are advertised is a-n magazine, published monthly, and on their website. Visit for details. Axis also offer an opportunities section. Their website is Local papers should also be used and, if the budget allows, a small advertisement in the Guardian ( Make use of studio networks, artist-run organisations and membership organisations, all of whom would be able to circulate information.


The Consultation Process

One of the main benefits of working with artists is their use of unconventional approaches to developing ideas and concepts.  These are often based in research and consultation with users and the public.  Allow enough time and opportunity for this practice to take place as it often yield remarkable results connecting a wider scheme into its physical, social and cultural context.

Some form of consultation is always necessary. A commission should not exist as an isolated process, which then suddenly appears on site. The location itself will very much define the sort of consultation required - work within a housing scheme will require different consultation compared to work being created for new business premises or a new theatre or community hall. Consultation can:

*  result in wider sense of ownership and understanding of the project

*  create a sense of pride and raise awareness/appreciation of the locality

*  provide opportunities to develop and utilise local skills

*  provide a means by which the community can have control over its environment

The above are by no means definitive lists. They are simply intended to demonstrate the importance of establishing a consultation process.



Contracts should always be clearly agreed and issued prior to any work taking place. It is essential that the client and artist have had an opportunity to discuss and agree a mutually acceptable contract.

Areas for consideration should include:

*  overall timetable stages

*  definition of involved parties, names and addresses

*  details of the commission, the design stages and the artist's brief

*  the responsibilities of the commissioner/design team (e.g. site preparation, planning consents and approvals)

*  delivery of work, installation and insurance requirements including professional indemnity

*  warranties and repairs

*  fees and methods of payment

*  ownership

*  risk of loss or damage

*  maintenance agreement including health and safety surveys

*  review and decommissioning policy

*  copyright, reproduction rights, credits and moral rights

*  relocation

*  termination of agreement

*  disputes procedure

*  role of consultant (if applicable)

*  schedule of work

*  confirmation of budget (construction budget if applicable) and budget holder (if not the artist).


Documentation and Evaluation

It is important to build in some sort of documentation and evaluation process. This not only ensures that a detailed record of the project is available for future reference; it also helps promote the project wider afield. Also by comparing the actual chain of events with the planned, it will be easier to undertake an evaluation of the project. By carrying out a full evaluation, the commissioner can demonstrate to all parties involved, including funding partners, the success of the project, learn from the process and plan confidently for future projects.


Insurance, Maintenance and Decommissioning

It is important to set up mechanisms to cover insurance and maintenance of the completed commission at the outset and to obtain the resources and agreement of those who will be involved in carrying out this work, especially as this aspect can be time consuming.

Decommissioing should be considered at the outset of the process and a factor to be considered when determining the expected or proposed lifespan of the commissioned work reflected, which is then also reflected in the brief, commissioning contract and the selection criteria. Further advice on decommissioning can be found in a paper by Hazel Colquhoun Be Prepared. Decommissioning public art and Canterbury City Council's Decommissioning Public Art: A Policy for East Kent Local Authorities.

Further information can be found at:  (credit acknowledged for partial use of information above on commissioning)



Text panels by Phil Smith and Mark Luck, Royal Terrace Gardens

Cast relief wall acting as a waymarking mechanism, Haddington

Wall detailing by Gillian Forbes

Byre Theartre door detailing by Hamid van Koten

Lighting column by KRAS Design

Water above Water by Leni Swchendinger

Telescope by Peter McCaughey

Railings by Adam Booth
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