Public Art Funding

The following public art funding guidelines written by Ian Banks are an illustration of writing included in the publication guide ‘Public Art Northwest’. It was developed by him in 2003 whilst acting as ‘Public Art & Architecture Officer’ at Arts Council England NW. Whilst in post, Ian also worked in conjunction with key stakeholders North West Development Agency to produce their strategy and guide to NW regional public art and its potential funding. Major projects part-funded via this NWDA vehicle whilst Ian was in post (2000-2004) included a varied range of regional projects, including such examples as B of the Bang in Manchester by Thomas Heatherwick, They Shoot Horses Dont They in Blackpool by Michael Trainor and Arena in Salford by Rita McBride. This funding programme effectively ended in 2005 and of course all the Regional Development Agencies were disbanded in 2007.

Northwest Development Agency Public Art Funding: Guidelines for Commissioning Agencies and promoters

Why is the Northwest Development Agency supporting public art?

The North West Development Agency (NWDA), working closely with Arts Council England, the Cultural Consortium, England’s Northwest and the RIBA,  is keen to provide support and advice to encourage the creation of high quality public art in the region.

The Northwest Development Agency believes strongly that public art can contribute to the achievement of its Regional Strategy Objectives.  In particular public art can help to

  • Renew and transform urban and rural areas, both developed and regenerating
  • Restore the environmental deficit through regenerating areas of dereliction and by investing in the highest quality environmental assets
  • Project a positive image, reinforcing strong regional brands and countering negative stereotypes
  • Promote high standards of design, landscaping and architecture by creating or adding to distinctive public spaces, environments and buildings
  • Encourage further investment, tourism and employment

What do we mean by Public Art?

Public art encompasses all the art forms, including the visual arts, performance, music, video and new media.  The prime requirement is that projects   or events are publicly accessible and site specific, designed for a particular place at a particular time. Projects may be permanently or temporarily sited and locations can include the interiors of buildings, the spaces around them, parks and waterways as well as the rural environment. Increasingly, public art is   moving into new technologies and includes the use of light and projected images.

Artists should have as much freedom as possible to respond to sites and possibilities in their own way; briefs should be open, not prescriptive. Their work may mirror and interpret the environment of the place and this can sometimes include exploring difficult or sensitive issues.

Increasingly public art   overlaps into the related disciplines of architecture, urban design, community participation and regeneration.  This collaboration does not necessarily have to result in a ‘work of art’.  Artists working alongside other professionals and designers can contribute their conceptual and practical skills to the creation of buildings, other structures and public spaces.

Public art can have a part to play in the regeneration of communities.  It can involve a process that encourages local people to embrace new ideas and skills, develop a sense of ownership and to engage in decisions about their locality.

Who can apply for assistance? 

Any individual or organisation proposing a substantial public art project within England’s Northwest can apply.  That includes local authorities, local strategic partnerships, public-private sector collaborations, private companies, community-led initiatives and individual artists.

What things may be supported?

Support can be given for

  • Permanent or temporary works in public places or publicly accessible places
  • Work in any medium; proposals including use of modern techniques and technologies are welcomed
  • Work that contributes to architectural quality or public realm design including the early involvement of artists in design teams
  • Projects that promote good practice and wider knowledge and expertise in public art in the region
  • Applications focusing on marketing, promotion and curatorship of public art in the Northwest that reflect Arts Council England’s development priorities for arts and artists from ethnic minority communities, from low income neighbourhoods and people with disabilities

How much can be applied for?

There are no upper or lower limits to how much may be applied for. NWDA support will not normally meet 100% of the costs of any proposal.  Applicants are strongly advised to seek partnership funding (including in-kind support) and demonstrate other ways of earning income, which should be fully noted and explained in your budget.

Criteria by which your application will be assessed

To qualify for support a proposal must show:

  1.  The proposed work will be of the highest artistic quality, as judged by the Panel.  The Panel favours work that is innovative, striking, challenging and ambitious in its vision.
  2. The project will be viable, both technically and financially
  3. The applicant has the ability to develop, manage and sustain the project
  4. There is public benefit for the community, for example through improvement to the image of an area or the creation of a draw for visitors or investors

In addition, it is desirable that proposals meet all or many of the following criteria:

  • Appropriate arrangements are in place for consultation and/or communication with the local community and other stakeholders
  • The location is in or near an area of priority for regeneration investment
  • The work can help to develop a positive image for the location and preferably is part of a coordinated programme of public art, cultural or other regeneration projects, intended to shift perceptions about an area
  • A public art work is likely to be viewed by a very large number of people, possibly due to its prominent location or linkage with other pieces of public art in a cluster or trail
  • The immediate local environment is capable of absorbing the anticipated number of visitors without undue harm to ecology
  • The local infrastructure can cope with the extra visitors
  • The project is part of a longer term development plan for public art that will develop a critical mass of pieces and expertise.
  • Public art works are integrated into a broad design strategy which tackles the whole environment of an area
  • the project directly or indirectly supports and develops the very best emerging artistic talent in englandsnorthwest, including enabling artists to find a first step on the ladder
  • The project follows good commissioning practice
  • Other potential funding sources are exploited in the most appropriate way

Your proposal will be assessed against these criteria but NWDA recognises that some strong proposals may go against the grain and wishes to encourage originality and breadth of vision.

How to apply and how your application will be assessed

Applications can be made at any time.  In the first instance contact should be made with Arts Council England, Public Art and Architecture Officer Ian Banks, Arts Council England, 22 Bridge Street, Manchester M3 3AB. Tel: 0161 834 6644 Email:  You will be encouraged to take your application through a two-stage process. There is an application form for each of the stages.

The first stage, which is optional, asks you to submit an outline of your ideas and objectives with indications of likely cost and timescale.  This allows you to be given guidance as to   whether the proposal is likely to meet funding priorities before you spend significant time and money on the project. It is possible that   some development funding for the project will be granted if that is essential.  Neither a first stage approval nor development funding guarantees that you will receive full approval and a grant for your project.

Your second stage or full application will need to give sufficient detail of design, location, budget (capital and revenue costs and sources of funds) and project management for a decision to be made based on how well it meets the   objectives and priorities of the scheme.

NWDA Appraisal Procedure

Formally both first and second stage applications must be appraised   through the North West Development Agency’s   procedures. A ‘Project Champion’ within the Agency, normally a member of an Area Team, will look at your project and present the application, and an appraisal will be made by a member of the Central Regeneration Team.  Less formally the Public Art and Architecture Officer is able to give assistance in the development of your project. Your application will be assessed by an expert panel consisting of representatives of   NWDA, North West Arts, the North West Cultural Consortium and invited agencies and individuals with experience in public art, which will make its recommendations to the NWDA.

The time-scale for decision-making

Written notification of the decision on a stage one outline application will normally be given within 4 weeks of the formal application.

The outcome of a second stage or full application will normally be confirmed in writing within 12 weeks of the formal application.

Useful links:

North West Development Agency  

Arts Council England                        

Cultural Consortium                          

Liverpool Vision                                 

New East Manchester                       

Liverpool & M/c Design Initiative     

Design Bank                                       

AXIS – UK artist database                

European portal on public art           

UK Arts and Business Agency        

NW Arts and Business Agency       

Regional Public Art Projects

Irwell Sculpture Trail                          

Great Promenade Show                   

Tern Project                                         

Biennial, Liverpool                             

Manchester Architrek                        


Categories: Writing

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