Public Art Research Archive, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Document by David Alston, Deputy Director of Arts, looking at policy for Art in Public Places. Probably written in 1986.

A Policy Statement


A commitment by the Labour Group in Council to the promotion of the philosophy and practice of Art in Public Places has formed part of successive policy manifestos since 1983/84. This paper draws some of the threads together and envisages how this policy can be progressed.

Art in Public Places

  • Art as part of the environment spells environmental improvement. It means revitalisation. It creates interest. It provides a human touch. It engages people.
  • Art involves the community. Many commissions and their context help the collectivity to find expression to give expression to identity, to feel part of something.
  • Art employs. Art talents, trained professional talents, are under used in society. At the same time, old skills and crafts are being lost.
  • Art helps investment. It is a sign of a place being alive and not barren.
  • Art content in cities and environments helps produce more relaxed spaces, and promotes a more public touristic atmosphere.

The current situation

The Arts Department has pursued activities such as Touring Exhibitions, Artist Placement Schemes and is currently exploring new possibilities for Art in Schools. In addition to this the City's Art Acquisition Fund has adopted a dual role of both adding to the Art Galleries' permanent collections (its traditional and vital role) and funding more Art in Public Places and projects eg the siting of works by George Fullard, the encouragement of such schemes as the Bassetts' Purchase Commissions 1986, the co-funding of the Steelworker project, the co-funding of current Leadmill commissions.

Until the current year Land and Planning have operated a facilitating fund which has enabled projects such as the Steelworker to go ahead.

Furthermore there are specific recommendations in respect of the Central Area Plan for the city which under the heading Community, Recreation and Tourism seek to promote art content in the city centre.

No other council agencies have, to our knowledge, adopted strategies or policies designed to promote the arts as an ingredient of the environment though policy groups and officers involved with the Lower Don Valley have sought advice and involvement from the Arts Department on occasion.

The Future

The resolve to further Art in Public Places, if it is to be upheld by the Council, needs greater corporate promotion. Art in Public Places cannot be a council policy promoted solely by the Arts Department. Its benefits and practice need to be taken up by other council departments and in the developing forums where the council acts in partnership.


  1. The Council's adoption of the principle of the idea of % for Art and its application to capital schemes, developments, and renovations and new-build, whether council or private sector led, or partner ship inspired. The Arts Department and the Public Arts Working Party would act as an information bank for applying % for Art to schemes. For % for Art to be effective there has to be involvement at early planning stages. % for Art involves the commitment to funding an art content to a building project and this is expressed as a percentage of the total cost of a scheme, with the idea of 1% as a guideline. The Council should endorse this policy.
  2. By the use and promotion of possibilities for art content in schemes by exploiting planning gain and Section 52 of the Planning Act. This would essentially involve giving attention to the desirability of art in any plan ned development at the stage of creating planning briefs. It obviously hinges on mutual agreement between parties involved in any particular development. The Council should use Section 52 to this end.
  3. By maximising the dialogue between the Regional Arts Association, its client body Public Arts, the relevant City Council departments and the developers and architectural consultants employed on schemes in the city. Liaison work of a formal nature is needed with any present or future urban development bodies and their advisory bodies to promote Art in Public Places.


It is proposed that Programme Committees throughout the Council note this report and endorse numbered paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 to further council policy in respect of Art in Public Places.

David Alston
Deputy Director of Arts

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