February 8, 2011

Proposed Bill would Eliminate State’s % for Art Program

In late January, Senator Doyle of the 9th District proposed Bill 148
An Act Eliminating the Requirement for the Purchase of Artwork for State Building Projects

The bill recommends that the general statutes be amended to repeal the requirement that the State Bond Commission allocate from the proceeds of state bonds on percent of the total estimated cost of the construction, reconstruction or remodeling of a state building for the purchase of artwork.

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A Case for Public Art in Connecticut

Administered, by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Art in Public Spaces Program Connecticut’s Art in Public Spaces program was established by the General Assembly in 1978, the Art in Public Spaces program requires that not less than 1% of the cost of construction or renovation of publicly accessible state buildings be allocated for the commission or purchase of artwork for that building. Over 300 works have been commissioned since the program’s inception. The works represent a wide variety of media, including sculpture, wall relief, environmental installation, painting, and photography; and range in scale from works on paper to monumental murals.

The purpose of the Art in Public Spaces program is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with an improved public environment by investing in creative works of high quality for public buildings. The program adds visibility to the cultural heritage of the state and its people. To date, the Connecticut program has resulted in 318 projects created by 199 artists in 61 towns. To see the towns and projects, visit

The Art in Public Spaces program has employed 90 Connecticut artists. In addition to employing artists, the commissioned artist frequently contract additional employees hiring fabricators, studio assistants, structural engineers, electricians, architects, installers etc. Artists who receive commissions purchase project materials from Connecticut businesses. They buy paint, granite, glass, stone, steel, light fixtures and more.


Public art is more than just art installed in public spaces. Public art, at its best, is a mirror that reflects local environments, cultural values, and the artistic vitality of the community in which it is placed. Integrated into the design and construction of either exterior or interior projects, or created as a stand-alone objects, public art is planned and developed in response to a particular context or place and is site-specific – created for the specific conditions of the place in which it resides. Public art makes sense of communities by creating landmarks, directional elements, and defining neighborhoods and districts. Public art’s “placemaking” builds livable communities and contributes to the distinctiveness of a place.


Public art:

  • Creates jobs and stimulates business activity. Public art brings substantial economic benefits. According to the Public Art Network of Americans for the Arts, ten (10) jobs are supported by every public artwork commissioned. These include artists, designers, architects, engineers, fabricators, material suppliers, installers, and various types of assistants, to name a few. Public artworks require transportation, site preparation, lighting, landscaping, insurance, and a host of services from small businesses. The creation and installation of a public artwork is a dynamic contributor to small business development. Notable among the beneficiaries are the creative industries made up of talented workers who are self-employed artists and free-lancers or free-lancers employed by micro-enterprises.

    The maintenance and restoration of installed artworks provides an additional economic stimulus, generating business for suppliers, conservators, fabricators, artists, and others.

  • Boosts cultural tourism. A Public Art Network Issue Paper published in 2004 by Americans for the Arts (AFTA) points out that “Many cities, counties, and regions have, over the years, acquired large collections of artworks in the public realm. These form part of the cultural assets that attract visitors to the region, making a significant contribution to the local economy. A diverse range of artwork in the collection by artists of regional, national, and international stature is important to establish a noteworthy collection that will serve as cultural destinations.”
  • Attracts and retains creative people. According to the Public Art Network of AFTA, colleges and universities report that public artwork has a positive influence on student morale, stimulates creativity and innovation, and contributes to student learning. Public artwork attracts creative individuals and helps recruiting efforts on college campuses. The presence of art work communicates a sense of pride and a college or university’s competitive edge and helps attract and retain a creative and high-quality student body
  • Enhances our public buildings and improves the quality of life for our citizens. Artwork brings public spaces to life. It improves the visual quality and appearance of public environments and buildings and contributes to the prestige of a community. Public artwork makes government buildings and public university campuses attractive places to work, live, and visit.
  • Defines the identity of a place and reveals the distinct character of a community. Works of public art are symbols of the creative energy and artistic vision of a place. They express the soul of a community. Public art tells a community’s story and reminds residents and visitors of what makes a place special. A community with public works of art has invested in its identity and cultural heritage.
  • Engages broad segments of a community in the acquisition of artwork. The planning, selection, and commissioning of artwork is a broad-based collaborative process that brings together facility planners, site-based administrators, artists, architects, engineers, arts professionals, and civic and community representatives. The process fosters relationships, resolves problems, and builds consensus.
  • Is engaging and accessible to all. Public art is for all to experience and enjoy. It delights. It captivates. It brings us into a state of focused attention. It can inspire awe and bring out deep emotion and satisfaction. Public art opens new ways of seeing and understanding the world. Public works of art stimulate the appreciation of art by Connecticut citizens.
  • Contributes to the sustainability of the built environment. Public art, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, can have a functional purpose. When fully integrated into the site, it can incorporate sustainable features that contribute to energy conservation, water drainage, and solar conduction.


The percent-for-art concept dates back to the New Deal and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture established in 1934. The program set aside approximately 1 percent of the cost of federal building for “artistic adornment.” In addition to securing high-quality art for public buildings, the Section was committed to stimulating a “democratic” appreciation of art by the American people.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (changed to Works Project Administration in 1939) to employ artists and utilize their talent and skills to enhance the built environment for the benefit of the public, the economy, and artists themselves. Today twenty-seven states and over 300 municipalities legislatively allocate some portion of building costs for art acquisition.

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Connecticut Arts Alliance

The Connecticut Arts Alliance (CAA) was founded in 2005 as an advocacy organization to ensure that the arts remain central to life in Connecticut. The organization strives to promote and underscore the value of all achievements of the arts industry and all of the ways in which the arts improve daily life for residents of the State. Among its most visible programs are assisting with workshops for the annual Connecticut Arts Day at the Capitol organized by the Connecticut Office of the Arts, and providing advocacy guidance and resources in concert with the Office of the Arts and regional arts service organizations. The organization works to foster public education and awareness of the arts, to increase funding for the arts, and to influence public funding decisions and actions that affect the arts.