Chicago Public Art Program — Percent For Art Guidelines

Chicago Public Art Program  >  Percent For Art Guidelines


Guidelines for Projects


1. General

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (“DCASE”) is dedicated to preserving and expanding the City’s acclaimed public art collection. As part of this function, DCASE administers the Chicago Public Art Program and the City’s Percent for Art projects. The Percent for Art ordinance assures that 1.33% of the construction budget for construction or major renovation of a City-owned or City-financed building or structure, or for certain outdoor improvements, is used to commission art at that building, structure or improvement. These buildings include libraries, police stations, fire houses, senior centers and others.

DCASE is also responsible for maintaining the hundreds of artworks already installed as part of the Chicago Public Art Collection, as well as for determining whether to accept proposed donations of artwork and where to install donated works and how best to display them. These Guidelines are intended to describe how the Percent for Art process operates, especially in relationship to interested artists and to the communities in which these projects will be located. Because the nature, configuration and use of buildings and improvements are so varied, these guidelines should not be read as rigid, legal standards.


2. Notice to artists; Opportunity to Participate

DCASE is responsible for notifying artists of upcoming projects. This is done in the following ways:

  • Specific projects will be announced on the DCASE web site (correct web address or link to be provided), as well as sites such as Chicago Artists Resource and CAFÉ.
  • notification of identified local arts and culture organizations.
  • announcing upcoming projects through appropriate arts-oriented and other media.
  • sending email announcements of upcoming projects to arts and culture organizations and artists who request inclusion in an email list.


3. An Artist’s Inclusion in the Percent for Art Email List

DCASE will maintain an email list of artists who have requested notification about percent for art opportunities.


4. How Work is Selected for a Percent for Art Project

The Program is intended to be both project-specific and community-based. Once an eligible project has been identified, the Program staff takes the following steps:

(a)  If the budget available for the project is no more than $10,000 (including the artist’s fee, cost of fabrication and cost of installation), the project will usually be awarded as a direct commission, rather than through a competitive process as described below. All the consultation with the affected community and government agencies will still take place.

(b)  The Program staff will study the project to learn the intended timetable of the construction work, as well as its scope, purpose and configuration, in an attempt to determine which types of artwork will be suitable for the location, as well as size limitations. This is not pre-judging of any specific artwork, but an attempt to avoid placing a type of artwork in a setting where the artwork, by its nature, may be in danger (examples include: paintings exposed to direct sunlight or weather; artwork with moving parts exposed to weather). The Program staff may, but is not required to, consult with knowledgeable persons about the suitability of any type of artwork for the specific site.

(c)  The staff will notify the local community of the opportunity for placement of public art. This part of the process begins with the local alderman, who is the community’s elected representative. The alderman will be asked to help identify community institutions and organizations (such as historical societies, churches, chambers of commerce, block clubs, etc.), as well as local residents who may be interested (neighborhood historians, people known to be interested in the arts, etc.). The Program staff will also attempt to identify local institutions, organizations and individuals who may be interested. In the rest of these Guidelines, all these individuals and other entities will be referred to as “community interests.”

(d)  After identifying these community interests, the Program staff will convene a first public forum. This forum will include representatives of the Program staff, representatives of other City of Chicago departments and other governmental units (e.g., CTA, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools) that may be involved in or affected by the work, and anyone else who wishes to attend.

Notice of the forum (including date, time, location and purpose) will be posted on the City of Chicago website and sent to the local alderman, and to the identified community interests. At this first forum, the Program staff and other government representatives will provide the community interests with information about the upcoming project (its location, purpose, general configuration, and anticipated schedule). We want the community interests to inform the Program staff about the community – its history, its local culture(s), its identifying characteristics, concerns and interests. Importantly, we also seek to know the aspirations and future visions the community may have for itself. The forum will be held either in the affected community or at the Chicago Cultural Center.

(e)  After the first forum, the Program staff will review the community input and issue a Request for Interest (RFI) and begin notifying artists as described in Sections 2 and 3, above, and providing a reasonable length of time for artists to respond. The RFI will be posted on CAFÉ which will be the primary portal for artists’ submissions.

(f)  The RFI will describe: the public construction/renovation work; the site; the intended use of the finished building, structure or improvement; the approximate area available for installation of artwork; the anticipated schedule of the construction/renovation work; the deadline for submissions; and any other information the Program staff feels necessary to provide proper notice of opportunity for participation. In response to the RFI artists who wish to pursue the opportunity may be asked to submit a set of images which concisely represents their current artistic direction, a professional CV, other support materials and, very importantly, a brief statement of why the artist believes their artwork is appropriate for the project. It is strongly recommended that artists have a website.

(g)  If necessary, the Program staff may organize one or more additional community forums for the presentation of additional information, to discuss changes in the construction/renovation work, to respond to community input, and generally to clarify issues relating to the selection of artwork. These additional forums, if any, will be organized in the same manner as the first forum (see paragraph 4(d), above).

(h)  Following the community forum(s) and research, the Program staff will invite artists (a minimum of 3) to enter into contract with the City of Chicago to supply artwork proposals. All invited artists may be asked to provide any other information the Program staff needs to make an informed decision on artwork.

(i)  Next, the Program staff will evaluate the submissions. The staff may, but is not required to, consult knowledgeable people in the arts community, both in Chicago and elsewhere, about how any submission relates to the intended site and the artistic merit of the submission; and about any other aspect of the project. After evaluating all the submissions, the Program staff may have further discussions with community interests in attempting to reduce the number of submissions to a group of finalists. The Program staff may, but is not required to, conduct one or more additional forums (in the manner described in paragraph 4(c)) for purposes of expediting consultation with community interests.

(j)  The Program staff must also convene a final forum (in the manner described in paragraph 4(c) before a final selection of an artist or artwork. At the final forum, the Program staff will present one or more finalists for discussion of the artwork(s) and for community response and feedback.

(k)  The Program staff may have to negotiate changes in a submitted work based on community feedback and concerns, finances, space limitations, time, or some other aspect of the submission and the project.

(l)  After conclusion of the final public forum, the Program staff will make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The Commissioner or her/his designee will make the final selection. The Program staff will notify all submitters of the final selection.

In developing a list of finalists and making a final recommendation, the Program staff will take into consideration the following factors:

  • the size, shape, location, configuration and use of the building or site of the project;
  • the appropriateness of formal and stylistic elements as well as materials for the project;
  • the possible thematic congruity between the artists preferred body of work and the project;
  • the skill, reputation, and demonstrated ability of the artist;
  • community ties between the artist and the project, where appropriate;
  • the economic feasibility of utilizing the artist for the project.


5. Responsibilities of Artists

An artist who wishes to participate in the Public Art program must:

  • respond to notices in a timely and complete manner;
  • be available for follow-up communications with Program staff;
  • be able to explain his/her submitted work;
  • develop and adhere to a project budget;
  • perform within the schedule of a project;
  • sign necessary documents in a timely manner;
  • deal responsibly with the Program staff, his/her suppliers, fabricators and installers.

During the course of evaluations, an artist may be asked about any of these factors, and to further demonstrate his/her ability to meet the above requirements.

If an artwork proposal commissioned through the Public Art Program is rejected, the artist must reclaim the model within 90 days after first contacted to do so by the Program staff, or the model will become City of Chicago property and will be subject to disposal or destruction without further notice.


Guidelines for the Donation of Artwork


On occasion, a generous person or group seeks to donate one or more works of art to the City to enhance the collection or commemorate an historic event or person. Understandably, donors want their generosity to be acknowledged by a public display of the donated work(s). This is not always able to be done to the donor’s satisfaction.

Responsible ownership of art requires a commitment of resources to conserve and protect it. Because DCASE is not involved in the planning of these donations, and must deal realistically with limited resources, it is the department’s policy to accept donations of art only if: the work has significant artistic merit; the work augments, rather than disrupts, the overall City collection; a suitable location is available for the donated work(s); and the donor has arranged for costs of installation of the donated work(s) and conservation for up to ten years. In keeping the focus on the artwork donor recognition is expected to be minimal and discreet, donor bricks and branding icons are not accepted.

For more information or questions please email


Conservation and Maintenance of the Chicago Public Art Collection


Since inception of the Percent for Art Program in 1978, hundreds of sculptures, murals, paintings, prints, stained glass, and photographs have been donated, commissioned or purchased for the City of Chicago’s Public Art Collection. Some of these artworks are installed outdoors; others are placed in semi-enclosed settings and others in indoor public spaces. Artwork can be affected by exposure to light (natural and artificial), wind, air-borne dust, temperature and humidity changes, vibration, precipitation and other conditions. On occasion, an artwork may also suffer physical damage as a result of accident or vandalism. Without long-term maintenance, the artworks risk serious degradation as the collection ages.

The Public Art Program has a limited, annual conservation budget that is used to maintain, preserve and protect the collection. Program staff monitors the condition of artworks and encourages representatives of City departments and other participating public agencies, as well as the general public, to advise DCASE of damaged, degraded or at-risk artworks. Upon receiving information of any such work, one or more staff members will conduct an assessment of the work to determine the extent of damage, degradation or risk; effective measures to repair, restore or protect the work; cost of such measures; and the possible effect of delaying those measures. The staff will then review available resources to see how to address the most serious problems first and then recommend appropriate action to the Commissioner or her/his designee.

The overall policy of DCASE is to preserve as much of the public art collection as possible in the current locations of the various works. Barring extreme cases, this typically means repairing and restoring as many works as available resources allow. The general order of priorities of works receiving repair or restoration is as follows:

1. Works that have suffered serious damage;

2. Works that have suffered serious degradation;

3. Works that have suffered minor damage;

4. Works that have suffered minor degradation;

5. Works at risk of degradation

However, these priorities cannot be followed in every instance. Some repair and restoration measures may exceed the then available budget; in some cases, restorative or repair measures may require a highly specialized conservator or technician, who is currently unavailable. Some works may be beyond repair. Some works, because of their condition, may constitute a danger to the public who use the public facility for its intended purpose. In these instances, DCASE reserves the right to remove the artwork from its public setting until it can be restored properly and reinstalled.