Seattle: A city that promotes public art

Where is the art in American cities today? New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles…Yes, these cities have had established art scenes for years. Oklahoma City, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix? Maybe not so much.

Some cities encourage art within their cities, and some cities, well, just don’t care enough. I mean when you can spend your budget on other civil projects such as transportation, buildings and commerce, why fund art projects?

Seattle, located in the state of Washington in the United States has encouraged a strong art presence in its city. By just walking around for a few kilometers, one can see public art across the city.  Some of the structures tower 30 feet in the air, some are under bridges and some are in parks. The art fosters creativity all over the city and that is part of the reason why so many artists decide to live in Seattle.

Seattle was one of the first cities in the United States to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance in 1973. For more than 30 years, the public art program has been considered exemplary. The program integrates artworks and the ideas of artists into a variety of public settings, advancing Seattle’s reputation as a cultural center for innovation and creativity.

The program specifies that 1% of eligible city capital improvement project funds be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of artworks in a variety of settings. By providing opportunities for individuals to encounter art in parks, libraries, community centers, on roadways, bridges and other public venues, it simultaneously enriches citizens’ daily lives and gives voice to artists.

The collection includes more than 350 permanently sited and integrated works and 2,600 portable works. Artworks are commissioned through a public process. Panels comprised of professional visual artists along with community and city representatives evaluate the artist applicants. The city stewards and maintains its artworks through an ongoing program of coordinated conservation activities, which include inspections, major restorative work and routine maintenance.

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