State Percent for Art policies are mechanisms for enhancing the built environment and for making public spaces more appealing, useful or accessible through the incorporation of the budget for construction or renovation of state buildings is set aside for the purchase, installation and/or maintenance of public artwork, which is usually installed on the grounds of the capital project. Percent for Art programs can be found worldwide. The majority of European countries, Australia, several countries in Africa (among which South Africa and Senegal) and many cities and states in the USA, have Percent for Art programs.

Percent for Art policies are regulations that recommend or require a designated portion of the budget for capital investment in state facilities to be set aside for artworks. Typically, about 1% of the construction or renovation costs are allocated for the commission, purchase and/or maintenance of artwork to be exhibited permanently in public space.

Percent-for-art programs are used to fund public art where private or specialized funding of public art is unavailable. Public art is usually installed with the authorization and collaboration of the government or company that owns or administers the space. Many locales have “general funds” that fund temporary programs and performances of a cultural nature rather than project-related commissions.

Percent for Art is a type of public art, but it categorically stands apart from other public art forms for several reasons. First, Percent for Art installations have formal and strategic funding mechanisms, generally 1% of the capital costs of the associated construction or renovation project, while other types of public art projects can be funded through agency allocations, legislative appropriations and private donations. Second, Percent for Art installations are limited by state laws to public space, whereas other types of public art can be sited in corporate office buildings and other private spaces. Similarly, by design, Percent for Art projects endeavor to shape and project the utility and identity of public property, whereas other public art may or may not share that intent. Finally, since Percent for Art projects create only permanent installations, they preclude types of public art that are ephemeral in nature, such as performances and time-limited installations.

In our region, Seattle was the first municipality to establish the first comprehensive system for assuring that creativity would be a part of civic life by instituting the 1% for Art ordinance and the Seattle Arts Commission (now the Office of Arts & Culture). The Washington State Legislature established the Art in Public Places (AIPP) program in 1974 to acquire artwork for state-funded building projects such as K-12 public schools, colleges, universities, and state agencies, funded by ½ of 1 percent of the state’s portion of construction costs. Oregon’s Percent for Art legislation guides the acquisition of the state’s public art collection, which includes more than 2,500 works of art. In Idaho, Boise City Council approved a 1.4% for art ordinance. Commissioned murals, sculptures, and integrated art pieces are located on downtown streets, neighborhood parks, and public facilities such as Boise Airport, City Hall, Libraries, and Boise Watershed. Anchorage, Alaska has the “1% for Art in Public Places,” a 1978 law setting aside for the purchase of commissioned artwork at least one percent of construction costs of all public buildings.

Additional resources:

National Assembly of State Art Agencies

The Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Public Art Network (PAN)

Project for Public Spaces (PPS)