Public Art Policy Project

Auckland's transformational shift 2008

    • Art in public places: Auckland City Council’s public art policy, August 2008 (author: Rob Garrett)

Auckland City Council sought our help when they wanted to take a comprehensive look at their public art activities and their role in supporting, commissioning and legislating for public art in Auckland. Rob Garrett was asked to provide advice on council policy, processes, funding and organisational structure. The former Auckland City Council (now amalgamated into the region-wide Auckland Council) was seeking improvements that would better align their public art programme with best practice and their vision for Auckland.

Auckland City Council faced a number of challenges:

  • Public art activity had grown significantly
  • There were increasing demands and opportunities for public art
  • The changed environment had highlighted the need for a more strategic and integrated approach to planning and delivery of public art projects
  • Capacity and the level of resources required to manage public art effectively were stretched

Our work included in-depth arts sector and stakeholder consultations (through interviews, artist forums and advisory groups), best practice research, baseline data gathering and analysis, and the identification of issues and solutions. The project drew on our long experience in the visual arts, our expertise in leading and managing complex art projects, our ability to translate across different values and language cultures (for instance between the art world and the regulatory environment of council), our strategic thinking, and our ability to understand the complexities of political and community stakeholder environments.

The new public art policy included four overarching goals which provided the strategic context and direction for all public art planning:

  • Achieving high quality: the city’s public art works; the council’s relationships and partnerships; and the council’s processes and procedures are of high quality
  • Being innovative: the council’s approaches are unique and innovative, and attract the best people and ideas;
  • Creating richness: Auckland city’s public art includes a diversity of art types; expresses and celebrates Auckland’s diverse people, natural and cultural heritage, histories and places; engages diverse audiences; and fosters pride and a sense of identity and belonging; and
  • Generating surprise: Auckland city’s public art works surprise, delight, challenge and stimulate; increase the city’s attractiveness as a place to live and work; and enhance its reputation as a fresh destination.

Following the review completion and the approval of the new public art policy in 2008 Council sought our continued assistance with planning the implementation of the new structures. During this phase our work included preparing work-in-progress background reports; writing policy and management guidelines; undertaking further research on suitable funding models; assisting with recruitment; and advising on site-selection and artist-selection for ongoing public art projects.

Looking back, and according to the testimony of others in Council and across the arts sector, we achieved an astounding transformational shift in the culture, practice and capability of public art planning, resourcing and delivery.

The key elements of Auckland's transformation shift from 2008 included establishing:

  • The new role of Manager Public Art as the key curatorial leadership role within council;
  • An external advisory panel comprised of independent public art expertise;
  • ‘Whole of programme’ and 'city-wide public art collection' approaches that established public art as a process of thinking about place, and place-making from strategic and long-term perspectives;
  • Protocols for the early involvement of public art thinking in capital works planning (thus replacing years of fragmented, ad hoc and last-minute planning);
  • A new public art team with the right expertise for planning and project management;
  • Dedicated public art capital and operational funds, including Percent-for-art guidelines for capital works projects involving public place development; and
  • A culture of working with others based on partnership and with the aim of simplifying the interface with council for those outside council.

Art in public places: Auckland City Council’s public art policy was released in August 2008.

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  • Auckland City Council Art in Public Places Public Art Policy 2008, (author Rob Garrett)
  • Auckland City Council Art in Public Places Public Art Policy 2008, (author Rob Garrett)

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