Public Art

Office of Arts and Culture


The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program was established to help create a more beautiful and vibrant city, and to extend the benefits of art and culture throughout Phoenix. Over the past quarter century, the program has involved artists with architects, engineers, landscape architects and city planners in the design and construction of a wide range of award-winning public facilities and spaces, including neighborhood parks, community centers, bridges, plazas, streets, overpasses, recycling centers and other important civic features.The Public Art Program was established in 1986 through an ordinance that allocates one percent of the city’s Capital Improvement Program to public art.

Phoenix manages one of the most active municipal percent-for-art programs in the United States, with more than 150 major projects completed since 1986 and 60 projects now in various stages of implementation. The Public Art Program has garnered numerous awards for design excellence, including two Design for Transportation Awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Endowment for the Arts, several Valley Forward Association Environmental Excellence Awards, such as the 2001 President's Award, and other local and national recognition.  

The Public Art Program has brought positive national and international media attention to the City of Phoenix through articles in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Art in America, The Atlantic Monthly and Landscape Architecture, among others.


Each year, the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture works with funding city departments and the Mayor and City Council to develop the annual Public Art Project Plan that identifies capital improvement projects in all areas of Phoenix that offer the greatest opportunity for artist involvement and public accessibility.  

The plan is presented to the Mayor and City Council for review and approval.  Budgets for individual projects range from under $10,000 to $2.5 million.  The total budget for each project includes the artist’s contract amount (which generally covers design, fabrication and installation) and the administrative costs for the project.  Art projects are funded in part through the sale of city-issued bonds, which are repaid with revenue from the city’s secondary property tax and enterprise funds.

For each new project, artists are recommended by a panel that includes artists, arts professionals, staff from the funding city department and representatives of the community where the project is located.  The panel reviews applications submitted in response to a Call to Artists.  Project architects and city staff may serve as non-voting advisors to the panel. During meetings that are open to the public, the panel reviews each artist for quality of past work, suitability and evidence of the ability to work well with the community and other design professionals.  The panel’s recommendation must be reviewed by the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, an 18-member volunteer citizen advisory board, and approved by the Mayor and City Council before the artist can begin work.

The Public Art Project Plan includes the following types of public art projects:

1. Design Team Projects
Placing artists on design teams to collaborate with architects, landscape architects, engineers and community members to plan major capital construction projects such as recycling facilities, freeway bridges, streetscape improvements and community centers.  Design team projects may result in art elements that are constructed as an integral part of new infrastructure, stand-alone elements built and installed by the artist or a combination of both.

2. Site Specific Commissions
Artists design and fabricate artwork or artistic enhancements designed for specific locations that reflect the history, use or sense of community for the project site.  Site specific commissions may be incorporated into new construction or existing public facilities.

3. Purchase of Existing Artwork
The city maintains an extensive portable works collection that includes more than 1,000 works of art that are displayed in public buildings.

4. Temporary Commissions
Temporary commissions include a range of short-term projects that provide professional development for artists and that respond to selected locations or opportunities.  Temporary projects may include media commissions, temporary sculpture, changing displays, banners or other displays for a limited time.

5. On-Going Integrated Projects
The city has commissioned a number of artist-designed amenities that may be integrated with new construction or renovation.  On-going projects include opportunities such as display banners that are periodically changed to provide new content.

6. Artwork Refurbishment
The city must periodically refurbish public artwork that is part of the city’s collection.  Sometimes it is necessary to modify existing artworks to adjust to changing site conditions or to renew the appearance of existing artworks that have been exposed to the elements.  These modifications go beyond routine artwork maintenance activities.

7. Master Planning
The city periodically develops public art master plans to determine the best opportunities for incorporating art into public projects.  Such master plans often recommend specific projects or series of project, and where they should be sited to achieve the greatest public benefit.


Photos From top:  Art is a Guaranty of Sanity, 2006 - Louise Bourgeois;  Her Secret is Patience, 2009 - Janet Echelman;  Mountain Pass Bridge, 1998 - Laurie Lundquist;  Take the Long Way Home, (Happy Valley Road Park and Ride), 2010 - Mary Lucking;  Waterworks, (AZ Falls), 2003 - Mags Harries and Lajos Heder;  Ponderosa Stables, 2010 - Kevin Berry;  7th Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, 1997 - Ed Carpenter