ixia: public art think tank

ixia has taken over the ownership and management of Public Art Online from Arts Council England. The design and content of the website are currently being reviewed.

Essex County Council

This strategy is reproduced by kind permission of Essex County Council.


[Established in March 2000, updated January 2006]

A].   Essex Public Art Policy Statement

Essex County Council will encourage the provision of new works of visual art and craft as an integral part of all building projects and environmental improvement schemes, public or private, within the County.

B].   Essex Public Art Code of Practice

1. Artists will be employed within Essex County Council capital projects in five main ways:

  • To work with the design teams, providing an artistic dimension and an enhancement to the whole design process, related to integrating art into external and interior design features, landscaping, lighting, etc.
  • To work with local communities in developing ideas and actual artworks that can be integrated into capital building works - thereby involving local people in the process of creating their own environment and bringing about a better sense of ownership and pride in their locality.
  • To create artworks of high quality which have a major impact on public spaces and contribute to the County's heritage.
  • To boost community involvement through a range of artistic activities.
  • To contribute to Urban Development Frameworks, site appraisal and assessment and other development partnerships, within local authorities or the private sector, without being commissioned to produce a physical work or works.

2. In addition, Essex County Council will encourage all public and private sector developments related to the disposal of land or the requirement of planning permission [including new building, rehabilitation, restoration and external landscape work] to include the concept of integrating art within their schemes of work when preparing their proposals.

3. The artistic input should be considered at the earliest stage of a development. Artists should be involved in the creation of development proposals as a member of the design team and will be expected to develop their work in collaboration with the local community and users of the public building/site.

4. Artwork in the public realm is many and various in form and function and contemporary practice in the visual arts ensures that trends are rapidly changing. The sheer diversity of practice has brought about the blurring of boundaries between what may or may not be considered ‘art’. However it is both possible and necessary to arrive at some definition as to what may be viewed as constituting a piece or scheme of ‘public art’ and to identify the form in which they are manifest.

The definitions are:

A].   Permanent Works

Large scale three-dimensional artworks such as site specific sculpture; gateway and water features; kinetic works; landmarks; architectural sculpture, embellishment or articulation; land art; commemorative works such as memorials, inscriptions, plaques, street furniture such as fencing, paving, railings, security screening, tree grills, lighting, seating, bollards, makers and milestones. Integrated two and three dimensional works such as architectural glass, door furniture, painted works, mosaic/ceramic murals, trompe l ’oeil painting.

B].   Temporary, Ephemeral or Time-Based Commissions

Exhibitions; photo and audio visual media including documentary works; projected or filmic works; texts based works; hoardings/screening; performance; installation; street theatre; festival; carnival and event based works; entropic land art.

C].   Interior Commissions

Fine and applied art; craft; sculpture; architectural glass; textiles; photography; prints; floor treatments; bespoke furnishings.

5. The selection of artists and crafts persons should be made against clear criteria based on the objectives of the commission. According to the nature of the Project, one of five main methods of recruitment should be used:

A].    Open submission.

Opportunities would be advertised nationally or locally and applications sought from artists.

B].    Limited submission.

A short list of artists would be drawn from the Essex Register of Public Artists and/or by recommendation and either paid to produce proposals [from which the final artist/s would be selected] or invited to interview.

C].    Direct invitation.

Artist/s would be approached directly and invited to undertake the commission/s.

D].    Artist-led.

Artist/s would initiate the idea for the commission/s themselves.

E].    Purchase of contemporary work.

Artworks would be purchased direct from the studio or gallery or from open/limited submission.

6. The final choice of artist/s to be commissioned should be the responsibility of the commissioning agent or developer, but they should be encouraged to seek advice and assistance from the Public Art Teamand to involve and consult the local community.

7. Any artwork commissioned should be of a high quality and represent good value for money. Artists and crafts persons should be paid at professional rates, appropriate to the commission. The commissioner/developer will be responsible for the proper maintenance, repair and conservation of the work of art or craft commissioned by them and should ensure that any subsequent owner also accepts this responsibility.

8. Normal high standards of design and finish in the development should not be considered as an adequate substitute for unique pieces of work produced by professional artists.

9. Commissioned artworks should be accessible to the whole community and in public view wherever feasible.

10. It is important for local authorities, for design teams, for artists and for the general public to be clear from the outset about what or does not constitute public art.

For the purpose of this strategy the criteria are:

  • The work must be original work of an appropriate, living, professional artist.
  • The work should be site specific (i.e., an original approach/design/work, specific to the needs, limitations, conditions or long term use of the site and its users).
  • The work should result from an open procurement process.
  • The work must not be a mass-produced object, a reproduction of an original artwork or a previously unrealised design.
  • The definition of artworks in this context does not extend to architectural detail, ornamentation, decoration or functional elements designed by architects, urban designers, landscape architects or interior architects.

11. The Public Realm

The public realm should be considered to include:

  • Urban and rural spaces to which the public has free access at all times

    (Public roads; Squares; Footpaths; Common Land; Waterways; Cycle Routes)

  • Urban and rural spaces which are managed and have specific access arrangements but which are essentially ‘public’ by nature

    (Parks; Gardens; Shopping precincts, courtyards and private malls; Public and Private Buildings; School grounds; Libraries; Leisure Centres and other amenities, Station Forecourts, ticket centres and platforms; Bus and coach stations; Bus shelters; Harbour docksides; Airpoint check-in halls).

  • Information and media platforms – billboards, electric timetabling, information systems; Print and Broadcast Media; the Internet
  • Public art cannot be ‘programmed’ as such in the way that exhibitions, events and galleries might be programmed. Each set of circumstances is unique and will offer opportunities for distinctive projects that address particular aspects such as community development and best value in public and private sector infrastructure or other civic works.

12. De-Commissioning

It has been established that, like many other elements in the public realm, artworks require maintenance. It should also be considered that some have a life-span, beyond which their aesthetic, material or mechanical role is exhausted. Artists and clients alike may suggest or require a work of a set life-span, often in consideration of planned or potential future transformation of the site.

There are also creative and aesthetic concerns attached to de-commissioning and to the setting of a limited life-span for artworks in the public realm. Some works will necessarily be temporary such as hoardings, some video/film projections or performance related works.

  • De-commissioning may be appropriate for practical or creative reasons in circumstances when:
  • The work has reached the end of its determined life-span
  • The work does not occupy the site for which it was designed and is compromised
  • The structural integrity of a work is such that it poses a danger to public safety
  • The site is subject to immediate re-development
  • The work proves perpetually problematic or poses a risk to public safety
  • The work may be appropriately re-located

The relocation of a work should be carefully considered by all parties, including where practicable the artist. Site specific works by their very nature are not assisted by the relocation and some other works may simply have reached a point of deterioration where permanent de-commissioning is appropriate.

Each potential de-commissioning case should be assessed on its own particular circumstances by the Public Art Team, the artists and the original commissioner, agent or owner. A full and detailed report should in turn be assessed by a suitably qualified and experienced individual or agency.

Essex Public Art Strategy Group

This cross-directorate Group is responsible for co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Essex Public Art Strategy.

Contact Point:

Isabelle Lines-Slatter
Public Art Manager
Tel: 01245 437521
Email: [email protected]

Gavin Hodson
Public Art Officer
Tel: 01245 436553
Email: [email protected]

Website: www.essexcc.gov.uk/visarts

Essex County Council
The Built Environment Branch
County Hall
Tel: 01245 437521
Fax: 01245 269840

Additional Information:

Public Art Common Fund ‘Genius Loci’

Essex was the first County Council to develop and adopt the principle of a public art policy in the late 1980’s and the first to receive an RSA Art & Architecture Award. The approach has been enshrined in policy with ECC making its first Cabinet Decision in 2002 allocating up to 1% of the Capital Programme for public art in relation to the 2004/5 capital programme. Approval has now been granted to switch to a central budgeting process resulting in a ‘Public Art Common Fund’.

The Common Fund project schedule has a capital spend of £2.14m over the financial years 2007/8 to 2009/10 and represents 0.74% of relevant capital spend within the policy guideline.

A three year public art programme has now been implemented titled ‘Genius Loci’ or spirit of place and forms part of the strategy to enhance and improve the image of the County of Essex nationally and internationally, as an exciting, forward looking and inspiring location.

Download further information about 'Genius Loci' produced in December 2007, in Adobe Acrobat format, 115KB.

 Fast Find

Go to specific information related to you.

 Editor's Choice

What's New

ixia update

 Join our elist