Seattle was one of the first cities in the United States to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance in 1973. For 40 years, our 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. In alignment with the City's Race and Social Justice Initiative, we work to eliminate institutional racism in our programs, public art, policies and practices.
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, we simultaneously enrich citizens' daily lives and give voice to artists.
The collection includes more than 400 permanently sited and integrated works and nearly 3,000 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.
Calls for Artists
Browse the Collection
Find Art in your Neighborhood
The Seattle Municipal Code primarily contains the same sections and wording as the original ordinance, and is more often referenced for the program's operation than the original ordinance.
20.32.030 Funds for works of art
20.32.040 Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs Authority
20.32.050 Municipal Arts Fund
SMC 20.32.010 Purpose
The City accepts a responsibility for expanding public experience with visual art. Such art has enabled people in all societies better to understand their communities and individual lives. Artists capable of creating art for public places must be encouraged and Seattle's standing as a regional leader in public art enhanced. A policy is therefore established to direct the inclusion of works of art in public works of the City.
(Ord. 102210 Section 1, 1973.)
SMC 20.32.020 Definitions
- "Office" means the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs.
- "Commission" means the Seattle Arts Commission.
- "Construction project" means any capital project paid for wholly or in part by the City to construct or remodel any building, structure, park, utility, street, sidewalk, or parking facility, or any portion thereof, within the limits of The City of Seattle.
- "Eligible fund" means a source fund for construction projects from which art is not precluded as an object of expenditure.
- "Municipal Arts Plan" means the plan required by Section 20.32.040 A.
- "Administrative costs" means all costs incurred in connection with the selection, acquisition, installation and exhibition of, and publicity about, City-owned works of art.
(Ord. 121006 Section 11, 2002: Ord. 117403 Section 1, 1994: Ord. 105389 Section 1, 1976: Ord. 102210 Section 2, 1973.)
SMC 20.32.030 Funds for works of art
All requests for appropriations for construction projects from eligible funds shall include an amount equal to one (1) percent of the estimated cost of such project for works of art and shall be accompanied by a request from the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs for authorization to expend such funds after the same have been deposited in the Municipal Arts Fund. When the City Council approves any such request, including the one (1) percent for works of art, the appropriation for such construction project shall be made and the same shall include an appropriation of funds for works of art, at the rate of one (1) percent of project cost to be deposited into the appropriate account of the Municipal Arts Fund. Money collected in the Municipal Arts Fund shall be expended by the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs for projects as prescribed by the Municipal Arts Plan, and any unexpended funds shall be carried over automatically for a period of three (3) years, and upon request of the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, carried over for an additional two (2) years. Any funds carried over for three (3) years, or upon special request for five (5) years, and still unexpended at the expiration of such period shall be transferred to the General Fund for general art purposes only; provided, that funds derived from revenue or general obligation bond issues or from utility revenues or other special purpose or dedicated funds shall revert to the funds from which appropriated at the expiration of said three (3) or five (5) year period.
(Ord. 121006 Section 12, 2002: Ord. 105389 Section 2, 1976: Ord. 102210 Section 3, 1973.)
SMC 20.32.040 Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs - Authority
To carry out its responsibilities under this chapter, the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs shall:
- Prepare, adopt and amend with the Mayor's approval a plan and guidelines to carry out the City's art program, which shall include, but not be limited to a method or methods for the selection of artists or works of art and for placement of works of art;
- Authorize purchase of works of art or commission the design, execution and/or placement of works of art and provide payment therefor from the Municipal Arts Fund. The Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs shall advise the department responsible for a particular construction project of the Office's decision, in consultation with the Seattle Arts Commission, regarding the design, execution and/or placement of a work of art, funds for which were provided by the appropriation for such construction project;
- Require that any proposed work of art requiring extraordinary operation or maintenance expenses shall receive prior approval of the department head responsible for such operation or maintenance;
- Promulgate rules and regulations consistent with this chapter to facilitate the implementation of its responsibilities under this chapter.
(Ord. 121006 Section 13, 2002: Ord. 105389 Section 3, 1976: Ord. 102210 Section 4, 1973.)
SMC 20.32.050 Municipal Arts Fund
There is established in the City Treasury a special fund designated "Municipal Arts Fund" into which shall be deposited funds appropriated as contemplated by Section 20.32.030, together with such other funds as the City Council shall appropriate for works of art, and from which expenditures may be made for the acquisition and exhibition of works of art consistent with the plan specified in Section 20.32.040A, and for Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs staff costs and administrative costs (as defined in SMC Section 20.32.020 F) that are associated with developing and implementing the Municipal Arts Plan, but not the cost of maintaining City-owned art work, which maintenance cost may be paid from the Cumulative Reserve Subfund or such other source(s) as may be specified by ordinance. Separate accounts shall be established within the Municipal Arts Fund to segregate receipts by source or, when so directed by the City Council, for specific works of art. Disbursements from such fund shall be made in connection with projects approved by the Seattle Arts Commission on vouchers approved by the Director of the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs.
(Ord. 121006 Section 14, 2002: Ord. 117403 Section 2, 1994: Ord. 116368 Section 242, 1992: Ord. 105389 Section 4, 1976: Ord. 102210 Section 5, 1973.)
The Municipal Art Plan describes the status of continuing public art projects and establishes the scope of work and budgets for new projects. To create the plan, our staff meets with representatives from each of the city departments to discuss their art priorities and the recommended placement of artwork at specific sites. The Municipal Art Plan is developed by our staff, reviewed by the Public Art Advisory Committee and approved by the mayor.
Artwork projects are determined, in part, by One Percent for Art funding sources. Some funds are restricted to a new construction site or influenced by specific departmental goals and objectives. However, money placed in the Municipal Art Fund may be combined into projects that include funding from several sources. This enables us to create special projects and citywide programs that will have a greater impact than small-scale artworks peppered around the city.
Artist-authored public art plans provide a vehicle to involve artists early in the design phase to develop a visionary framework that identifies and defines public art opportunities. Artists also develop plans for integrating art into a City department's routine work and infrastructure, using 1% for Art funds.
A Plan for Cultivating Arts and Culture in Seattle's Urban Agriculture Sites
Elliott Bay Seawall Project Art Programming Plan
Replacement of the deteriorated seawall is a foundational step for a program that will remake the waterfront. Guided by the Central Seattle Waterfront Art Plan, the Elliott Bay Seawall Project Art Programming Plan is a framework for the development of artworks both permanent and temporary that will articulate the seawall site. The art projects identified in this plan will be implemented as part of the Elliott Bay Seawall Project which is being led by the City of Seattle's Department of Transportation (SDOT).
Central Seattle Waterfront Art Plan
"A Working Plan for Art on the Central Seattle Waterfront" lays out a multi-pronged approach for art on the Central Seattle Waterfront. The plan considers the history of the site as a working waterfront, the physical conditions of its location along the shores of Elliott Bay, and its role as part of Seattle's evolving urban and cultural landscape. Creative Time, Mark Dion, Tomato and Eric Fredericksen worked as members of the design team for the Central Waterfront, james corner field operations (sic), to outline a vision for evolving methods of implementation of art and art activation on the waterfront.
South Lake Union Streetcar Art Plan
The South Lake Union Streetcar will serve thousands of new homes and jobs being created in the area. The streetcar will run 1.3 miles each way and is projected to carry about 330,000 riders annually. The streetcar, slated for completion later this year, is part of the Mayor's South Lake Union Action Agenda, which seeks to improve or build new area infrastructure for new jobs and housing. In early 2006, the Office of Arts & Culture contracted with Lead Pencil Studio to develop an art plan for the South Lake Union Streetcar alignment. Lead Pencil Studio was selected for this project because of its experience with public art and transportation issues as developed and detailed in their 2005 Seattle Department of Transportation Art Plan.
Department of Planning and Development
Part of the Northgate revitalization effort, the Northgate Public Art Plan is a framework to identify and define public art opportunities and guide planning and implementation of public art in the Northgate area. Developed by Seattle artist Benson Shaw, artist-in-residence for Northgate planning, the Northgate Public Art Plan is the result of information gathered through Shaw's work with the Department of Planning & Development (DPD), community groups, and several other city departments throughout 2004 and 2005. Commissioned by the Office of Arts & Culture and jointly funded by DPD and Seattle Public Utilities, the plan was released in October 2005.
Seattle Department of Transportation
In 2002, the Office of Arts & Culture selected Daniel Mihalyo as the artist-in-residence for Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Improvements to Seattle's transportation are a mayoral priority and SDOT is developing a variety of projects and strategies that will improve transportation within Seattle. Mihalyo spent an initial time period learning about the department, its plans and its projects. Working through 2005, he developed an arts plan identifying opportunities for artists to enhance the department's work by integrating art and the work of artists into the routine work of the department and by adding value to infrastructure projects through the use of 1% for Art funds.
Fire Station 10 Art Plan
In 2004, artist Gloria Bornstein began working on a design team with Weinstein Architects + Urban Design and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (Landscape architecture), the designers of the Fire Station 10 Replacement Project. Bornstein, commissioned by the Office of Arts & Culture, developed an art plan, as well as a proposal to create an artwork, for the new facility. In her art plan, she made recommendations for locations for her artwork and artworks by other artists.
ProParks and Community Centers
Artist and art planner Carolyn Law outlines the opportunities for integrating art into new and renovated parks and community centers in two art plans.
When developing a public art project there are several issues for artists, community or arts organizations to consider: What is the art intended to accomplish? What qualities should the art embody? What are the available funds? Who is the likely constituency for this artwork?
If you're an artist interested in developing public artworks, you have many sources for finding work. Check out city of Seattle calls for artists. For calls for artists outside of our office, check out the opportunities page.
Take a look at the public art resources tab for additional resources for public art projects, including application tips.
Communities that are interested in developing public art projects should investigate existing financial and partnership resources. Does your community have a formal arts commission or public art program that sponsors projects? Are there new, private developments or government-sponsored building projects planned in your community that could be enhanced by the inclusion of artworks?
Check out these resources:
- City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund
The Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) program was created in 1988 to provide neighborhood groups with city resources for community-driven projects that enhance and strengthen their own neighborhoods.
- Public Art Roadmap
See the Public Art Roadmap tab for an educational guide for Seattle neighborhood groups that wish to create or place public works of visual art.
- Decorate Neighborhood Traffic Signal Control Boxes
Adding art to traffic signal control boxes (signal boxes) showcases your neighborhood and business district's identity and can discourage graffiti. Signal boxes can be decorated with paint, decals and vinyl wraps. Artists can be commissioned, photos added, or maps installed.
How to start, build and maintain a public art project in your neighborhood
The Public Art Roadmap is an educational guide for Seattle neighborhood groups that wish to create or place public works of visual art. Find information on creating a public artwork from beginning to end and learn about some of the basic issues that need to be considered, including detailed, start-to-finish descriptions of a number of neighborhood-generated public art projects by the people involved.
City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund
The Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) program was created in 1988 to provide neighborhood groups with city resources for community-driven projects that enhance and strengthen their own neighborhoods. All projects are initiated, planned and implemented by community members in partnership with the city. Every award is matched by neighborhoods' or communities' resources of volunteer labor, donated materials, donated professional services or cash.
4Culture works to enhance the quality of life in King County by providing residents and visitors with a broad range of programs and services in the arts, heritage, historic preservation and public art. Find current funding opportunities for artists and organizations.
Artist Trust provides grants, resources and career training to musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers, craft artists, filmmakers, cross-disciplinary artists and more. The organization also provides free resources for artists, including a wealth of services, artist opportunities, calls for artists, funding sources and much more.
Public Art Network
Americans for the Arts ' Public Art Network (PAN) develops professional services for the broad array of individuals and organizations engaged in the expanding field of public art. They have a good list of resources for public artists and informative blog .
National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts offers grants to individuals and non-profit organizations to advance artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA funds the visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, folk and traditional arts, museums, arts education and arts agencies.
NYFA Source (New York Foundation for the Arts)
NYFA Source is the most extensive national directory of awards, services, and publications for artists. Listings include over 4,200 arts organizations, 2,900 award programs, 4,200 service programs, and 900 publications for individual artists across the country. More programs are added every day.
North Carolina Arts Council
NCArts published Public Art commissions: An Artist Handbook , a comprehensive resource for public artists with topics from the responsibilities of a public artist to tips on applying for projects and budget and contract basics.