Direct Purchase - Percent For Art Program, Arts Council of New Orleans, 1997

The Percent For Art program, administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans, has initiated three direct purchases of existing two-dimensional artwork since the project started in the late 1980s. The purchase completed in 1997 was the largest to date, and was instigated in an effort to purchase artwork by local artists for installation in public buildings throughout the community.

Project description:
Artists who lived in Orleans Parish were invited to bring up to three artworks for jury review. A call to artists was distributed in the New Orleans area to provide information and submission guidelines. (For a copy of the call to artists that was used, contact the Arts Council of New Orleans; 225 Baronne St Suite 1712, New Orleans, (504) 523-1465. Relevant information (title, medium, size, price, etc.) was attached to each artwork.

Project budget and sources of funding:
The budget for purchase and installation of work was $85,000. This funding was generated by the Percent for Art ordinance from 1985 bond revenues sold for capital projects.

Partners and involvement:
The Preparation Department of the New Orleans Museum of Art facilitated hanging a temporary public exhibition of the artworks at the Villa Meilleur.

Unique project characteristics:
Any artwork that could be hung on the wall was eligible for jury review and purchase. Of the 519 artwork submitted (by 313 artists), 49 were selected for purchase.

Description of selection process:
The three-person jury was composed of members of the Percent For Art Committee. It included a college arts educator (the committee chair), a lawyer/entrepreneur collector, and a curator/artist/art critic. Two members of the jury were African-American and two were male; all were early to mid-career professionals. On two previous occasions the program had commissioned work from the curator/artist/art critic, so that juror was well acquainted with the process and procedures involved.

Additional comments:
This project made an immediate impact in the community, and the temporary exhibition of artworks selected (at a city-owned facility in the Tremé neighborhood) was well attended. The purchase format enables money from the public art program to go directly into the hands of artists. City agencies were actively and enthusiastically interested in selecting artworks for their public spaces. With this purchase, the inventory of moveable artworks in the public art collection increased to about 100.