Elysian smiles in front of a gray wall
Program Coordinator, Public Art & Creative Communities

Are you curious to know the process behind the RFQ and how artists get selected? Elizabeth Keithline, the Rhode Island State Council on the Art's (RISCA) Public Art Director, sheds some light on the RFQ process in Rhode Island, and provides useful tips for artists applying to public art calls.  

Elizabeth Keithline clarifies RISCA’s RFQ process:

  1. The RISCA public art selection process typically involves three meetings. The first is a site visit. Panelists meet onsite to discuss the wording of the RFQ. The main task at hand is answering the question: what does the panel want out of the commission?
  2. After artists apply on CaFÉ, panelists read and rank the applications online and meet for a second time to winnow down the number. RISCA typically receives between 85 and 300 applications. At that second meeting, the panelists select three finalists.
  3. At the third meeting, these finalists present proposals in person and one is selected for the commission.*
  4. The selected artist is notified. A contract is written and signed.**

What’s public art projects are happening in Rhode Island? Keithline is currently managing commissions at the following locations (budgets included):

  • University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy ($995,000)
  • University of Rhode Island College of Chemistry ($360,000)
  • Rhode Island College Art Center ($170,000)
  • Block Island Airport ($101,000)
  • Intermodal Station in Warwick ($270,000)
  • Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown ($315,000)

Keithline's tips for applying to public art calls include:

  1. If at all possible, have your work professionally photographed.
  2. Show that you have read the RFQ by submitting images that pertain to it.
  3. If you do not have experience creating work that is designed for an outdoor setting, try to get commissions at a lower price point that will help you gain experience and increase your qualifications.
  4. When presenting to a panel be prepared to answer questions about durability, schedule and subcontractors. Stay flexible.
  5. Pay attention to the Public Art Network listserv, Sculpture.org, the NEFA blog, and the other websites across the country that serve as sources of information for public artists!

RISCA is one of the six New England state arts agencies, along with the NEA, that makes up NEFA’s founding partners. Rhode Island has a lot of opportunities for public artists despite its size, and is a valuable resource for not only Rhode Island artists, but for those working throughout New England. RISCA’s website has a Public Art Directory (in progress), a listing of current and past RFQs, and a blog that posts the latest news and information regarding individual artists, opportunities, jobs, and artist housing.

* RISCA’s panels are open to the public. NEFA brought artists and administrators to a RISCA panel meeting this past May, the last event of the 2011-2012 Public Art Discussion Series (PADS).

** Jim Grace, executive director of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, led a negotiation, copyright and contracts PADS workshop last March. Upcoming workshops will be in January and February – stay tuned for more arts business prep and a contracts clinic!