Frequently Asked Questions

clarifying questions about how we do what we do and why

The UAC team is always available to answer questions about public art and our processes in greater detail.

1. How is UAC funded?

As a non-profit organization, UAC is funded from a variety of sources, both public and private. It receives compensation from each client for whom it produces projects, such as the City of Memphis, and private clients and partners. Beyond project management fees, UAC receives support from a number of local and national foundations and individual donors.
 

2. What branch of the City government are you under?

A common misconception is that UAC is part of the City of Memphis government. We are actually a private and independent organization that manages a City-funded program called the 'Percent for Art' program as a non-profit contractor. We 'commission' artists to create works of public art for the enhancement of our city's built environment. The 'Percent for Art' program falls under the purview of City of Memphis' Division of Engineering. There are over 300 such 'Percent for Art' programs in cities across the United States today, the first having been founded in Philadelphia in 1959.

 

3. Why so many committees?

The short answer is because each project will be uniquely designed to reflect the character, culture, history, and aspirations of the residents of the surrounding neighborhood in which the final work of art is sited. So, each individual project needs its own individual committee to provide the motivating logic behind what the completed piece shall be. Additionally, various sub-committees and ad-hoc temporary committees also review projects depending on what community partner, client, or project type you are proposing. Basically, when you're in the public art business, your fundamental modus operandi is that of the group process of decision making. UrbanArt Staff are not the ones actually choosing which projects to do, which artists to commission, or where to even install the projects. Our job is to inform the individuals comprising committees as to the rules of the road, provide them with the data and background information required per every project and coordinate the process.

4. Why does it take so long to produce the projects?

See the description of committees above (ha!). No, but seriously, it requires UrbanArt approximately 400 staff hours per project from start to finish for 'Percent for Art' type projects. That's about 50 individual 8-hour days. Now, if we could tackle one project at a time and devote 50 straight days to it with all partners suspending all their other activities to give us their full attention for the duration of the process, you'd see things turned around at an astonishing pace. However, the reality is that everyone else involved has other work to do outside of any specific UrbanArt project's needs. Therefore, the seemingly simple acts of scheduling, selecting, contracting, reviewing, approving, fabricating, installing, and publicizing each project are really not simple at all! It is far more akin to the process of a tailor building a bespoke suit, customizing each pattern and panel to fit the individual who shall wind up wearing the finished garment, rather than going to Target and pulling a t-shirt off the rack. One size most definitely does not fit all. A good timetable is approximately 18 months. We are now aiming for 1 year from funding to dedication ceremony, but we're not there yet. In some cases, it can take a lot, lot longer.

*NOTE: In contrast, privately funded projects not requiring extensive committee-based processes tend to move very swiftly compared to those mandating a multiple committee structure of production.



Got a question for the list? Let us know at: info@urbanartcommission.org, with the subject line: 'FAQ's'.