When the commission releases a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), typically, a lot of the same public artists apply. The application process is difficult and technical, and artists are always asked to submit examples of their work—if the work doesn't include at least one work of public art, the artist-selection panel will usually breeze over the application because there's no assurance that the artist can deliver. When city money is involved, the willingness to take risks on emerging artists disappears.
“Public art involves hiring contractors, getting insurance… it's very draining and demanding,” explained Springs.
Even experienced public artists need help meeting the guidelines of each public-art project. Springs offers free technical-assistance workshops almost every time the commission releases a new RFQ. She held four prior to the application deadline for the King memorial.
So how do emerging artists get involved? They have to be mentored in. For large-scale projects, like the King memorial, artists apply as teams. The lead artist is the public artist with the most experience. The rest of the team members rely on this to get them through. If their team wins, the public artwork becomes part of the emerging artist's working résumé.
As of now, the commission doesn't have any programs geared specifically toward emerging artists—mainly because of the lack of a meaningful budget to do so—but Springs says she's got it on her mind.
“It's my dream that that changes at some point.”