The Town of Victoria Park: Best Practice in Public Art

By Arts Law Centre of Australia on 26th November 2014

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Damien Butler concept for Lathlain Place, 2014. Installation due March 2015. This is the first artwork procured under the new Arts Law contract. Images: © Damien Butler Reproduced with Permission.

The Town of Victoria Park on the Swan River in Western Australia is a vibrant, urban community. Its local government authority understands the important role played by public art in shaping an exciting, creative and unique environment. The Town’s Public Art Masterplan envisages expenditure of over $700,000 on new public artworks in 2013-2015.  Additionally  the farsighted ‘percent for art’ policy requires developers of projects with a value of $5 million or more to make a monetary contribution of 1-1.25% of the value of the development to the Town for a public artwork or incorporate a work of art of that value into the development.

In 2014, the Town worked with Arts Law to develop a Public Art: Design and Commission Agreement for the Town to use when commissioning artworks as well as a template agreement for developers.  Arts Law’s ‘artists first’ policy meant that it would only assist on the basis that the Town agreed that the agreements would be prepared on a best practice basis. This approach was consistent with what the Town wanted – to strike a fair balance between its needs and those of the artists. Arts Law is often approached by organisations, such as councils, for advice on developing fair and equitable systems for negotiating or contracting with artists. Arts Law will only provide legal advice in such situations if it considers that doing so will assist in embedding best practice within that organisation and thereby create flow-on benefits to a substantial number of artists.

Arts Law met with staff of the Town of Victoria Park, reviewed its policies and developed two separate agreements – one for use when the Town commissioned public artworks and one for the Town to make available to any developers seeking to commission artworks for incorporation into their development projects. These agreements dealt with payment protocols, insurance, the design approval process and the construction process as well as what happens if the Town or developer rejects a design or the artist is unable to complete the artwork due to illness. Significantly, these best practice agreements contain clear requirements for additional payments to be made to artists where an unreasonable number of changes are requested. The agreements explicitly protect the artist’s moral rights and copyright while recognising that one aspect of encouraging a vital creative culture which engages the public with public spaces is the ability to facilitate and publish images of such works for non-commercial purposes. They also deal with the artist’s rights when repairs or restoration work is required and clearly set out a deaccessioning process.

Based on this collaboration, Arts Law has now revised and updated its own Public Art Design and Commission sample agreement to reflect best practice for local government authorities and other organisations wanting to commission public artworks.

"The Town of Victoria Park has been working closely with Arts Law over the past nine months in formulating leading edge documents in support of contractual arrangement for public art commissions. Arts Law asked to use this collaboration as a case study given the great strides taken together in forging ahead with arts industry best practice. The Town is pleased to collaborate towards positive outcomes for our artists, developers and the broader community. This association is a valued relationship.”- Mayor Trevor Vaughan

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