“The five finalists participate in an orientation session where they meet the design/engineering team and SEPTA’s community relations staff,” Mintz explains. “They get a detailed overview of the project, the constraints and opportunities of the locations selected for the placement of art and the project schedule and deadlines.” She says the presentation is followed by a question-and-answer period and a site visit with the project team.
For SEPTA’s program, the jury selection panel is comprised of five voting members and convened for each art project. The Art in Transit program manager is the only permanent member on the panel; the remaining four are selected to include a community representative, an artist who lives and works in or near the area surrounding the station, an arts professional, and an architect or engineer. The jury selection process is supported by a team of non-voting advisors, including the project architect/engineers and SEPTA community relations staff.
“The jury meets twice, the first time to review all complete submissions received. At the end of the first session, five finalists are selected who are invited to prepare a formal design proposal,” says Mintz. “The second time the jury meets they see the final proposals and recommend a first place artist and project.
“To facilitate the artists’ creative process and to develop an aesthetic for the renovation that speaks from the voice of the neighbors, input from the community is sought,” Mintz explains. “At a workshop-type meeting, the community is asked to articulate qualities and characteristics that define the surrounding neighborhood and identify events, individuals, landmarks and features that make their community unique.
“This meeting is held while the artists are preparing their final design proposals and they are invited to attend the meeting, listen and ask questions.” She adds, “SEPTA strongly encourages the finalist artists to do more than take the information from the community meeting, we ask them to go into the community — talk to the people — to help develop their creative ideas.”
Arvidson says something he’s been seeing more of is that agencies are going to more of a proposal format. “They’re asking companies to provide a proposal on how they can satisfy the agency’s needs so you can sometimes bring a whole new concept to the table and then the agency will choose which concept they like better or which materials they like better.” He says, “It gives more flexibility in ending up with a product that might fit the goals of the community, therefore art can be included easier that way.
“If you put out a bid that says we want 10 brown box shelters, you have to take the lowest bidder. For a proposal, you have many other factors that are decision-makers besides the lowest price.”
For one agency Arvidson works with, it worked with a lot of local artists for each location and it was cumbersome and very time-consuming. “When you’re dealing with a number of different vendors that aren’t used to dealing with this type of production works, it becomes very difficult to manage.”
Mintz talks about working with artists and what SEPTA has done to improve the process. “Public art is very different from the studio art process,” she stresses. “Artists who successfully compete and win public commissions must possess creative skills and ability as well as strong business skills and be familiar with the requirements and rigors of a public construction project.
“Making the transition from creating in a studio to art as a business can be daunting for many artists, which often limits the number of submissions received through an open call process,” she says. “To help bridge this gap and encourage more artists to venture into the public art realm, SEPTA held two Art in Transit workshops for the Market Street Elevated Reconstruction.”
This project reconstructed six stations along one of SEPTA’s busiest transit lines and each station had an art component. Regional and neighborhood artists were invited to learn more about the public art process, SEPTA’s Art in Transit Program, practical tips on submitting credentials for the call, creating a final design presentation and how to establish a budget.