About Norfolk Public Art

Established in 2006, Norfolk Arts seeks to create a rich, diverse, environment that reflects, celebrates and invites all to experience the arts.

What is Public Art?

A distinguishing characteristic of great cities is the interweaving of art into the urban fabric. Public art is artwork in public locations where everyone can see and enjoy it. Public art has been around since the time of pyramids and cave paintings. It is the involvement of artists in the same places in which the time, energy and money of the community are engaged. Public art can include anything from traditional sculptures, paintings and mosaics to manhole covers, paving patterns, lighting and other elements created by an artist. There are over 350 public art programs in North America that actively commission artists to create public art.

Norfolk is among the great cities that use public art to inspire, educate, beautify and give character to public places. In the 2006 budget, 1% of new capital projects over $500,000 was set aside to acquisition artwork. The Norfolk Arts Commission was established and, together with city staff, developed policies for the development of artwork that creates a unique image and sense of place for Norfolk. Through the public art process, we celebrate historic events or people, and provide opportunities to facilitate our community values of inclusion, civic pride, cultural diversity and appreciation of the creative spirit.

Release The Kraken Fun in the Sun Splasher of the Healing Water Billboard “Convergence of Birds” 2022 Billboard “Broken Skin” 2016 NFK Arts General Douglas MacArthur Ripples Life Drawing: Phoenix Rising Eastern VA Medical School public art partnership project Play Ball Asphalt Art Initiative Elizabeth River Festival Lone Sailor Connectedness Summer in the City

Why have public art?

Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking and transform the places in which we live, work and play into more welcoming, beautiful and interactive communities.

The presence of public art can heighten our awareness, question our assumptions, transform landscapes and express our community values. Over time, public art has the power to reveal the unique character of a city and its individual neighborhoods. An average of 55 million viewers experience public art firsthand every day for free (approximately 1,000 times the audience experiencing art galleries, museum and theaters combined).

How are public art projects funded?

While Norfolk has displayed artwork throughout the city for many years, the City Council formally established the Norfolk Arts Commission and adopted a funding ordinance in 2008. The ordinance provides for 1% of any city capital improvement budget over $500K to be dedicated to designing and installing public art.

Does public art have an economic benefit?

An average public art project stimulates our economy by providing grassroots building funds to artists, contractors, engineers, and other small businesses as well as promoting tourism. “The Gates” for New York City generated over $254 million during its two-week installation. The “WaterFire” public art project in Providence, Rhode Island, attracts 350,000 people annually translating to an additional $4 million each year.

Who chooses the art?

For each public art project, a planning committee is established that is made up of representatives of the community, the Norfolk Arts Commission, a user department representative, the project architect and/or landscape architect, and an art professional. This group develops the project intent, theme, location, media, scale and style; then they review the submissions and select the artist. The process of commissioning artwork is the meeting of minds on many levels.

What about the mermaids?

The mermaids you see around town are not listed on our site as they were not commissioned through the city’s One Percent for Art program. What is One Percent for Art? Read how the city’s public art program is funded.

Public Art Policies and Procedures

Ordinance – Norfolk Arts Commission and the Funding of Public Art

Sec. 2- 460. Norfolk Arts Commission; Composition and appointment of members.
The commission consists of fifteen ( 15) members.
The members shall be citizens of the city who shall be appointed by the council. The membership shall be selected to include persons having particular interest or association with any or all of the following specific areas:
1) Dance
2) Letters
3) Music
4) Theatre
5) Visual arts
6) Education
7) Member of the Planning Commission or
Architectural Review Board
8) Building architect
9) Landscape architect
10) Six ( 6) citizens at large

Sec. 2- 460.
1. Terms of members; filling of vacancies.
All members shall be appointed for up to two (2) terms of three ( 3) years. Any vacancy on the
Packet Pg. 450 9.4 commission shall be filled by the council for the unexpired term.

2. quorum.
Chairpersons; meetings;
The commission shall elect a chairperson and a
vice chair from Its membership, who shall serve
at the pleasure of the membership, The commission normally shall hold regular meetings once a month and keep a written record of its proceedings, which shall be a public record. A quorum shall consist of eight (8) members. No act of the commission shall be valid unless authorized by a majority of the quorum.

3. Powers and duties.
a) The commission shall act in an advisory
capacity to promote the further development and awareness of public art, artistic and cultural programs in the city and to provide a coordinated method of city support of cultural organizations and programs.
b) The commission shall review and evaluate requests for city funds for artistic and cultural purposes and make recommendations regarding such requests as part of the normal city budgeting process and make recommendations to be acted on by the city manager concerning commissioning and
purchasing works of public art with appropriated city funds for public art, except for those decisions concerning the placement of works of art within the City’ s Historic districts which must follow the procedural provisions of the City’ s Zoning Ordinance, as amended.

(Section 32-72.1 to 32-72.9) The city capital improvement budget allocates one percent of specified construction projects valued over $500,000 for the purpose of acquisition of artwork. The Norfolk Arts Commission was established as a formal mechanism to provide guidance and oversight for a public art program in the city.

The purpose of the Public Arts Program is to:

  • Interweave art with the urban fabric;
  • Create a unique image and sense of place;
  • Encourage positive civic discourse;
  • Celebrate historic events and persons;
  • Inspire, educate, beautify and give character to public places, and
  • Provide opportunities to facilitate the community values of inclusion, civic pride, cultural diversity and appreciation of the creative spirit.


“Commission” shall mean the Norfolk Arts Commission established by ordinance Section 32-72.1 to 32-72.7.
“Work of Art” means any work of visual art, including but not limited to, a sculpture, earthwork, drawing, painting, fresco, mosaic, photograph, neon, glass, limited edition prints, calligraphy, any combination of forms of media including sound, literary elements, film, and video systems; hybrids of any media and new genres.
“Work of Art” may include enhancements that are an integral part of architecture and landscape including the enhancement of infrastructure elements, such as sound-walls, utility structures, roadway elements and other items if designed by an artist or design team that includes an artist co-designer.
“Work of Art” may include temporary artworks or installations, if such artworks serve the purpose of providing community and educational outreach.
“Work of Art” is a visual work created by a professional visual artist or craftsman and may be created in collaboration with the project architect, landscape architect or engineer.
“Work of Art” does not include the ephemeral arts such as dance, voice, music or poetry unless expressed in a manner defined above.
“Work of Art” does not include signs, logos, mascots or other commercial displays.
“Prospectus” is the term used to describe the request for proposal or the request for qualifications that explains what is wanted in a particular Work of Art. A prospectus usually includes such elements as the site, the desired medium for the artwork, theme, and other qualities which may help artists in responding to a public art project.
“City Facility” refers to publicly-accessible facilities owned and operated by the City of Norfolk; this may include buildings, parks, or public spaces which are physically or visually accessible to the general public.
“Publicly Owned” property refers to facilities or grounds which are not the property of the City of Norfolk, but on which City of Norfolk public art projects may be sited; these include facilities of other public entities such as the State of Virginia, federal property or private facilities or properties once necessary public right of way has been obtained.
“User Department” refers to any city-funded department, division or program with capital projects.

The goals of the Norfolk Arts Program are to:

  • Encourage participation by citizens in the process of acquiring and commissioning Works of Art;
  • Foster quality design and the creation of an array of artwork in all media, materials, styles and disciplines that best respond to the distinctive characteristics of each project site and the community that it serves;
  • Reflect the diversity of culture, heritage and expressions of Norfolk and Virginia;
  • Build a diverse collection of public artworks by selecting a variety of artists to complete public art projects;
  • Encourage the selection of artists at the beginning stages of each project who can work successfully as members of the project design team, and to encourage collaboration among all arts and building disciplines;
  • Encourage art projects for open spaces, parks, infrastructure and facilities that enhance the quality, pride, and civic identity of neighborhoods in the City;
  • Encourage the role of artwork in enhancing economic development and cultural tourism;
  • Encourage the role of artists in the functional design of eligible capital improvement projects;
  • Foster and encourage the development of future public artists;
  • Document, preserve, restore and/or repair all public artwork acquired through this process or formally adopted by the Commission.

Norfolk Arts Commission
The Norfolk Arts Commission will provide guidance and oversight for public art projects in the city and will develop the program policies, procedures and regulations necessary to carry out the program. At least one member of the Commission will serve on each project planning committee in order to serve as a liaison between the community, the Norfolk Arts Commission and the city. The Commission will review and make recommendations concerning all aspects of public art, including policy, projects, acquisition, siting, maintenance, adoption, deaccession, education and outreach.

As established by ordinance, the Commission, all of whom are citizens of the city, appointed by the City Council. The membership of the commission shall consist of one representative from the City Planning Commission, Design Review Committee, visual arts, landscape architecture, building architecture, education and two representatives from the business community and citizens at-large. Initial appointments are for terms of three years and may be reappointed for up to three additional full terms, except that members initially appointed for less than a full term can be reappointed for four full terms. The Commission shall elect a chair and vice chair from its membership who will serve one-year terms for up to two terms.

The Norfolk Arts Program is administered by Norfolk Arts staff who are responsible for carrying out the policies and procedures to administer the program.

Program Funding
The funds most associated with the Norfolk Arts Program are those referred to as the One Percent for Art funds. This refers to one percent of the cost for construction projects approved in the annual capital improvement budget for over $500,000. These funds will be deposited in the Public Art account and will be expended for art projects. Any unexpended funds shall be carried over automatically. A portion of funds may also be expended for the administration costs, education, outreach, repairs, maintenance or conservation costs of the program.

Participating funds for public art projects may be identified or solicited from other public sector agencies, foundations and granting bodies, businesses, organizations or individuals, and deposited and expended through the Public Art account.

Procedures for Selection and Acquisition of Artwork

Project Initiation The general intention of the One Percent for Art funds is to acquire and install artworks at the project site as specified in the capital improvement budget. However, the Commission may recommend that funds be pooled for other projects. Norfolk Arts Program staff will review with city departments planned capital improvement projects to determine eligibility for public art programs. The following criteria will be used to identify suitable public art projects:

  • Available public art opportunities;
  • Size and scope of project;
  • Community impact;
  • Timing; and
  • Goals of the Norfolk Arts Commission.

A public art plan of projects will be developed annually by staff and presented to the Norfolk Arts Commission and City Council to help give focus to the annual work plan.

Project Planning Committee For each public art project, a Project Planning Committee will be established. Members will include the Norfolk Arts Commission liaison(s), user department representative(s), the project architect and/or landscape architect, a representative from the site design team, an artist, and a minimum of two community representatives. Community representatives will be selected from civic leagues and city task forces as per consultation with the City Council.

Prospectus Development and Distribution The Project Planning Committee will develop project criteria such as site, media, theme, scale, artist residency requirements and other appropriate parameters. The prospectus will be forwarded to the Norfolk Arts Commission for review and approval, amendment or rejection. Advertisement will be published according to city policies and procedures to include newspapers, arts publications, and other media. Invitations may also be extended to artists who are appropriate for the project.

Selection of Artist, Curator, Organization and/or Artworks Methods used for artist selection may include open competition, invitational competition, or by direct selection as recommended by the Commission to the City Manager. The Project Planning Committee will recommend the finalists and/or artist based on evaluation of materials submitted by the artist as specified in the prospectus: digital images, resumes, narrative or visual proposals, interviews, or maquettes. The Norfolk Arts Commission will recommend the selected artist to the City Manager. A contract for the required services of the artist will be developed by the city.

Process for Creating the Artwork
The initial design for the artwork will be reviewed and approved by the Norfolk Arts Commission and then recommended to the City Manager. The artist may be asked to make revisions. If the artwork is not approved and the artist is unwilling or incapable of making appropriate revisions, another artist may be selected. An artist may create the work of art independently or with subcontractors. The Program may acquire a work of art by an artist who is deceased.

Overview of Process for Developing a Public Art Project

  1. Project Planning Committee is formed to develop project criteria and prospectus
  2. Commission approves final prospectus
  3. Project announced, artist proposals accepted
  4. Project Planning Committee recommends artist
  5. Commission approves artist and recommends to City Manager
  6. Artist develops concept and design for project
  7. Commission approves design and recommends to City Manager
  8. Optional community meeting to review design
  9. Artist fabricates and installs artwork
  10. Community dedication and celebration

Donations of Funds and/or Adoption of Works of Art
The Program and the Commission may seek private or public donations of funds or Works of Art or other services including in-kind services or items necessary for the development of the project. The Norfolk Arts Commission shall be responsible for reviewing all proposed gifts in accordance with its adopted Gift/Donation Policy and making recommendation to the City Council.

Procedures for Accepting Funds or Adopting Works of Art
The donor shall contact and discuss the gift with the Norfolk Arts Commission and submit detailed written description of the artwork, including sketches and/or models or photographs if the artwork exists, all information pertaining to the artist, and a warranty of originality of the artwork. Materials will be reviewed and additional materials developed that may be necessary to accepting the donation such as possible sites, installation costs, maintenance or Historic Review reports. The Commission shall be allowed enough time to review and request further information pertaining to the artwork and /or site before final acceptance or refusal of any gift.

The review process will consider the following criteria:

  • Quality of work; high artistic standards are maintained for artworks displayed in the City. Artworks should be compatible with the character of the community and should support a vision for the city’s public art collection.
  • Financial consideration; source of funding for installation, maintaining and conserving donated artwork are sufficient. In most instances, a maintenance agreement will be formed whereby the donor agrees to financially support the donated artwork.
  • Liability; issues will be reviewed based on the susceptibility of the artwork to damage and vandalism, potential danger to the public and special insurance requirements.
  • Appropriateness to the site, scale, and historical and ecological impact; environmental considerations shall be reviewed based on the physical appropriateness of the artwork to the site and the scale of the artwork.
  • User Department approval.

Conditions of acceptance may be negotiated. All funds or works of art will be presented to the City Council for formal adoption and receipt.

Memorials and Monuments
A “memorial and/or monument” is an object or the enhancement, modification or highlighting of an existing city property, tree or landscape feature, designed and established specifically in memory of an individual, association, anniversary or event. For existing memorials, the Commission and public art staff can offer resources for maintenance review and assessment, and advice on reviewing and interpreting available records of construction, siting and local, state and federal artists’ rights and act as advisor.
The creation and/or donation of Memorials and Monuments is not the purview of the Norfolk Arts Commission. The Commission should serve as advisors regarding the process of new memorial design, creation, site placement and maintenance to ensure artistic excellence and aesthetic integrity and to preserve the cultural context of public displays in the City. The Commission may choose as part of the yearly work plan to create a monument or memorial through this process with the 1% capital funds.

Maintenance and Conservation
The city shall be responsible for the maintenance of all city-initiated projects created through this policy and those adopted into the collection by the Norfolk Arts Commission. All permanent public art projects must have a plan to properly maintain the work. Within the terms of the artist’s contract, the artist shall guarantee and repair artworks against all defects of material or workmanship for a period of two years following installation. The artist shall provide Norfolk Arts with drawings of the installation and detailed instructions regarding routine maintenance of the artwork. The artist shall have the opportunity to comment on and participate in, all repairs and restoration which are made during their lifetime. The condition of artwork will be assessed on an ongoing basis. Norfolk Arts will develop conservation procedures, including budget and timeline estimates. Funds for the maintenance of the artwork will be allocated as a portion of the public art program’s operating budget.

Deaccession of Artwork
The city will seek to ensure the integrity of the artist, their artwork, the site, and the public for which it was created, in accordance with the artist’s intention. However, the city will reserve the right to relocate a piece of art if public necessity warrants such relocation. Works of Art that are considered for removal from the City Art Collection will undergo the same degree of careful review as a decision to commission a work of art. Recommendations to the Commission to deaccession artwork will take into consideration but not be restricted to:

  • Concerns that the condition or security of the artwork cannot be reasonably guaranteed;
  • Excessive maintenance or defaults in design or workmanship that cause repair or remedy is impractical or unfeasible;
  • Endangerment of the public safety;
  • Significant changes in the use, character, or design of the site which affect the integrity of the work; or
  • Replacement of artwork for something more appropriate by the same artist(s).

Procedures for Deaccession of Artwork
The Norfolk Arts Commission shall review the circumstances surrounding the proposed deaccessioned artwork. No artwork shall be removed within ten years of acquisition unless there are extenuating circumstances. In the event that the Norfolk Arts Commission chooses to replace, remove, or sell an artwork, living artists shall have the right of first buy-back, as specified in their contract. A recommendation to deaccession or relocate a work of art will require a written report with the reasons, condition report, and current appraised value.

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Norfolk Arts seeks to create a rich, diverse, environment that reflects, celebrates and invites all to experience the arts. We seek to give voice to our community and strive to unite, energize, prompt dialogue, and inspire the unique character of Norfolk.

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