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Cornell University

FAQ for Preparing a Public Art Proposal

Artists & Sponsor Toolkit / FAQ for preparing a public art proposal

COAC Goal:

To enhance the use of the Cornell campus as a forum for the creation and display of artistic installations in publicly-accessible outdoor places in support of the academic mission.

COAC Mission:

To facilitate the review, development, and installation of campus public art through developing a set of  policies and procedures that will ensure the careful choice of appropriate works of art, their proper installation, inventory, and maintenance, and the identification and commitment of funds for these purposes. 

What is considered a work of art?

Works of Art – may include: sculpture, in situ creations, paintings, murals, decorative benches, lamps, or other such “street furniture”, video installations, and other new media, both permanent and temporary, whether given, purchased, or commissioned. For the purposes of this committee, it does not include short-term (less than 1 day) student installations made under the supervision of a faculty member, or short-term film and video projections installed for announcements or curricular purposes, or directional or informational signage or banners.

Categories of Art Installations:

Permanent = greater than 180 days
Temporary = between 14 days and 180 days
Event = less than 14 days

Where do I start to get my art installation reviewed and approved?

Type of installation Where to start Contact information
Installation lasts less than 14 days Event Registration Form
Memorial or donor recognition installation Committee on Memorials and Named Facilities (CMNF)

Banner or Signage Campus Planning Department

Inside a building University Architect Office vacant
Garden or planting University Landscape Architect

All other outdoor art installations Committee on Outdoor Art at Cornell (COAC)

How and what do I submit for review by COAC?

1. Submission: All proposals should be in writing and addressed to David Cutter, Co-Chair, Committee on Outdoor Art at Cornell, c/o Campus Planning Department, 125 Humphreys Service Building; email:

2. Content: The proposal should include:

  • Date of proposal submission, name of the artist and biographical information, and contact information for the individuals or agencies submitting the proposal;
  • Narrative and conceptual design material to illustrate the artistic intent;
  • Proposed siting, including adjacent context;
  • Multiple views of the artwork, showing all important structural features of the work, including pedestal or landscaping recommendations, as appropriate;
  • The work’s dimensions, weight, and volume;
  • Its current and future ownership status, e.g., the cost of its purchase (if it is not a gift), or the duration of its display if it is a loan;
  • Estimated cost of transportation, installation, maintenance, and insurance;
  • Expected sources of revenue to pay for the work’s transportation, installation, maintenance, and insurance (and purchase, if that is proposed);
  • The target dates for installation and duration, if temporary;
  • All other useful information.

3. Presentation to COAC: The artist and project sponsor presents their proposed installation at a meeting of the full committee, followed by a question and answer session.

4. Consideration: The committee shall consider several criteria in its assessment, including but not limited to:

  • The artistic quality of the work proposed;
  • The ability of the work to withstand its surrounding environmental conditions, in terms of the welfare of the work and its lifecycle costs;
  • Its appropriateness to a university campus open to a great variety of people;
  • Size, weight, and volume;
  • How it fits with the landscape or built environment around it;
  • Its ownership status, current and future;
  • The cost of its purchase (if it is not a gift), and where those funds would be secured;
  • The cost of transportation, installation, and landscaping (if needed) and where those funds would be secured;
  • Recommendation as to who should maintain the work once it is installed;
  • General risk assessment, ie. is it an “attractive nuisance” that might attract climbing or potential vandalism;
  • Impacts and access to utilities, pipes, drainage, other such essential infrastructure.
  • Duration of installation (if not permanent).

5. Committee Action: The Committee will review the proposal, discuss the material presented and come to a consensus recommendation. Possible recommendations include support for project as presented, support with conditions, decline to support, or incomplete proposal -  need for more information. In the case where additional information is needed, the committee could appoint a sub-committee to work with the artist and sponsor to prepare a revised and complete proposal that addresses the outstanding questions. Once a complete proposal is accepted, the Committee has up to 30 days to take action.

How do I get approval for use of the site on which I want to install my artwork?

1. Site selection for projects, including art installations is led by the Campus Planning Department. Once your proposal has received support from the COAC, you should meet with the University Planner to review your proposed site and prepare for a presentation to the Campus Planning Committee.

2. The Campus Planning Committee meets monthly during the fall and spring academic semesters. Both the artist and sponsor can make the presentation which should focus on where the installation will be located, and how it interacts with its context, including underground utilities and other infrastructure.

3. The final step in gaining University approval for both the design and site location of an outdoor art installation involves going through the series of review meetings culminating in review by the Buildings & Properties (B&P) committee of the Board of Trustees. The University Planner leads the project through the review process and the artist and sponsor typically will be required to participate in the presentations.

Do I need to receive approval for funding or contracting part of my installation?

  1. If the total project will cost more than $100,000, then it will need to go through the Project Approval Request (PAR) process. This is an electronic submittal and review process conducted through the University’s e-Builder system and requires a project manager with access to e-Builder.
  2. If commissioning an artist for work on campus, a “Commissioning of Artwork” contract between the artist and the university will need to be developed through Cornell’s Office of University Counsel.

What is the typical process for the development and approval of project plans and construction documents?

  1. Permanent art installations and major temporary installations will have a project manager assigned to guide the project through the process.
  2. A Project Intake Request (link is external) is submitted online to start the project /start-a-project. The Project Intake Manager will help you define the goals and scope of your projects, large or small, and establish a budget within your department or unit’s means.  The Project Intake Manager will also help determine the best strategy to get your project completed on time and on budget, including working with outside consultants and contractors.
  3. Depending upon the scale and complexity of the installation, a project may go through multiple phases of project development. Typically, the project team (artist, sponsor, project manager and consultants) will develop a preliminary set of plans and documents for review by university stakeholders.
  4. Stakeholder review is coordinated by the project manager. Stakeholders include representatives from Campus Planning, University Architect, Facilities Engineering, Facilities Management, Grounds, ADA Coordinator, Utilities, Risk Management, Community Relations and CU Police. Plan on two weeks minimum for stakeholder review.
  5. The project team will incorporate the stakeholder input into the development of final construction documents.

How do I determine if municipal approval and/or a building permit is required for my installation?

  1. Cornell’s Engineering and Project Administration Department hold regular meetings with municipal permitting officials to informally review upcoming projects and discuss municipal review and permitting requirements. To find the date of the next meeting and request a place on the agenda, please contact: Paula Slocum,
  2. The artist and/or the project manager should present their preliminary plans early in the project development process for guidance.