Bristol City Council is dedicated to making imaginative, meaningful and sustainable cultural experiences happen across our public realm as a result of planning policy. We believe that putting culture at the heart of place, considering creative opportunities early, and investing in people and process alongside high quality urban design can create the most successful places to live, work and move through.
Bristol is one of the leading city’s in the UK for Public Art commissioning and is known for its programme of projects with artists of local, national and international significance. Our Art and the Public Realm programme focusses on the development of visionary public art works across the city outside of conventional gallery and museum settings, instead bringing to life the streets, empty buildings, parks, fields and spaces in between. The Public Art programme has been active since the adoption of a Public Art Policy by Bristol City Council in 2000, and the development of a Public Art Strategy (2003). To date over 150 commissions have been produced and over 200 artists engaged and employed.
Public Art in Bristol is funded through planning gain as a result of Bristol’s Local Plan Core Strategy Policy BCS21 to ensure high quality urban design and is secured usually via Condition. Major and super major developments in Bristol are expected to engage positively in commissioning cultural works for their sites to mitigate the impact of development on people and place – an opportunity to create immense social value for multiple stakeholders.
Bristol City Council provides a strategic role in the development of art in the public realm and is also responsible for providing formal planning approval for artworks both permanent and temporary.
Art and the Public Realm Bristol was first developed in 2009. It is a showcase of the City’s commitment to public realm commissioning – a visual platform for celebrating cultural case studies, both past and present. We invite you to discover our Public Art Principles, to explore the Project Archive, access our Resources (such as the Public Art Commissioning Toolkit and Producer Directory), or follow the map to find an artwork to visit.
Public Art Principles
The Public Art approach for Bristol is underpinned by five key principles which put cultural experience, creative practice and best practice artist commissioning at the heart of:
Creatively engaging, informing and empowering our citizens, communities and stakeholders.
Vibrant place making
Imagining and contributing to liveable, loved, playful and unique places to live, work and move through.
Supporting a programme of work that contributes to an environmentally and socially sustainable city.
Quality urban design
Embedding quality public art and culture into schemes as early as possible to maximise economic, civic and social value for developers, residents and users.
Nurturing Bristol’s cultural, creative ecology by commissioning artists and producers and providing space to allow their vision and ideas to thrive.
Guidelines for a Public Art Plan contents list can be found in The Public Art Commissioning Toolkit (Appendix) which can be downloaded from the Resources page on the website. Please note that this list is not extensive and is purely a guideline only. Public Art Plans are bespoke to the site and condition and vary in length and detail. There is also an option for ‘further details’ outside of the plan to be submitted to the Case Officer and Public Art Officer and changes agreed should the Plan need to be updated throughout the process of delivery.
These two terms use different language to describe the same document.
A Percent for Art
In 1991 the Arts Council of Great Britain initiated the Percent for Art Campaign. This is mentioned in Bristol City Council’s 2003 Strategy and is still followed as national guidance – it is a well established principle.
Bristol City Council recognise the ‘percent’ as meaning 1% of the capital construction cost of developments. In line with the national guidelines the City Council expect that 1% of the total build cost is allocated to public art and culture to mitigate the impact of the development on people and place.
The 1% contribution should cover:
Producer fees / project management;
- Artist’s fees, fabrication and installation;
- Public engagement and consultation costs;
- Commuted sum for maintenance and decommissioning plan;
- Community, education and skills development programmes
- Project documentation, comms and evaluation costs
The 1% contribution excludes the preparation of materials required to be submitted with full Planning Applications. For example, the writing of a Public Art Plan/ Strategy by a Public Art Producer of which the budget should be treated separately. Where public art proposals are not submitted with Planning Applications, the City Council may refuse the application. (see process and procurement).
We are aware that there can be viability issues on sites but encourage this budget to be allocated early, otherwise a proof of viability for not providing a significant sum will be requested. We encourage this 1% to be matched with existing budget where a culture led approach could add further value. For example, scheme budgets for public realm, landscaping, decorative schemes / surfaces play etc, or unlocking creative space through former use assets.
The Public Art Officer will often act as broker between external Producers and developers to discuss and secure budgets.
We aim for an engaged approach between the city and developer/s to enable a public art solution that is both achievable and value-adding for both the scheme and the city rather than an unnecessary and expensive ‘add on’.
Whilst most Public Art Policy agreements are currently being secured by Condition, there are some circumstances where securing Public Art via S106 becomes appropriate. For example, the securing of cultural infrastructure via S106 is needed as details of rent costs, timescales and technical details are included.
Where there are early opportunities to pool public art funds together for added value in an area to fund an initial site wide public art plan collectively between developers, S106 contributions may also be agreed alongside a Public Art Condition at approval stage.
Bristol City Council are committed to supporting you to close your Condition at a time that is right for your development process, considering all commitments have been respected. This can sometimes be on submission and approval of your Public Art Plan, or, more commonly, Conditions are left part open until the artwork has been delivered fully against the details submitted in your Public Art Plan. Breaching a Condition is treated very seriously and the enforcement team will be informed.
A specialist Arts Producer will work closely with developers to identify the cultural opportunities for their site. They will be commissioned to write and submit the Public Art Plan and deliver against the details in this plan. Public Art Producers are specialists in their field and are fantastic collaborators, they will open up opportunities and ensure you get the most out of the cultural opportunities in your development. Please download The Public Art Commissioning Toolkit and visit the Producer Directory for more information.
Bristol City Council will only except Public Art Plans written by an external Art Producer or Consultant. Please note Public Art Plans written by members of the Design team or Agents will not be accepted. Please visit the Producer Directory for a list of experienced, recommended Producers.
Bristol City Council has a dedicated Public Art Officer – Georgina Bolton.
The Public Art Officer works collaboratively across the Development Management and Arts Development teams to ensure that major and super major developments are subject to BCC’s Public Art Policy and conditions are placed on sites at approval stage. The Public Art Officer offers strategic advice to developers regarding cultural opportunities and expectations for their sites; will discuss and agree budgets (acting as broker) between Producers and developers and will review and advise on Public Art Plans and ensure that these plans are followed.
The Public Art Officer leads on the Public Art Condition discharge process and will involve enforcement should conditions be breached or not followed correctly.
To contact the Public Art Officer and the culture team please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please see The Public Art Commissioning Toolkit section on De-commissioning for guidance.
Please see The Public Art Commissioning Toolkit section on Maintenance Plans for guidance.
There is tag function that enables you to search for projects that hit the criteria for different categories. For example, you can search ‘landscape’ or ‘cultural infrastructure’ to bring up different projects under these themes.
Bristol City Council is supporting and prioritising securing Cultural Infrastructure as Public Art provision through our current policy. Once creative spaces are lost from areas of regeneration it is extremely hard to get them back. We believe in supporting artists and creatives to have the space they need to thrive – to grow and protect our cultural facilities and to support Bristol’s reputation as a city of culture by encouraging good growth and putting culture at the heat of local regeneration.
There are a number of pilot projects currently in progress that demonstrate securing cultural infrastructure via our planning policy using S106 agreements. We encourage developers to identify opportunities with their Producers and to explore the management models for how ‘giving space’ in their developments would work in practice. The offer of cultural infrastructure can exist alongside a programme of events and permanent works that make up the public art offer for your site.
Please submit your interest via the online form and we will be in touch.
Please email email@example.com with your opportunity information and we will can provide a link out to your opportunity for you.
Best Practice procurement process guidance can be found in The Public Art Commissioning Toolkit, downloaded from the Resources page.
We would like to support both Bristol’s and the UK’s own cultural ecology by providing opportunities for local and national artists, however there may absolutely be occasions where an international voice is of huge benefit. Please see the documents on the Resources page for further info on our approach and the Public Art Principles.
We would love to hear from you. Please get in touch via our online form.
Contact details for recommended Public Art Producers who have lots of experience of working with artists in the public realm can be found in the Producer Directory.
Bristol is one of the leading city’s in the UK for public art commissioning. It is recognised for its visionary public art works that can be experienced outside of the conventional gallery and museum setting and instead across the streets, parks and pavements of the city’s public realm.
Bristol City Council’s Core Policy BCS21 is committed to ensuring ‘quality urban design’. This policy states that new developments will need to allocate a budget to commission Public Art and Culture as part of their new development to mitigate the impact of their development on on people and place.
Bristol’s Art and the Public Realm website is a marker of Bristol’s commitment to, and successes in, ambitious public art commissioning. It showcases a ground-breaking selection of Public Art projects that demonstrate a variety of different typologies, approaches and outcomes, opening up perceptions of what public art and culture can look like. Since 2017, a renewed focus has been placed on projects that properly fund process, the employment of people and meaningful community engagement.
We hope it will continue to be an essential resource for Developers, Producers, Artists who are completing projects against Policy BCS21, as well as for the general public who can use it as a tool to explore permanent artworks across Bristol. The hope the archive is also useful for students and academics interested in site specific projects.
Projects featured on Art and the Public Realm Bristol funded via Bristol City Council’s planning policy continue to provide jobs and project opportunities to many local artists and creative producers in the city.
This website is a re-fresh of the previous version of Art and the Public Realm website which was launched in January 2011.
Our aim is for this website to be accessible to multiple audiences and users. These include: the general public interested to explore Bristol’s public art and cultural scene; developers who will be commissioning public art as part of their development projects; Producers who are looking for work in the city; and artists who are interested in expanding their practice into the public realm. Bristol City Council also intend this website to be a useful resource and internal tool for Case Officers and other services to access recent project case studies, principles and processes regarding public art commissioning through development management policy.
The term ‘Public Art’ refers to art that is in the public realm, regardless of whether it is situated on public or private property or whether it has been paid for with public or private money. Bristol City council supports public art that is in public space and accessible to all to visit.
When we think about ‘Public Art’ we often imagine static, permanent sculptures in parks, roundabouts or public squares, but it can do so much more – it can re-engage, amplify, celebrate and immerse.
Ixia (the National Public Art think tank) provides guidance that helps broaden our understanding of what Public Art can be, describing it as ‘art commissioned as a response to the notion of place, art commissioned as part of the designed environment and process-based artistic practice that does not rely on the production of an art object.’
Bristol Council accords with this broader approach, supporting Ixia’s definition of public art ‘as the process of artists responding to the public realm,’ re-defining
Public Art as a diversity of creative practice and cultural experience that takes place in the public realm.
For examples of the shape and form that public art can take please read more on this section in the Public Art Commissioning Toolkit.
The Project Spotlight section allows Bristol City Council to shine a line on live or recently completed projects in different areas of the city.
For the art and culture to be ‘public’ it should normally be in the public realm to which the public has free and easy access, including public buildings (such as hospitals and community centres), paths, streets and roads, and squares, parks and open spaces. Artwork provided within courtyards or enclosed spaces that are subject to restricted or discretionary access to the public may be considered ‘public’ in the sense of providing a wider enjoyment and appreciation of the area, but will generally not be considered public art for the purpose of public art procured through Bristol’s development management policy.