Programs Supporting Art in the Public Realm: A National Field Scan

A challenge for artists and funders in this intersectional work is to advance both aesthetic and community aims. How do programs balance community development needs and goals with opportunities for artists to experiment? What kinds of supports are needed to help community partners who are crucial to the impact of the work, fully engage with artists? What services best support artists who are building their capacity for public realm production and community engagement? What funding strategies and practice standards help ensure projects that meet high marks for both aesthetic achievement and community value?

In the spirit of advancing field dialogue, Americans for the Arts and the Barr Foundation are happy to share Programs Supporting Art in the Public Realm: A National Field Scan. The scan, while not intended to be comprehensive, highlights overarching themes and offers snapshots of 28 programs supporting and building capacity for artists to work in the public realm. Detailed summaries from interviews with seven selected programs provide additional insights.  

Download the National Field Scan

The Scan identified grant programs supporting strong and diverse artistic expression aiming to empower artists to be active and creative citizens in their communities; encourage partnerships between artists and community organizations; offer professional development training and technical assistance; utilize cohort-style professional development and/or networking model; and provide opportunities for artists to enhance their visibility and public voice.

Key learning from the review of grant and public art programs fall into seven overarching themes and topics: 

  • Artistic Excellence
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Grantmaking
  • Partnership Requirements
  • Public Component
  • Professional Development within Grant and Public Art Programs
  • Documentation and Evaluation

This scan was conducted to inform future directions of the New England Foundation for the Arts’ (NEFA) Creative City program. Creative City’s pilot phase offered direct support for artists at varied stages of experience and career to exercise their creative power to excite the public imagination and engage Boston’s diverse communities. A report and videos highlighting its value and impact in Boston can be found at:


Download the National Field Scan

Learn about NEFA's Creative City Program

Read the Barr Foundation's Blog