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Public Art

What do we mean by Public Art?
Public Art in Scotland
Public Art Links and Resources


Overview of Hidden Gardens. Photo: The NVA Organisation


The Scottish Arts Council has supported the development of Public Art for many years through a wide range of funding schemes and initiatives. These have successfully and positively affected public spaces throughout Scotland. 

Feast by Lucy Casson at Aberdeen Childrens Hospital

When we use the term Public Art we are referring to creative activity that takes place or is situated in a public space that is not a traditional art space, for example, hospitals, public parks or school playgrounds.

We recognise that public art practice is diverse, with the boundaries continually being pushed, by artists in particular. Through our Public Art schemes we hope to encourage this and develop artistic public realm practice.

What do we mean by Public Art? 

We believe that a key element of Public Art development is the quality and level of engagement between artists and the general public.

Public Art should seek a relationship between the general public and artists; these relationships can be on many levels but should allow opportunity for the public to influence how artists respond to, and work in, different public spaces, and similarly the relationship should allow the artist to influence how we respond to, use or feel about specific places.

Abertarff Square projections ‘Re-Imagining the Centre’ Sept 2009 Artist: Ablab/John McGeoch

We recognise that not all Public Art practice requires this level of interaction between artists and the public. However we regard the diverse relationships between people and artists as a positive element of public art and we will support and encourage exploration of how these relationships can influence our environments in the future.

Find out more about our Public Art and see some examples of work we have funded in our Public Art archive

Public Art in Scotland

Speaking Tube by Susie Hunter; photo by Andy McGregor

Public Art can create exciting and vibrant places and experiences, for the public and artists alike, whether a fleeting performance or the creation of a permanent artwork.


Spaces could simply be a high street in a town, a green space leftover from a housing development, a car park, an informal meeting space on a street corner for example the Inverness Old Town Art project. These public spaces and places do not have the same perceived social barriers as theatres, art galleries etc. and can provide a wealth of opportunity for creative expression and interaction. Artists: DUFI Photographer: Fin Macrae Initiative: IOTA

Strategic Working

Three Virtues by Matt Baker, 2008  Photographer: Ewen Weatherspoon

We aim to work strategically with those organisations and agencies that make decisions about our public spaces and explore how public art can play a vital and imaginative role in shaping thinking and decision-making. For example, housing associations, health boards, and local authorities.


Living - prototype canopy, photo: Andrew Leitch Healing - sculptured seating by Allan Watson at Royal Aberdeen Childrens Hospital


We have identified a set of priority areas. These priority areas, for public art support, will allow us to focus our work and identify potential partnerships.

  • Living spaces - For example, public hostels, housing developments, care homes.
  • Healing spaces - For example, hospitals, hospices, surgeries.
  • Learning and playing spaces - For example, schools, playgrounds, parks.
  • Green spaces and unexpected places - For example, leftover urban land, rural countryside, street corners, vistas.

Auchterarder School playground; Susie Hunter; photo by Keith Hunter

  Green - Experimental arch close up, Striding Arches; Photo: DGAA

We have supported over 100 public art projects across Scotland which cover a diverse range of places and spaces and we are starting to develop fruitful relationships and partnerships from some of these; for example Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS. This relationship enables us to demonstrate the role that public art can play within healthcare settings and provide examples of different approaches.

See some examples of work we have funded in our Public Art archive.

Public Art Budget

For 2010-11, we have approximately £500,000 of National Lottery funds to support public art.  This includes both open and managed grant funding.

We will run an open funding scheme for public art projects as well as managed funding strands that will allow us to identify and fund specific projects and initiatives that we consider strategically important. 

Public Art Links and Resources

We support and help develop Public Art in Scotland through

Public Art Funding

We are inviting applications for funding towards Public Art projects.  Applications will have a deadline of 14 June 2010.

For details about how to apply for our Public Art Fund please visit our funding webpage

Public Art Resource and Research Scotland (PAR & RS)

Public Art Resource and Research Scotland (PAR & RS) is an online resource that was launched in April 2008.  It is designed to provide a platform for discussion and critical debate for public art in Scotland.  Public art projects are often complex involving many different voices and experiences.  In order to encourage understanding and discussion we think that it is important for people to be able to share these experiences.  It is also recognised that there is a desire for further opportunity to build and widen critical discourse around public art.  PAR & RS brings all of these elements together.

PAR & RS is supported through National Lottery funds to cover costs such as website editor, website maintenance, development work, marketing, writing fees etc.

For more information about how we support public art in Scotland or if you would like to discuss a potential project, please contact the Lottery Department on 0131 226 6051.


See also
* Hidden gardens
* Striding arches
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