4.3 Management and maintenance plan for permanent work - budget plan


Many commissions are funded as a capital cost with no link to the revenue implications for future up-keep, questions will then be asked of who covers this cost?This often leads to permanent public art works either being neglected, or moved into a general maintenance programme. While the latter is preferable to the former, it still does not consider public art as a separate entity - general maintenance programmes are often inadequate to cover regular issues.

With limited funding and overall tight budgets, there is a need to consider realistic costs for permanent works that are durable and maintenance light. However, these decisions should not compromise the aesthetic concept of the work and limit materials and processes with the expectation that the commission can be maintenance free and vandal proof - reasonable compromise should be made through thoughtful discussion.

It is these issues which mean that the maintenance must be an integral aspect which is considered from the beginning of a commission. Major permanent commissions require a costed maintenance plan which includes a timetable, general requirements and any specific considerations linked to the materials or techniques used.

While each piece of public art is unique, this tool-kit provides an outline guide on the maintenance of permanent pieces.

This guide provides an overview and check-list for practical use on permanent pieces and is linked to Aberdeen City Council's Public Art policy. All commissioners should ensure the project criteria are in line with these requirements and any special maintenance requirements are detailed and can be met before the commission goes ahead.


Guide to maintaining and managing permanent public art


Legal Ownership and Duty of Care

When considering developing your maintenance plan, it is essential to establish the owner of the work. Failure to do so provides no clear mandate, providing the opportunity to deny responsibility and ultimately fuel the continual neglect of permanent pieces of public art.

It may appear obvious as to where the responsibility of maintenance lies, however the complexities of funding systems, land ownership and changes of circumstances, may often lead to confusion. To avoid such issues the following items should be considered:

Who is responsible?

What are the key issues of maintenance?

What is the costed plan?

Establish a written contract between partners

This should be completed before any work progresses on a commission for a permanent piece of public art.


Identifying who is responsible

As a commissioner of a permanent piece of public art, it may not be your responsibility to maintain the piece; however you will be responsible for its management.Each commission is different and while some considerations are detailed below, it is the responsibility of the commissioner to identify who is responsible for maintenance.

Aberdeen City Council's Public Art policy outlines that any permanent piece to be sited on land which is owned by the Council requires an agreement with the authority and the commissioner. Where a commission has not been led by the Council or the benefits of the commission aligned to the authorities' priorities, if the commissioner seeks the council support to maintain the piece, a financial contribution may be required.


Reaching an agreement

Agreement issues that should be considered include:

That adequate funding is in place.

Regular condition reviews should be carried out at agreed intervals.

Each artwork should have a maintenance manual supplied by the artist at the time of completion.

Maintenance reviews and plans can be developed in collaboration with Aberdeen City Council through a department responsible for public spaces - or the private owner of the site.

The manual should include a preferred maintenance schedule with a list of material specifications, where the materials were sourced, relevant fabricators, skilled trades people and all health and safety issues. On receipt of the manual, the maintainer and artist will agree all professional standards relating to the work.

Access to relevant expertise for the specific type of work.

That the artist should be contacted regarding any repair work to the art work.

All specialised maintenance and conservation duties to the art work should be first offered to the artist or a professional art maintainer. The maintainer will need to keep a list of the relevant resources.


Creating a costed plan

The maintainer will need to develop a maintenance fund to cover future conservation and maintenance costs for the art works and agreed areas / groundworks at the site.On average 10% of the project budget is a good guideline, and should be included in the project budget requirement at the start of the commissioning process.

An investment fund should be established so that monies can grow to cover anticipated maintenance cost over a period of time.

A technical review should be agreed for a set period of time (up to 25 years) - with specific review periods indicated.


Establishing a written agreement

All maintenance agreements should be included within the artist contract as outlined in section 3.3

Specific details of maintenance issues (as outlined above) should also be agreed in a signed written format based upon the maintenance manual supplied by the artist.


De-commissioning and how 'permanent' is permanent?

The term 'permanent' in relation to a public art work can be misleading, suggesting that all works will remain in their installed site forever. While in general, permanent public art should be designed to endure within a location, there will be occasions when (through no particular design fault) work may deteriorate significantly, health and safety may become a problem, or the surrounding space may change physically or in its use.

With this consideration, there must be a review process which considers:

Does the piece still continue to deliver upon its original aims and objectives in relation to the site?

What is the physical condition of the work and the relative merits for any major repairs?

What is the physical condition of the immediate surroundings and what repairs or improvements can be made?

Is the consideration of 'de-commissioning' or changing location a valid option?

This is a delicate issue requiring thoughtful consideration and thorough communication.If de-commissioning is to be considered, the artist must be notified and any stipulations in the contract considered. The community, funders and others who may have an interest in the work and the site need to be considered in the process of reaching a decision.

The responsibility for this process should be considered within the maintenance plan. Aberdeen City Council's Public Art Policy outlines that pieces (with some exceptions) should be reviewed every 20 to 25 years and where responsibility lies with the local authority, this timescale and the process underpinning this will be followed. Where responsibility lays out with the local authority, you should consider the development of a review process which is suitable for the specific art work - Aberdeen City Council's public art policy provides a good practice framework.