Get Out of Triage Mode: 5 Ways to Maintain Your Public Art

Elysian Koglmeier | March 18, 2019 (Updated April 21, 2023)

Michael Singer's Garden of the Seasons. Photo courtesy of Middlebury College

Get out of triage mode. Simplify and streamline the process of maintaining your public art.

“We used to say that artwork doesn’t require maintenance," said Patricia Walsh, Public Art Network Manager at Americans for the Arts. "Now we recognize that all art needs it."

Whether it’s waxing a bronze, removing graffiti, or replacing a lightbulb, public installations need attention and resources to be properly conserved for future generations.

And juggling those maintenance needs can be a headache. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Stop sifting through papers guessing what maintenance has been done in the past. Be prepared when something goes wrong.

These 5 simple tasks, which can be completed and tracked in Artwork Archive’s online art collection management system, help you streamline and sustain effective maintenance methods.

1. Keep detailed maintenance records online.

Track your collection’s care by recording what maintenance happened, who did it, and how much it cost.

Upload and store important files like invoices, assessments, conservator notes, and images so that you can reference them, no matter where you are—in the office or on site. That way you always have the assessment, maintenance, and treatment of the work on hand.

There are many benefits to keeping detailed maintenance records:

  1. Learn from the past and avoid future mistakes. Keith Lachowicz, Public Art Collectors Manager for Regional Arts and Culture Council in Portland Oregon, helps artists build lasting pieces by providing them with detailed maintenance records that outline necessary care during the research phase.

  2. Ensure knowledge is not lost with turnover. When an administrator leaves the program, their experience and expertise does not have to go with them.

  3. Make your conservator’s life easier by tracking past conservation efforts.

Use online platforms like Artwork Archive to keep all of your important information in one place.

2. Schedule conservation reminders.

Nadya Chuprina from Palo Alto’s public art program shares that “it’s helpful to set up reminders to ensure that things get done"

Whether it be a cleaning or assessment, schedule reminders so you never miss an important maintenance event.

Artwork Archive’s Scheduler syncs to your calendar and sends you weekly emails so that you don’t forget a cleaning or treatment. And, reminders are easy to share so that everyone on your team knows about upcoming conservation efforts.

Maintenance records keep all of your conservation and care information in one, easily accessible place to reference and schedule. 

3. Track the cost of maintaining your public art collection.

Keep track of how much you are spending year over year to preserve individual works. And, see the aggregate cost of maintaining your entire collection.

With maintenance costs clearly outlined, you can learn from past projects and apply your learnings to future projects in the design phase. Help guide artists to picking materials that are less expensive to upkeep over time.

Make the case for maintenance. Create and share records to communicate the importance of maintenance to ensure it is a line item in upcoming budgets. 

4. Know who has worked on your collection.

Don’t lose track of key contacts. Always have fabricator and art conservator contacts available so that there is continuity in care. Upload conservator notes to avoid gaps in care and ensure that future caretakers know what steps to take with a piece.

5. Create maintenance reports.

Create reports that show maintenance costs or maintenance history for individual works of art. And, these records can come in handy if you need data to support deaccessioning pieces. 

All of these tools are available on Artwork Archive. Plans start at just $24 a month to organize, manage and preserve your public art collection.

Sign up for an Artwork Archive account to start tracking your public art maintenance.


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