Public Art Program Overview


Top L-R: Don Wilson, Interlocking Forms, 1977; Patti Warashina, City Reflections, 2009; John Killmaster, Untitled, 1977; Bruce Conkle, Burls Will Be Burls, 2009; Bottom L-R: Mark Calderon, Floribunda, 1998; Mark R. Smith, Reading the Streets, 2009; Georgia Gerber, Animals in Pools, 1986; Nanda D’Agostino, Urban Hydrology, 2009

Public Art contributes to the region’s evolving and vibrant urban landscapes and RACC plays a key role by acquiring and caring for publicly owned art in the greater Portland area. Public Art staff manages the Percent for Art programs for the City of Portland and Multnomah County and is the steward for their respective public art collections. In addition to, and in support of these central tasks, the Public Art Program maintains digital and database inventories; circulates the Portable Works Collection; oversees siting of permanent works; maintains the collection; considers gifts and memorials; works with private developers through the Floor Area Ration Bonus Program; contracts with public and private entities regionally and nationally for public art management services, and offers workshops and presentations to artists, schools and the general public.

The Public Art Committee (PAC) is the standing committee of the RACC Board that oversees Public Art Program policies, setting goals and providing curatorial guidance for the selection, placement and maintenance of works of art acquired through the Percent for Art Program and other public/private programs. Membership includes no more than two RACC board members, the RACC designee on the City of Portland’s Design Commission, and 6-8 arts professionals including artists, architects, landscape architects, or individuals with considerable experience in the visual arts. Members serve 3-year terms with one 18-month appointment reserved, when possible, for an artist with public art experience. Meetings are held monthly. The RACC Board approves PAC recommendations for project artists and policies.


The purpose of the Public Art Program is to integrate a wide range of art into public spaces in the community and reflect the diversity of artistic disciplines, and points of view. The program promotes education about public art through its collection and related programming; raises the public’s awareness of their environment; and, expands the region’s knowledge and understanding of the arts.


The various ways in which artwork becomes part of the City/County public collections is dependent upon funding sources – either public or private. The public art program facilitates processes that result in both temporary and permanent artworks that can be found indoors or on the streets.


Permanent Work. Artworks acquired for City/County locations can be permanently sited and are often site specific works that respond directly to the function, history, use and/or architecture of a site. RACC manages the entire process from selection through installation and is responsible for the ongoing maintenance.

Portable Works. RACC facilitates the acquisition, siting and installation of two and three-dimensional small scale artworks for the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Works are installed on a rotating basis in publicly accessibly spaces in City and County buildings.

Public Art Residencies intersections, an artist-in-residence program is designed to explore the “art of work” and the “work of art”. It encourages artists in all disciplines to explore new working methods and develop socially engaging, interactive art experiences with city/county agencies. Artists are selected to work within specific city/county bureaus/agencies (e.g., Portland Fire and Rescue, Multnomah County Health Department, Multnomah County Juvenile Justice Center) and to create permanent or temporary artworks based on their experiences.


In the mid-1990’s, at the urging of local artists, RACC began offering opportunities for temporary art works which enable artists to address timely issues, experiment with scale, and experiment with a wide range of inexpensive and impermanent materials. Since 1994, the Installation Space in the Portland Building has hosted more than 200 month-long art installations by regional artists. A new Installation Space is located on the second floor of the renovated building, reopened in 2020. The program provides employees and the general public with diverse and challenging art experiences, encourages dialogue about the role of art in public spaces, and gives artists an alternative, non-commercial space to create a site specific installation. Funding is provided by RACC’s General Fund.


The Public Art Murals Program was adopted by City Council in December 2004 in response to a 1999 Multnomah County Circuit Court ruling that determined it was unconstitutional for the City to distinguish between signs and murals. At the time, murals were limited to 200 square feet unless the artist or business owner paid for a variance, which seriously impeded the creation of new murals in the City. Under the Public Art Murals Program, all exterior murals must be reviewed by the PAAC. Limited funding is available for qualified applicants as a one-to-one match, and the RACC Board must approve all funding of murals recommended by the Public Art Advisory Committee. Funding is provided by the City of Portland.


The Visual Chronicle of Portland is a city-owned collection of works on paper – prints, photographs, paintings and drawings – that focuses on artists’ views of the city’s social and urban landscapes. The intent of the collection is to reveal Portland’s distinctive personalities as seen and interpreted by artists in the region. Started in 1985, the collection now holds 467 works by 274 artists. A selection committee of artists and curators serve 3-year terms and recommend annual purchases based on the criteria set forth for the collection. The works are exhibited in City and County facilities. Lake Oswego, Beaverton, and Boise, Idaho have developed similar collections for their communities. Funding is provided by RACC’s General Fund.


in situ PORTLAND is a program of temporary outdoor public art installations whose purpose is to place challenging temporary art in the public that will serve as a catalyst for dialogue about art and/or contemporary issues. The program is funded with developers’ contributions through the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Bonus Program, a provision in the Central City Code (policy available on RACC’s website). Developers receive a zoning bonus in exchange for providing artworks that are accessible to the public.


RACC reviews all potential gifts to the City or County and oversees the acceptance of the gifts, insuring that they are appropriate to both location and use in the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Either existing or commissioned work may be considered. Prospective donors must abide by an established review process. The PAAC recommends acceptance of any gifts to the RACC Board.


In 2004, Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) adopted an Administrative Rule related to process and criteria for accepting gifts and memorials destined for a Portland park. RACC is an active participant in the review process, advises PP&R on process, and approves the artwork.


Collections Management. RACC organizes and manages the information and disposition of all objects for which it has permanently or temporarily assumed responsibility. This includes developing, maintaining and enforcing collection policies and procedures that address the care, handling, placement and storage of artwork in a professional manner. Collections documentation includes such information as: inventory, acquisition records, incident reports, condition reports, legal ownership papers and histories, artist biographies, location histories and photographic images.

Deaccessioning. As part of RACC’s Collection Management responsibilities, artworks identified as meeting certain criteria are occasionally removed from the public collection following a careful and impartial evaluation of the artwork within the context of the collection. The PAAC forwards recommendations for deaccessioning to the RACC Board for approval. The criteria for deaccessioning are outlined in the Percent for Art Guidelines. Conservation and Maintenance. RACC is responsible for the care and maintenance of all artwork owned by the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Maintenance technicians provide routine and emergency maintenance for the collection. Each summer techs assess and/or clean outdoor sculptures. RACC cares for approximately 140 outdoor sculptures in the Portland Metropolitan area, approximately 260 indoor site specific artworks, as well as the 1000+ portable works.


Workshops/Walking Tours/Website. In concert with RACC’s outreach efforts, the Public Art Program offers workshops for artists that focus on applying for public art commissions, fabricating public art, and learning about creating public murals. There’s a wide range of opportunities to learn about the region’s public art: staff presentations to schools as well as tour groups such as the Urban Tour Group; a free public art walking tour brochure available at multiple downtown locations or as a download from RACC’s website; and, on RACC’s website artists can find out where their artwork is located, the general public can find an artist’s work, and everyone can see images of the artwork. Public Art Gallery. The Public Art Gallery,located on the second floor of the Portland Building, provides a comprehensive overview of the region’s public art. The gallery features examples of the Artistic Process, Architectural Integration and Design Team Opportunities, Art in the Landscape, Art in the Neighborhood, Art in Transit and Temporary Public Art as well as information on Portlandia and Michael Graves, the building’s architect. Other displays focus on the Visual Chronicle of Portland, gifts/donations, tributes, maintenance and re-siting. Check City of Portland website for temporary changes and closures to our in-person customer service and building access.


RACC offers public art management services to private and public clients. These contracts produce earned income and exposure for the public art program. Clients have included Tri-Met, Metro Regional Government, the Oregon Zoo, the Oregon Convention Center, the city of Oregon City, Gresham Center for the Arts Foundation, the Expo Center, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Port of Portland, Lewis and Clark College, Columbia Villa (Housing Authority of Portland), Friends of Tryon Creek, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital (Tacoma), St. Peter’s Hospital (Olympia), Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital (WA), Denver Children’s Hospital, Providence Cancer Center (Portland) and public art plans for Chattanooga (TN), Roanoke (VA), Richland (WA), and Coeur d’Alene (ID).


1980 Multnomah County passes 1% for art ordinance
1980 City of Portland passes 1% for art ordinance
1985 Multnomah County adds .33% for maintenance, administration and public
1988 Following A River, a plan for public art in Portland, adopted as part of the Central
City plan 1988 Bonus Program for Private Developers adopted for Central City
1989 City of Portland adds .33% as above, expands scope to include more capital
improvement projects and institutes Public Art Trust Fund
1990 Multnomah County expands scope to include purchase price of existing
buildings, EXPO Center, and new parks fund
1994 Blank Wall Guidelines adopted for developers to consider public art as an
alternative to meeting the City of Portland Building Code’s ground floor window
requirements for new construction and major renovations
1994 City of Portland adopts public art policy for the Bureaus of Environmental
Services and Water Works
1995 Metropolitan Arts Commission becomes the Regional Arts & Culture Council, a
non-profit regional arts agency
2004 City of Portland adopts Public Art Mural Program
2005 City of Portland passes 2% ordinance
2008 Multnomah County passes 2% ordinance


1985 Beaverton passes 1% for art ordinance to be administered by the Beaverton Arts
1987 Metropolitan Service District passes 1% for art ordinance to be administered by
the Metropolitan Arts Commission
1987 Portland Public Schools passes 1% for art ordinance (effective for three years) to
be administered by the Metropolitan Arts Commission
1994 Lake Oswego passes 1.5% for art ordinance to be administered by the Lake
Oswego Arts Commission
1994 Gresham sets aside 1.33% for a public art program for the new Gresham City
Hall administered by the Regional Arts & Culture Council
1997  Tri-Met passes resolution to establish agency-wide public art program
2008 City of Beaverton adopts a Public Art Mural Program
2008 City of Hillsboro adopts a Public Art Master Plan