The UrbanArt Commission commissions (hires or pays for) the creation of artwork on behalf of other entities, such as corporations, nonprofits or government agencies. The Memphis UAC often commissions artwork (murals or sculptures) on behalf of the City of Memphis or local businesses or organizations. These projects often are commissioned through a request for qualifications and/or a request for proposal.
A request for qualifications simply prequalifies an artist or group of artists to complete the proposed project. It does not mean the artist or artists are hired to create the work—just that they are qualified to do the work or create the project. So an RFQ usually requires artists to submit a resume or CV, samples of previous works of art and ideas (not designs) for the current project. This process helps generate a strong pool for consideration. So RFQs are preliminary to RFPs, and RFQs are always followed by an RFP.
The RFP is the actual call to artists for their ideas and designs for the commissioned artwork. The RFP may be open to all artists or artists selected through the RFQ process and requires artists to submit background information along with their creative ideas, designs, budget and deadline. A selection committee made up of UAC staff, the commissioning organization, members of the local art community and people living and working around a project site reviews and selects the winning proposal. Winning proposals best meet the criteria, budget and creative needs identified in the RFP. Artists may or may not be paid an honorarium for completing the proposal, but the winning artist will be paid to complete the project. The RFP will indicate the budget for the creative design and fabrication of the artwork.
The first key to winning an RFQ or RFP is providing all the designated information in the format requested. Failure to do this often disqualifies an artist from the process, especially if all other entries provide this information. Additionally, it is important that the artist understands the artistic needs of the commissioning organization and the creative preferences of the community, as well as provides a creative solution to those needs.
Artists should expect to maintain communication with the commissioning organization and the public to ensure the project continues to meet the organization’s and public’s needs and adheres to proposal guidelines. So while the artist provides the creative ideas, he or she must work within the guidelines provided through the RFP. Often, there are approval processes along the way to ensure the project stays on task, budget and deadline. Payment is often tied to this schedule.
Working in this way may be a challenge for some artists but the commissioned art process can be a satisfying and enriching experience, especially when artists get to share their artistic vision with the community. We hope we answered your questions about the commission process and how to submit a winning RFQ or RFP. And we hope to see your qualifications or proposals soon!