What are “finalist fees” and when are they used?

Once a public art program has solicited interest in a new commission, and then narrowed the list of suitable artists, then it is common to ask the finalists to devise and submit a more polished and detailed proposal. This may require travel (for research, for site visits, or for additional interviews), the creation of a model or maquette, and typically a considerable amount of time spent fleshing out the details of the commission. Therefore, it is best practice to compensate those artists who are asked to expand upon their initial proposals. The number of finalists and the amount they are awarded will vary depending on the size of the commission, but typically the top three to five artists are shortlisted and their awards are sufficient to realize a proposal commensurate with the goals of the commission.