What strategies have public art programs used to evaluate their work?

Public art commissions vary a great deal from program to program and project to project, and it can be quite challenging (if not impossible) to establish a universal criteria for evaluation.  Evaluation is, however, an important part of gauging the efficacy of your program and the impact your work is having.  With that in mind, there are some tips that can help you evaluate your work.
  • Remember that part of the task of evaluation is setting clear expectations and goals for what constitutes a successful and unsuccessful commission.  Is the artwork meant to benefit an underserved community, reinforce some larger mayoral or city initiative, or engage particular types of artists for particular spans of time?  All of these goals will require different sorts of evaluation.  
  • It is also worth thinking about who is doing the evaluating.  Many programs have found it useful to seek feedback from partners in order to improve future commissions and working relationships.  Likewise, community feedback can be invaluable in adapting and bettering a commission (see the Community Engagement and Advocacy section for more on this topic). 
  • It is also important to evaluate along the way, while the commission is being completed (and while changes can still be made) and not just at the conclusion of a project. 
  • And finally, be sure to consider which facts of a commission can and cannot be measured, and plan accordingly.  It may be impossible to judge something as subjective as the impact an artwork has on new viewers, but it is quite possible to determine if that commission has increased participation from artists of color, for example.