Public Art 101: Contingency funds

There’s a lot to cover for how to create your budget for a Public Art project, but this post is specifically for Contingency.

What’s that, you ask? Some call it an emergency fund. Call it want, but it’s basically, money you put aside in your budget to cover those unexpected things that might (and usually do) come up. 10% of your total budget is a good amount to use. Definitely no less than 5%. 

But what unexpected things might come up?  Every project is different, but here are a few common ones that I’ve encountered:

  • For outdoor sculptures, sometimes the site isn’t ready when you are. You do everything right. You stick to your schedule, you make sure your fabricators stick to theirs. And then, when they say, “it’s ready for pickup”, the commissioning body tells you the site isn’t ready. Or maybe you planned for an early spring installation, and it’s a late year for ground thaw, so you have to wait another month. Why does this cost you extra?  Because, now what are you going to do with that sculpture sitting at your fabricators? You may have to pay for storage. For a month, maybe 6 months, maybe a year if an entire building’s construction timeless is behind (which often happens in Quebec). Ask your fabricator this question before you plan your budget. And set some money aside in case this happens. If it’s a long wait and it’s the fault of the commissioning body, maybe (*maybe”) you can get them to cover this. But don’t count on it. 
  • Similar to the last item, if you need to get your work out of an atelier or fabricators, you need to pay for transportation. So if a site isn’t ready on time and you have to store work at another location, you’ll need to pay for an extra move. The larger the work, the more expensive this can be. Very large works need a crane or boom truck. 
  • Substrate issues. I’ll be doing a whole post on this issue… And it’s often as issue. Substrate basically means “what lies below the surface”…. lurking!  The unknown. (ok, I’ll stop it with the melodrama). For wall-based artworks, it refers to the structural support behind the wall you see (behind that Gypsum wall, or concrete wall) and for sculptures it means what is below the ground that could cause you problems (pipes, bedrock). Depending on what the substrate is, effects your cost. You need to ask a lot of questions in the early phases of a project so you know what you’re dealing with. But even if you do, sometimes there are still surprises. For walls, the biggest concern is if the wall can support the weight of your artwork. Sometimes the walls chosen for artwork were not designed for artwork. They are just flimsy aluminum and Gyprock. In that case, you may need to build a structural wall. Contingency can help off-set those surprises. 

Do you have questions about budgeting? Have anything to add? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @ShelleyMiller