Public Art 101: Demystifying the Application Process

     The Quebec Percent-for-Art program operates on a short-list system, whereby artists are short-listed from their roster of pre-selected artists. To be in their roster you must submit an application. The annual deadline to submit new applications is coming up next week on April 15. You can also update once a year on October 15. The application can be found here.

     The 3 categories to choose from are: 2D, 2D relief, and 3D. Below, I’ve summarized what can be included in each category.

The 2D category includes photography, painting, works on paper, textiles and glass. Also “new technologies”: video projection or digital work.

The 2D relief category consists of painting, ceramic bas-relief, relief sculpture, glass and métiers d’art (fibre and textiles, paper, mosaic).

The 3D category allows for free-standing sculpture, light installations, textiles, and new technologies.

As you see, some types of work overlap in different categories, so you’ll need to decide which category your artwork best fits. You can also apply for more than one category, but you have to submit a totally different portfolio of work for each. I’m currently registered in both 2D relief and 3D since I work in different mediums.

What happens if you’re shortlisted?

If you’re shortlisted from the pre-selected roster you get paid a fee (for most percent for art programs in Canada) to do a maquette presentation.

The fee (typically between $1000-$5000) depends on the total budget. You are generally expected to provide an artwork design, concept, budget, fabrication sample and a 3D physical maquette showing your artwork in context. I've included images below of 2 maquettes I made for winning presentations. One is for my mural at the McGill University Health Centre and another for artwork in École Katimavik-Hébert, both in Montreal. For the MUHC, the colourful windows was an important component to include in my maquette. For the school, the second-floor location of the proposed artwork and tree in the back of the school were included since they were important to the concept of my artwork.   

Who is the selection committee?

Generally it’s made up of 7-9 people:

- One or two people from the percent-for-art program

- The architect or rep from the architecture firm

- One or two artist representatives

- The building owner (propriétaire)

- One or two “users of the space”: people who work in the space

- Sometimes there is an “observer”, who is supposed to have “neutral” interests.

    In my next Public Art 101 in two weeks from now, I’ll share a list of my favourite places outside of Quebec to look for Public Art opportunities. I’m happy to answer your comments and questions below and if you’re interested in process shots and being regularly updated on what I’m working on, check out my Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts.

2014: What a year it's been!


It’s that time of year… reflecting on the past, and making goals for the upcoming year. For me, looking back fills me with great pride and a lot of energy moving forward. In early January of 2014, I joked that 2014 was going to be the year of the “Shelley” (playing on the Chinese zodiac). And I've got to say… it was! I had 3 public art commissions come to completion this year, with the MUHC hospital mural being my largest artwork to date. I’m anxious for the hospital to officially open in April of 2015 for the public to see this 640 square feet mural, Structura habitata,  in person. As well, there was the mural "Croissance" (Growth) for an elementary school (École Katimavik-Hébert) in Ville-St.Laurent commissioned by the Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board. To end the year, there was the AMT mural (Tissu urban) at the new Saint-Michel - Montreal-North train station...all aboard!  Worth noting, all three of those projects were fabricated and installed by my longtime collaborators, Mosaika Art & Design

2015 is already set to be a big one. I’ve been awarded an outdoor commemorative sculpture commission in Pointe Claire (West Island of Montreal) honouring the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. Landscape architect Eileen Finn and I are looking forward to breathing some new life into this historical site. I have also been shortlisted  for a project for one of the new LRT stations in Ottawa. The station I’ve been shortlisted for is Parliament Station. No pressure… :-)

I’ll also be starting some new projects and research in Brazil in the coming year, collaborating with communities in Bahia and in Rio de Janeiro.  Stay tuned for updates on these projects on my blog throughout the year. 

Stay happy, healthy, and creative