Public Art Conservation: FAQ about Maintenance Plans


Public art initiatives are on the rise and for good reason. Public art is a huge draw for tourism which improves local businesses. It also increases community morale and makes a city or downtown very unique, as public art is typically designed specifically to reflect that community. With public art having such a crucial role in a town, it only makes sense to take care of it properly.


Here are some frequently asked questions about creating a public art conservation maintenance plan:

Q: What are the benefits of a public art maintenance plan?

A: Public art maintenance plans have two major benefits: 1) it can save money in the long run and 2) it keeps public art looking its best at all times. Wear from weather and public interaction can lead to worn finishes, flaking paint, chipped surfaces and other problems. When treatments are made regularly, it is much easier to maintain artists' original finishes and reduces the possibility for severe damage. Going many years between assessments and/or treatments creates opportunity for serious damage to occur, resulting in increased cost for treatment. Think of a car: it is much more affordable to do regular oil changes than to fix an engine.

Q: What is the first step to creating a public art maintenance plan?

A: Our recommendation is to start with a well rounded assessment and evaluation of the collection. This should include documentation of the current condition in written form and visually with photos. Major and minor condition issues should be indicated. The assessment should explain where issues like flaking paint, rust, cracks, mold, etc. occur on the piece.

Each piece should also be documented to state the location of the piece, what materials it is made of, the artist/designer, when it was installed, a short description of the piece, and include a log of previous maintenance treatments.

Recommendations for treatment should be also be included in the assessment with a suggested timeline for that treatment to occur. After your assessment is complete and you've compiled your recommendations it will be easier to evaluate and create a schedule for maintenance based on your findings.

Q: How often should public art maintenance be scheduled?

A: In our experience, we typically see public art maintenance occurring anywhere from every 1-5 years. The public art itself (materials, finishes, etc) as well as your location and what type of conditions those pieces face each year are both factors in determining the frequency of maintenance.

Q: How long does it take to perform public art maintenance?

A: Length of time for maintenance depends on how many public art pieces you have and the treatments required. For example, this project for Baltimore consisted of 22 public art pieces and took our team about 3 weeks to complete. In general, maintenance could take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months for larger collections, for smaller collections treatment time could potentially last just a few days.

Q: Who should complete public art maintenance?

A: Conservators are the preferred method because they have extensive training and experience in working with sculptures, monuments and other public art forms. However, most routine maintenance treatment methods can be taught to a maintenance staff by a trained conservator. For example, we provide hands-on training so your community can continue to take care of your art.

Q: What are common public art maintenance treatments?

A: If a sculpture or monument is in good condition, regular maintenance may consist of specialized cleaning techniques with specific solutions (depending on the material of the piece). Buffing and waxing may also be part of the regular treatment plan. 

Now that you're here

B.R. Howard is a leader in conservation treatment, maintenance, and assessment. We have extensive experience with sculptures, military artifacts, art collections, and historic vehicles. We'd be happy to be involved with your next conservation project. Contact us to get started.

FAQHolly TrittPublic Art, sculpture