What's at stake: Oregon's Percent for Art Program makes public art available and visible throughout the state. Diverse public sites provide an important venue for all Oregonians and visitors to appreciate artwork outside of more traditional settings, and to draw attention to the wealth of artistic expression within our region.Relative to the physical collection, the Oregon Arts Commission (OAC) has assembled and stored papers, project proposals and artwork images submitted by selected artists who are awarded a Percent for Art commission. The collection amassed by the OAC contains heritage materials that enrich the physical collection—often with background resources unknown to exist. Preserved in a variety of formats, including derivatives of correspondence, hand-written artist statements, photographs, slides, negatives and drawings, these images and supporting materials document over 30 years of inspiration as they reveal the unique and contemporaneous artistic process that underscores the creation of Oregon public art.
Obstacles: The Percent for Art collection is located in public buildings and sites throughout the state. Physical access to the artworks is limited to visits where the works are situated. The majority of the artworks are in metropolitan areas, largely represented by the campuses of the Oregon University System. Many Oregonians, particularly those in less populated regions, reside in communities with little or no access to public artwork.
The collection of slides and related materials that document these artworks are in a physical environment that is contributing to their deterioration. Scholars, students, and the general public are often completely unaware that this heritage collection exists; moreover, it is accessible to the public only through special request or in-person visits to the Salem OAC office. Artists are hampered in their ability to publicize their commissioned work or, alternatively, to see how their own work could fit into the program. Finally, there is no centralized database or information storehouse by which to view, appreciate and/or research the entire corpus of works.
Project impact: The University of Oregon Libraries, in consultation with the Oregon Arts Commission, will create a free, publicly available digital collection representing the Percent for Art collected works. Extensive contextual information for each work will be provided to enable its study, comparison, and general enjoyment. This collaborative venture will also replace deteriorating physical archives of slides and supporting documentation, create permanent, high-quality digital records of the works as well as produce derivative images for online viewing that are fully searchable by multiple categories such as artist, art medium, art subject, year of award, and art location, etc. This project is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.