Department of City Planning to Introduce Legislative Changes to City's Public Art Code

Department of City Planning to Introduce Legislative Changes to City’s Public Art Code

PITTSBURGH — The City of Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, in partnership with the Office of the Mayor, has announced reforms to the City Code regarding the Art Commission and Percent for Art Program.

“These legislative changes provide us with an incredible opportunity to examine the right role of government in the public realm,” said Mayor Ed Gainey. “They aim to improve the form and function of the Art Commission and lay the groundwork for improved public art and civic design review processes.” 

The proposed changes include 

  • Art Commission Revision: The Art Commission will be separated into two committees that review public art and civic design, respectively. This allows for focused areas of expertise and provides a more specific review criteria for projects appearing before each committee 

  • Percent for Art Policy Revision: Expanding the locations and types of artworks realized with Percent for Art funding by creating a centralized budget line for the program rather than individual percent for art calculation within each project. This will provide more equitable, impactful and relevant public art in Pittsburgh. 

“The City code governing Pittsburgh’s public art has not been comprehensively updated since 1977. We’re still using 20th century code to plan for a 21st century city. To create a more comprehensive vision for the public realm, we need to rationalize and modernize both the composition and scope of the Art Commission,” said Assistant Director of Public History, Art, and Design, Sarah Minnaert.  

The Art Commission was established in 1911 to Guide the City’s civic design and public art and currently reviews an average of 50 applications per year, 65 percent of which are civic design related. Later, in 1977, the City adopted the municipal Percent for Art program, which states at least one percent of municipal construction or renovation projects costing $50,000 or more shall be set aside for the inclusion of public art.  

In addition to these changes, the City is working to finalize a Public Art Trust Fund to collect contributions to the Public Art Performance Point program. Established in the Zoning Code in 2018, the performance point system allows developers to increase their density by incorporating community priorities into their projects such as affordable housing, public art, and energy efficient design. The fund will also be able to receive private charitable donations, matching funds from charitable entities, and transfers from the general fund, as budgeted.

The legislation has been submitted to City Council for review. If approved, the changes will take effect immediately, in time for the commission’s first meeting in 2023. A summary of the proposed legislative changes can be found here


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Maria Montano
Communications Director
Mayor's Office