Cultural Quarterly Magazine Online
Cultural Division Employee Spotlight
Broward County > Cultural Home > Cultural Quarterly Online > Live > Cultural Division Employee Spotlight

Day in the Life:
Public Art Administrator

By Leslie Fordham

The best part about the start of my days is walking through a tiny jungle of a garden with a small pond where there are tadpoles aspiring to be frogs, a bamboolike fountain and an orange mass of flowers on a Jacaranda tree. This is my tiny haven, and it kick-starts me with a nature boost, every morning!

Upon arrival to my office, there is typically a note waiting for me, written the night before by myself, listing the first activity of the day. This allows me to get right to work without delay.

I generally have a plan for the day that includes time to write reports, catch up with artists, attend meetings, keep up-to-date with current projects and correspond with project managers about artwork deliverables, all while looking ahead to anticipate the work and deadlines to be met over the next week, two weeks and month. At this time, there are five of us in the Cultural Division Public Art & Design Program. Schedules and deadlines need to be communicated and kept current, regularly.

Fordham with sculpture by George Baselitz at the Bass Museum of Art

We've been lucky enough to have very able interns recently. However, this means planning work for them and identifying activities that will keep them motivated and useful to their future careers. It's a rare instance when the day goes completely as planned.

A question will come up that requires research, we will receive a call about an artwork that has been damaged or needs to be relocated immediately, there is a question from an artist or another County agency. There really is such a thing as "public art emergencies."

The focus of the first two weeks of each month is the Broward Cultural Council meeting and Public Art & Design Committee meeting. Both volunteer groups have wonderful devoted

members, with whom it's a pleasure to work, and they're always willing to help when we ask for their assistance. This might be in the form of reaching out to a Commissioner or Mayor, or making an introduction or serving as chair of an Artist Selection Panel.

Everyone enjoys the artist selection panels; preparation takes weeks. The project managers need to familiarize themselves with the applicants' resumes, which could easily be more than 50.

Some applicants begin planning their design before knowing if they will be short-listed. This is disappointing for all. If the artist isn't selected it's because the panel determined there was a better fit for the project. It's not a rejection.

I'm often asked by artists what can they do to get a commission. The answer is apply, apply, apply. And pick projects that are aligned with your experience; then ask an experienced public artist to honestly critique your portfolio and submission materials. Images included should be of your work, not you.

Keep an open mind and example that in your letter of interest. If you have never been to a place, met the residents and stakeholders you won't be able to create a meaningful artwork for that community.

Panels are skeptical when an artist has mapped out a project without an understanding of what is important to the community. If you get the commission, be reliable, communicative and flexible. When art is part of a construction project the parameters are changing constantly.

Crystal Edwards, Chantel Seamore and Leslie Fordham at a Friends of Public Art "Flash Mob" eventPublic art administration and being a public artist isn't for everyone. One must be adaptable. When artwork is in the public realm, people will applaud it or they may critique and criticize it.

The project management and program administration require attention to detail, diplomacy and a dedication to getting the best outcome, good communication skills and a certain level of self-understanding.

Some of the day-to-day business also entails helping artists stay on track with their projects and getting invoices processed. Artists are essentially small businesses, so we work very closely with the County Attorney's office to draft agreements and amendments.

These lay out, in writing, just what's expected of the artists and the county. We rely heavily on Senior Assistant county attorney Andrea Froome, who has an amazing knowledge of public art issues including copyright law. We also rely on the county's Risk Management Department, who are always willing to walk an artist through the insurance requirements.

Days are long, typically 10 hours or more and it's rare not to work through lunch or check emails in the evening or weekends. Still the Public Art & Design staff and myself believe we have the best jobs in the county! We feel that we are facilitating art projects that will be seen by millions of people.

The county's art is a gift to the residents and visitors, a legacy that we Broward County residents are leaving to future generations. I'm exceedingly and humbly proud to be a part of that.

At the end of my day, as I wind my way back through my tiny, personal oasis, I usually feel exhausted and exhilarated at the same time and the natural garden is the perfect landing space for a day in Broward County's Public Art & Design.


Meet The Team

The Broward Cultural Division is Broward County’s local arts agency, designated by the State of Florida with a mission to enhance the community’s cultural environment through the development of the arts. It’s a lofty mission nestled in a hub of the Broward County government administration. In this swiftly developing business community - home to millions of annual tourists, regular “snow birds,” and a growing population of residents - there lies a unique backdrop of sand, sea, and miles of environmentally-friendly, lush natural swampland, as well as a strategically-central location in the South Florida region. Today, the Division consists of 21 individuals, each independently and uniquely passionate about the concept and application of arts and culture into the daily life of a developing community with a unique predisposition.


Broward County Cultural Division
Subscribe to Cultural Quarterly