The Commission Brief - advice for artists

A good brief acts as a clear communication tool. It is a document which sets up a mutual understanding and sets out expectations which can spark ideas and support further discussion. 

The context is the most important element for artists when considering a commission brief. It prompts questions about how an artist addresses the commission, and subsequently defines a concept and makes a proposal.  

In considering the commission artists can often be invited to visit the site for the commission, to become familiar with the context and to meet the commissioner. Further research through the internet, books and articles and looking at other artists' practice and the processes they undertook can also be of benefit to artists.  

The key is to find a connection between the context and one's own artistic practice. It is possible to subvert or find ways of responding to a more traditional brief - if the particular commission is of interest. Decisions will depend on the selection panel, who may or may not be open to an artist's interpretation of the brief, and there are a number of examples where artists have been successful in proposing a project outside the scope of the original brief. 

A brief should remain open enough to respond to creative ideas or processes which may not be anticipated. It often outlines the considerations and concerns and sets out desires, interests and general scope to give context to the commission. The brief works best when it is not overtly prescriptive as this can inhibit artistic responses.  

Artists interpreting a brief might consider how in-depth the commissioners are in their considerations; how open do they seem? They should look closely at details from context to time-lines, budgets and information on selection process and panel and any possibility for flexibility especially around research and development of ideas or even with budgets. How will the commissioner support the artistic process?




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