Here's a collection of some of the terms used in public art practice and their meanings.


  • Aesthetic:

    a philosophic term developed in the 18th and 19th centuries attributing the value of beauty or that which is pleasing to a material object or experience.  It may refer to academic or scientific study of beauty and taste in art.

  • Allegory:

    a symbolic expressive form with several levels of meaning that are not explicit at first glance. The underlying meanings may have moral, social, religious, or political significance.

  • Alter-ego:

    transformed idealised or fictional self, different from one's own character, sometimes allowing creative freedom and an alternative to an identified practice.

  • Animating:

    giving movement to something still; the process of making cartoons or films that involve still images and assets.

  • Aperture:

    a small, narrow opening through which light is focused. Found in cameras, microscopes, and other devices, apertures are often adjustable so as to increase or decrease the amount of light.

  • Appropriation:

    the act of borrowing imagery or forms to create something new.   

  • Architecture:

    the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings and other physical structures primarily to provide shelter. A wider definition often includes the design of the total built environment, from the macro level of how a building integrates with its surrounding landscape. As a term it has broadened to encapsulate a wider practice and concerns, and it can also refer to the building, work or space that an artist is making such as in installation art and certain site-specific practices.

  • Art intervention:

    an artist's interaction with an audience or venue/site or space, where the artwork created is often temporary and sometimes is realised as a performative event or communication platform. It often carries an implication of subversion, operating counter to the authority, challenging or provoking comment in relation to the context and the expectations of a particular public.

  • Artifact:

    an object produced or shaped by human craft.

  • Artists Collectives:

    are often self-directed democratic systems formed by artists to support their working together or individually.  Collectives can be physically based or located and where artists share resources such as a studios, workshops, or, artists collectives might also be associated with a movement who share common values, concerns and interests.

  • Audience:

     the people who participate in, experience or encounter a work of art, literature, theatre, music, etc.  Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of art contexts and their generic behaviors tend to be highly ritualised.


  • Bursary:

    A financial award made by an institution to an individual or a group to assist the development of practice or to support a project, exhibition research, participation in an event or education.

  • Bursary:

    a financial award made by an institution to an individual or a group to assist the development of practice or to support a project, exhibition research, participation in an event or education.


  • CAD or C.A.D.:

    the abbreviation for computer assisted or aided design. In the production of computer graphics, this is more likely to refer to architectural and engineering design work than graphic design work.

  • Child Protection Policy:

    a necessary good practice for organisations that have contact with children and young people.  It provides safeguards and sets out an agreed set of principles and conditions by which to work with young people.

  • Choreography:

    the notation of dancing, or the art of arranging or composing dancing. Choreography can be used in any sort of performance which requires organised movement.

  • Cinematography:

    the art of photographing and lighting films. Cinematography can also refer to the style or genre of a movie or motion picture, such as black-and-white cinematography or documentary cinematography.

  • Collaboration:

    act of working together jointly and in a spirit of co-operation.

  • Colonialism:

    the practice of ruling over another country for the purpose of developing trade, or enforcing one's own culture and values on people from a different culture.

  • Commemoration:

    to remember or mark a particular event or person from the past through ceremony or memorial.

  • Composition:

    the arrangement of an artwork's formal elements

  • Conceptual art:

    art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Taking many forms, the emphasis is often on the ways things are made more than how they look. Conceptual art raises questions about what a work of art can be.

  • Consumer society:

    a society in which mass-produced goods are made attractive and are advertised through mass-communication and media.  Consumers are those who participate in the purchase of goods and services.

  • Consumption:

    rooted in the sale and purchase of goods in a modern, consumer society, consumption is generally defined in opposition to production and considered as a commercial activity. It involves 'stuff' in the world, from products to slogans. Artists whose work deals with consumption are often concerned with what a thing is, how it looks, and how it came into existence.

  • Contemporary art:

    can be defined as art produced in this present time or since World War II. As a loose term it tends not to be defined by a succession of periods, schools, or styles but rather by diverse and pluralistic practices.

  • Content:

    the subject matter, concept, material, scale and form associated with a work of art. A work's content is shaped by the artist's intentions, the context of its presentation, and by the experiences, thoughts, and reactions of the viewer/listener/audience.

  • Context:

    the location, information, or time-frame that informs how a work of art is viewed and what it means. Works of art often respond to a particular space or cultural climate. If the context for a work of art is changed or re-contextualised, the way in which the work is understood may change as well.

  • Copyright:

    is a form of intellectual property which gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights for a certain time period in relation to that work, including its publication, distribution and adaptation; after which time the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Some jurisdictions also recognise "moral rights" of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work.

  • County Development Plans:

    are statutory requirements. Section 9 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 states that 'every planning authority shall every six years make a development plan.'

  • Criteria:

    a standard, rule, or test on which a judgment or decision can be based.

  • Cultural capital:

    is a sociological concept that has gained widespread popularity since it was first articulated by Pierre Bourdieu.   It is the knowledge, experience and or connections someone has had through the course of their life that enables them to succeed more so than someone from a less experienced background.

  • Cultural hegemony:

    is the philosophic and sociologic concept, originated by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, denoting that a society can be culturally ruled (dominated), by one of its social classes.

  • Culture:

     Is a much contested term - broadly it is a system of practices, values, beliefs and customs that form and inform one's life. A culture which involves a select portion of a population and which is organised around a particular interest (such as cars, graffiti, or music) is known as a subculture.

  • Curator:

    is a person who is responsible for the collection, care, research, and exhibition of art  and  artifacts.  The term curator also refers to a new form of practice that developed around contemporary art  in the late 1980's and often involves a conceptual approaches to exhibition making , art projects and programmes, along with the facilitation of and collaboration with artist, academic and practical research and writing.


  • D.A.S.T:

    the Irish Government Department, of Arts Sport and Tourism which has a fiscal role and responsibility for policy matters relating to the areas of arts tourism, sport and recreation.

  • Decommissioning art:

    decommissioning an artwork means its removal from public view. This is done for a variety of reasons inclusive of health and safety, development of site and public taste. Artists are generally and should be informed and included in such decisions.

  • Deconstruction:

    a textual analysis method, that asserts multiple conflicting interpretations of a text, and involves scrutinising it for shifting meaning and ambiguity.

  • Dialogic:

    is characterised by the interactive, responsive nature of dialogue with various voices.  A concept used by philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin in his work of literary theory and which supports a continual dialogue around the work. Here dialogue, texts and speech exist in response to things that have been said before and in anticipation of things that will be said in response.  Dialogic communication is dynamic, relational and engaged in a process of endless re-descriptions of the world.

  • Dialogue:

    is a conversation between people.  Artistically it can take the form of two or more parties engaging in a discussion/conversation.

  • Discourse:

     is formal or informal written or spoken communication, discussion or debate.

  • Documentation:

    provides evidence of and captures the material, processes and occurrence of an art project most commonly in the form of photographic images, essays, film or audio representation.


  • Ecology:

    is concerned with the relationship between people and nature. It is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of life and the interactions between organisms and their natural environment.  

  • Environmental Impact Assessment:

    (Report) assesses the possible impact, positive or negative, of a proposed project in the built or natural environment.  The purpose of which is to consider  all  ensuing environmental impacts and to decide whether to proceed with the project

  • Ethics:

    are systems of morals or judgements which govern behavior.  Ethical concerns are often embedded or underpinning a work of art or the process of its making.  Artists often feel an ethical responsibility to voice political concerns or make changes to society.

  • Evaluation:

    is the systematic application of social research procedures either qualitative (focusing on experiential reflections) or quantitative (involving statistical information). It aims to assess achievements, worth, and significance against a set of standards or criteria.  Evaluation often is used to characterise and apprise projects.


  • Fluxus:

    implies flow or change, adopted by a group of artists, musicians, and poets in the 1960s to describe a radical attitude and philosophy for producing and exhibiting art. Often presented in non-traditional settings, Fluxus forms include impromptu performances, mail art, and street spectacles.


  • Health and Safety:

    is a cross-disciplinary area of policy and legislation concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. In a public arts context it covers the protection of co-workers, family members, employers, customers, suppliers, nearby communities, and other members of the public who are impacted by the particular environment.

  • Hegemony:

    leadership, or predominance.  It can mean the predominate influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation or the aggression or expansionism by large nations in an effort to achieve world domination.

  • Heterotopia:

    is a concept elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe places and spaces of otherness, which are not defined, regulated and confined by dominant notions for utopia. They are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror.


  • Identity:

    refers to personal perceptions and how a society as a whole defines individuals.  Identity maybe reflected in one's ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, class, education, economic status and life experience.

  • Ideology:

    is an organised system of values and opinions which form the basis of a social, political, or economic agenda. Informed by a culture, ideologies often take the form of rules, codes, or  principles.

  • Installation Art:

    is not confined to gallery or other designated art spaces and can be in any material intervention in everyday public or private spaces. Installations tend to be site-specific designed to exist in the space for which they were created. Materials used range from everyday and natural materials to video, sound, performance in physical spaces as well as in virtual realities and the web. 

  • Insurance:

    is protective coverage agreed by contract, whereby one party undertakes to guarantee or indemnify another against loss by a specified contingency or peril for a pre-agreed value or worth.  It is a means of guaranteeing protection or safety through shared fiscal responsibility.

  • Intercultural:

    refers to the differences and commonalities of communities.  It might refer to how these cultural approaches to life, through customs practices political and religious, language differences might intersect, converge and live well together.

  • Interdisciplinary:

    involves the bringing together distinct practices, leanings and professions. Drawing on a range of knowledges and approaches for participation, study and thought.   


  • Juxtaposition:

    the state or position of being placed close together so as to permit comparison or contrast.   


  • Kinetic:

    is having mechanical or moving parts that can be set in motion; art that moves.

  • Kitsch:

     is used to describe items that are overly decorative or sentimental. Kitsch may also have negative connotations, meaning tastelessness.


  • Laboratory:

    this normally refers to a physical facility that provides the correct conditions for research, experiments and measurements.  A laboratory may also refer to the conditions under which learning or experiments are carried out - for example a set of meetings exchanges or communications.

  • Local area plan:

     this sets out proposals for a designated geographical area. The plan usual outlines a number of recommendations such as; zoning, traffic management, urban design and building height, open space, culture and amenities, conservation of buildings and heritage, community, medical and education facilities and environmental sustainability.

  • Local Authority:

    is an umbrella term that refers to an administrative unit of local government with jurisdiction over a determined geographic area.  It is an administrative body with elected representatives that provides a range of services, supporting local infrastructure, planning and policies to provide, develop and sustain economic social and cultural environments. It may also refer an urban district council or urban town council.

  • Logos:

    are the name, symbol, or trademarks designed for easy and definite recognition, special design that identifies an organisation and which appears on all its products and printed material.   


  • Mentors:

    provide expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their projects, careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. More recently there have been paid systems of mentoring supported by organisations, this relationship can also happen naturally through friendships and existing networks.   

  • Metaphor:

    is a relationship between disparate visual or verbal sources where one kind of object, idea, or image is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.  Artists use metaphor to bridge differences between seemingly dissimilar images and ideas.   

  • Multicultural:

    to be influenced by or include a diversity of ethnic, religious, cultural or national perspectives.   

  • Multiculturalism:

    refers to a collative consideration of several different ethnic, racial, religious or cultural groups in the same society.   


  • N.R.A.:

    National Road Authority.

  • National Development Plan:

    sets out a scheme of large-scale expenditure usually on national infrastructure.  Generally over seven years, it  proposes investment in projects and initiatives country-wide including education, roads, public transport, health services, social housing, rural development, industry, water and waste services, childcare and local development. 

  • New media:

    is a term meant to encompass digital, computerised, or networked information and communication technologies.


  • O.P.W.:

    The Office of Public Works.

  • Open brief:

    This describes a looser, freer, more open ended brief where fully described outcomes may not be requested or described at the onset of the project.

  • Oral tradition:

    The spoken word, or a people's cultural history and ancestry, often by a storyteller in narrative form.

  • Originality:

    the quality of being new and original; not derived from something else.   


  • Peace II Programme:

    the EU funded Programme for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border counties in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Pedagogy:

    the practice of teaching; the methodologies necessary for teaching.

  • Per Cent for Art Scheme:

    is a funding mechanism to support the commissioning of works of public art, whereby a percentage of the overall cost of a construction project is ring-fenced and allocated for an art project. The Per Cent for Art Scheme was established in Ireland during 1978 when the Office of Public Works established a scheme based on the principles of Per Cent for Art. In 1986 the Department of the Environment established a similar scheme entitled the Artistic Embellishment Scheme. Following a review of both schemes in 1994, the publication of the Public Art Research Report - Steering Group Report to Government [PART report] led to the principle of the Per Cent for Art being extended to all Government Departments with construction budgets. In 2004, the PART report was reviewed resulting in the publication of General National Guidelines, aimed at providing a common national approach to the implementation of the Per Cent for Art Scheme. This public art policy - People, Time & Place - is informed by these national guidelines.

  • Performance:

     a performance, in performing arts generally comprises an event in which one group of people (the performer or performers) behave in a particular way for another group of people (the audience). Sometimes the dividing line between performer and the audience may become blurred, as in the example of participatory theatre where audience members might get involved in the production.

  • Performance art:

    Performance art is normally created by people with a visual arts education and relates more to the history of painting and sculpture than to theatre or dance. In performance art, usually one or more people perform in front of an audience. In contrast to the traditional performing arts, performance art is unconventional. Performance artists often challenge the audience to think in new and unconventional ways about theater and performing, break conventions of traditional performing arts, and break down conventional ideas about what art is.

  • Persona:

    a personality that a person projects in public, often representing a character in a fictional context.

  • Photojournalism:

    the profession or practice of recording and reporting real or 'newsworthy' events using photography.  It can also refer to a stylistic approach to making photographic images.  

  • Physical theatre:

    describes a mode of performance that pursues storytelling through primarily physical means. There are several quite distinct traditions of performance which all describe themselves using the term "physical theatre". It is a highly visual form of theatre. The action in physical theatre may have a psychological or symbolic resonance, may grow out of codified forms, improvisational work, or invented gestural language.

  • Place:

    a geographic or imaginary location, landscape, origin, or relation in space. Artists are influenced by their surroundings and their works are often in response to a site or historical situation and are drawn to the conceptual landscapes of cyberspace, television, and mass media.

  • Pobal:

    formerly known as Area Development Management (ADM), Pobal is an independent company set up by the Irish Government and the EU to support local economic and social development. It distributes funding through three main programmes: Local Development Social Inclusion Programme, Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in the Border Region and the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme.

  • Policy:

    this typically describes an agreed plan of action to guide decisions.

  • Pop Art:

    usually draws its subject matter or appearance from mass media and consumer culture. Transforming "low" culture such as advertisements, comics, and tabloid photographs into the "high" culture of painting and sculpture, Pop artists of the 1950s and 60s reached a wide audience with their cool, detached depiction of contemporary times.

  • Popular culture:

    literature, broadcasting, music, dance, theatre, sports, and other cultural aspects of social life distinguished by their broad-based presence and popularity across ethnic, social, and regional groups.

  • Portfolio:

    a portable case for holding drawings, photographs, or other images. It may also refer to the materials collected which are representative of an artist's work. It may be can a traditional hard backed case or a set of digital images online or on a disc.

  • Postmodernism:

    Postmodernism is a complicated term, or set of ideas, one that has only emerged as an area of academic study since the mid-1980s. Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology. It's hard to locate it temporally or historically, because it's not clear exactly when postmodernism begins. Perhaps the easiest way to start thinking about postmodernism is by thinking about modernism, the movement from which postmodernism seems to grow or emerge.  Postmodernism, as a continuum of modernism questions the validity of the emphasis of modernists on logic, originality, rational and order, suggesting that ambiguity, uncertainty, and contradiction may also have a valid place.

  • Practice:

    is about establishing or repeating an action or process to acquire or refine a skill, or to improve one's abilities.  Artistic practice is concerned with how the artist works, the ideas and theories underpinning their work and the processes, materials and media  involved in its making/production.  Artists' practices over the years have been greatly influenced by the theories of art and cultural movements as well as their social, cultural and historical context.

  • Process:

    is artist's methodology or investigation, the steps the artist takes to make a work of art.

  • Procurement:

    is the acquisition of goods and/or services.

  • Production:

    has multiple meanings, generally in art it is an event, happening or point of interaction of an artwork with a public, limited or defined audience. It can involve a number of people with a range of skills sets and expertise.

  • Protagonist:

    is a leading or principal figure usually in literature, but can also refer to film work which includes a number of characters.

  • Public:

    refers to the people who are the constituents of a community, state, or nation. Also means not private, to be accessible to all.

  • Public art:

    (see the definition of public art section)

  • Public liability:

    is insurance coverage taken out by a individual or organisation to provide for any potential claims from members of the public. It may also cover damage third party property, legal fees and expenses which result from any claims by a third party.  This type of insurance will only cover third party claims.

  • Public realm:

    publicly owned streets, rights-of-ways, parks and other publicly accessible open spaces, and public and civic buildings and facilities.

  • Public space:

    refers to an area or place that is open and accessible to all citizens. Shopping centres and privately developed city or rural areas are examples of 'private space' with the appearance of being 'public space'.

  • Public sphere:

    a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed, also can refer to cultural production such as newspapers, media and discourse.

  • Public-Private Partnership:

    (PPP): is a business arrangement struck between public and private interests. It usually refers to the provision of a capital development or a service funded and operated through a partnership with government and one or more private sector companies.   It can take the form of revenue relief, land, and other physical resources.  The two common examples would be the use of brown field land for private and public housing or where capital investment is made by the private sector on the strength of a contract with government to provide agreed services.


  • Representational works:

    art which might depict recognisable people, places or things, often figures, landscapes, and still lives.   

  • Research based:

    to take in-depth, scholarly or scientific approach to developing a project. To study (something) thoroughly so as to present  a detailed considered basis for arguments, decisions or directions.

  • Residency:

    a time of stay or association with an organisation or place, often facilitated and  supported as a commission, grant or award. Accommodation may sometimes be provided. It usually offered on an application basis and can vary in length and focus.   

  • Ritual:

    is a ceremonial act, a detailed method, process of accomplishing specific objectives.


  • Satire:

    is irony, humour or wite to expose human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.

  • Scale:

    the comparative size of a thing in relation to another like thing or its "normal" or "expected" size. Scale can refer to an entire work of art or to elements within it.

  • Site-specific:

    works of art that are tied to a unique place, site-specific art can be permanent or temporary and in any artform discipline.

  • Social capital:

    networks, understanding and values that shape the way we relate to each other and participate in social activities.

  • Social inclusion:

    ensuring the marginalised and those living in poverty have greater participation in decision making on issues that affect their lives, allowing them to improve their living standards and wellbeing.   

  • Social partnership:

    the process by which  government, employers, trade unions, farmers, the community and voluntary sector devise economic and social agreements for an agreed time frame.

  • Spectacle:

    a mediated or constructed view or image that is of a remarkable or impressive in nature, often sensationalising its subject.

  • Stereotype:

    a generalised type, or caricature of a person, place or culture, often negative in tone. Stereotypes can be visual as well as verbal and tend to be reduced or oversimplified images.

  • Strategic Policy Committee:

    works within a Local Authority to formulate, develop, monitor and review policies. The committee is made up of both elected and non-elected representatives. The non-elected members usually represented industry or specialised interests.

  • Strategy:

    is a broad mapping plan setting out actions designed to achieve a goals.

  • Studio:

    a place where an artist works and reflects.  A studio in a more old fashioned meaning may operate under the direction of one person or style.

  • Stylised:

    used to describe works of art which represent conventionally and tend to be less spontaneous or visually responsive to changes in subject matter.

  • Sublime:

    is that which impresses the mind, inspiring a sense of awe.

  • Summative evaluation:

    a review designed to judge the effectiveness of an activity in terms of its outcomes and impact. The focus may be on measuring outcomes and quantifying costs and benefits. It is often carried out at the end of a process by a person(s) not originally involved in the activity.       

  • Symbolism:

    the practice of representing things by an image, sign, symbol, convention, or association.

  • Synesthesia:

    a feeling evoked in one sense when another sense is stimulated for example to smell sound or to hear colour.


  • Tagging:

    the act of adding an artist's name to graffiti or a visual trademark.

  • Time-based:

    an artwork, event or happening intended to be visible, tangible or exist for a set or short period of time, non permanent and heavily invested in context and consideration of audience and materials

  • Traffic management plan:

    is designed to clearly direct and control the flow of traffic its intention is to make minimal disturbance or to create normal flow.    

  • Typography:

    the appearance of fonts, letters, or characters, typography involves the printed word and graphic design.   


  • Uncanny:

    peculiarly, eerie, unsettling, as if of supernatural origin or nature.  In a Freudian concept  it means an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange.   

  • Utopia:

    an ideal or perfect society, utopias are imagined communities evocative of people's hopes and wishes, ultimately unrealisable. The negative corollary of utopia is dystopia.   


  • Vernacular:

    the everyday or colloquial, generally refers to language or a social group or region.  It may also refer to the visual culture such as architecture or art practices.


  • Zeitgeist:

    the spirit of the times, general trend of thought which is characteristic of the cultural productions of a period or generation.



no news in this list.

more opportunities

Focus On



Nazareth Housing Association provides independent living houses for individuals and couples who are 65 and over and on the Sligo County Council housing list.  Nazareth Village is comprised of 48 houses in a garden setting.  The Village was financed as a public-private partnership between Nazareth Housing Association and Sligo County Council with funding from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.  

more about this article