The materials of the public artist long ago moved beyond bronze, marble, and stained glass. Contemporary artists do not hesitate to dip into the pockets of the material, cultural, or technological worlds to retrieve something that sparks their imagination or serves a desired effect. Public art collections reflect the growth of electronic art and socially integrated design that continues to expand the artist's palette and the artist's role in the public sphere. We encourage our public artists to experiment, even as it complicates the challenge of ensuring that public art endures. In this early part of the twenty-first century, endurance is a word indefinitely defined.
The urban realm is a complex environment full of unpredictable activities that exert their forces on even the simplest of objects. A city is a lively, active world with an intense level of usage. Weather, ultraviolet light, little security, and pollution are also part of the public art collection's reality. Confronting these elements is the public artist, who has an aesthetic vision that must be realized in an environment that is simultaneously physical, social, and political. Public art has always been about collaboration, but in addition to the artist-and-patron relationship, contemporary public art includes collaboration with the general public, arts administrators, architects, engineers, city planners, landscape designers, fabricators, and art conservators. Assisting both the artist, who must choose materials that will satisfy a concept within a budget, and the arts agency, which must maintain an art collection for the continued benefit of the public, is the art conservator, who serves as a materials guide, combining scientific concepts with the physical care of art.