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Public Art Policy

General Statement

It is the intent of the University Libraries to provide an aesthetically pleasing environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors that is conducive to the pursuit of intellectual study and cultural enrichment. To that end the University Libraries welcomes opportunities to display art within the public areas in its facilities.

This public art policy covers gifts of art to the Libraries or art purchased for the Libraries by donors as well as art currently on display in the Libraries. The policy also covers the temporary, long term loan to the Libraries of art pieces for display from the Campus Art Collection, art owned by a University of Washington department or unit, or an individual. Art accessioned as part of the Libraries’ collections and not intended for public display is not covered by this policy. The short term display of artwork, including UW student artwork, is covered in the UW Libraries Exhibits Guidelines.

This policy covers all of the Libraries administered by the Dean of University Libraries.

The Libraries Art Advisory Committee

The Libraries Art Advisory Committee is composed of seven members of Libraries staff, including the Committee Chair. The Dean of University Libraries appoints one staff member each from Libraries Advancement, Special Collections, Libraries Facilities, the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, plus two members-at-large to the Committee. Volunteers to serve as members-at-large will be solicited from the Libraries staff. The Committee members are appointed for 2 year terms, with the terms being staggered so that there are new members and members in their second year of service during any one year. The Dean of University Libraries will appoint the Chair of the Libraries Art Advisory Committee.

The UW Bothell Library and the UW Tacoma Library will both be guided by this policy, but each library will establish its own Library Art Advisory Committee, and this committee will work directly with its respective Director and with the Dean of University Libraries.


When a library or library unit is offered a piece of fine art for display in a public area, the librarian in charge will contact the Chair, Libraries Art Advisory Committee with a brief description of the art and any special needs or special circumstances related to the gift or long-term loan.  The Committee Chair will alert the Dean of University Libraries and together they will determine how best to involve the Libraries Art Advisory Committee.

The Libraries Art Advisory Committee shall advise the Dean of University Libraries on works of art to be accepted for display in public areas. During its discussion and information-gathering process, the LAAC will consult with the unit head and other appropriate parties. The LAAC will summarize the recommendations and forward them to the Dean of University Libraries. In addition to making a recommendation on acceptance, the Committee will recommend the most appropriate location for the art piece in question. The Committee also may advise on the style of framing (in the case of a painting or photograph, etc.) or the style of a pedestal base that might be required for a piece of sculpture. The Committee will work with Libraries Facilities staff on security and/or display issues.

Requests from the Campus Art Administrator to display works of fine art in the Libraries will go directly to the Chair, Libraries Art Advisory Committee who will then follow the procedure above.

The Libraries Art Advisory Committee and the Committee Chair will be advised by the office of the Director for Libraries Advancement on selections of artwork which are part of the ongoing Artist Images Gallery Series as well as for other art donations which are related to the Advancement Program.

Queries about possible donations or the Libraries Public Art Policy should be directed to the Chair, Libraries Art Advisory Committee.

Acceptance of Art Guidelines

Display of public art is an important part of providing welcoming and amenable facilities and is an enriching aspect of the Libraries’ service, educational, and outreach programs.

The decision to accept artwork for display in the Libraries rests entirely with the Libraries. Upon acceptance, the Libraries will make all decisions regarding placement, length of time for the display, publicity, and display removal.

When accepting a work of art, the University Libraries reserves the right to:

  1. Exhibit any donated object in a manner that is consistent with University Libraries’ policies, needs, and available space. Acceptance of a work of art does not imply that it will be on permanent public display.
  2. Return loaned art to the Campus Art Collection or to the owning University department or to the individual owner upon recommendation by the Libraries Art Advisory Committee and approval of the Dean of University Libraries.
  3. Move and relocate art work for any reason it deems necessary.

Gifts of Artwork

The University Libraries will consider for acceptance as gifts such pieces of fine art as paintings, sculpture, wall hangings, photographs, and other original works in various media. Gifts of works of art will be accepted without limitations or conditions placed on the Libraries by the donor or artist unless those limitations or conditions are approved by the Libraries Art Advisory Committee or the Dean of University Libraries.

Title to all gifts of art will pass to the University of Washington Libraries. Gifts to the Libraries remain outright and unrestricted donations to be used according to the sole discretion of the Libraries. Such art works will be used to the best interest of the Libraries.

Donors who wish to receive a tax credit are responsible for getting an appraisal. By law, the University Libraries cannot provide value estimates on gift material. The office of the Director for Libraries Advancement and the Chair, Libraries Art Advisory Committee will work together to determine the appropriate process of receipt and acknowledgment for gifts of art. The documentation will identify and acknowledge the gift without appraising the work of art.

Long-term Temporary Loan of Artwork

In addition to gifts of art or art purchased for the Libraries by donors, the Libraries also will evaluate the long-term temporary loan of art pieces for display from the Campus Art Collection (as negotiated with the Campus Art Administrator), art owned by a University department or unit, or art owned by an individual.

Long-term loans of art pieces for display will be covered by a written agreement (Agreement of Acceptance) that includes the details for duration, placement, security, and return of the item when the loan is over. Title of loaned materials will remain with the lending department or person. The care, security, and preservation of artwork that is loaned for display in the Libraries will be the responsibility of the owner, whether that entity is the Campus Art Collection, a department such as the School of Music, or an individual.

Selection Criteria for Artworks

Overall, the University Libraries has limited space for the display of art, and therefore it is important to consider very carefully the acceptance of a piece of art for long-term loan or as a gift. Some Libraries units are in a position to house more works of art, and in these cases, they should make their situation known to the LAAC. Also, there may be some pieces or collections of art that are suitable for rotating among the different Libraries.

Style and nature The art should be appropriate in scale, material, form and content for the library environment.

Quality and Elements of design: Public art may have other functions in addition to aesthetic enjoyment. For example, a work of art may establish a focal point, modify, or enhance a space or identify a building function. As far as possible, the work of art should complement and enhance the building and its purpose. The reputation of the artist may be a factor in the decision.

Durability: Works of art will be examined for durability, taking the library environment and the condition of the piece into consideration. Extremely fragile items or those that are potential targets for vandalism are not appropriate for the library setting.

Installation/Maintenance costs: When selecting a work of art to purchase or determining if a gift may be accepted, the Libraries will take into consideration any security issues, the cost of installation, and the cost of maintaining the work over its lifetime. Start-up and ongoing costs for cleaning and mounting will also be considered.

Public liability: Works will not be selected or accepted that create unsafe conditions or contain other factors that may bear on public liability.

Conditions of acceptance: In the case of gifts or donations, the donor’s conditions may affect whether or not the gift will be accepted.

Libraries Discretion: The Libraries, in its sole discretion, will determine whether to review and accept or reject any gift or proposed artwork.

Questions about this policy should be referred to the Chair, Libraries Art Advisory Committee.
Responsibility for revising this policy rests with the Chair, Libraries Art Advisory Committee
and the Libraries Art Advisory Committee.

Last reviewed and updated: June 2015