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Case studies

Public Art: Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)


Prior to the drafting of the Public Art Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) much of the city legislation actively restricted creativity in Cape Town’s public spaces. With a clear need for changed legislation, the City published a Public Art Standing Operating Procedure in 2016, creating a regulatory framework that established procedures for managing public art and memorialisation initiatives in Cape Town.

The SOP is primarily managed by the City’s Arts and Culture Branch but has input from eight others including Law Enforcement, Traffic Services, Electricity and Communications. It clarifies the role of key stakeholders in public art and highlights the mandate of the Arts and Culture Branch to promote it. It also offers clear guidelines on commissioning permanent and temporary public artworks, when these can be received as gifts, and how to provide financial or in kind support to such projects. In addition, it describes how to maintain public art, informing the City bylaws around busking and graffiti.

This new framework for managing public art encourages the creation of public art and memorials, as a means to stimulate dialogue, express shared histories and enhance public life. While promoting freedom of expression it encourages artists to take a responsible approach to their environment. The SOP has had a particularly noticeable impact on the neighbourhoods of Woodstock/Salt River and Langa, which have a growing collection of murals. As well as being a valued addition to the local community’s diverse cultural heritage, the murals are also a popular destination for walking tours and have raised the profile of local and international graffiti and mural artists.