Public Art Fund was founded in 1977 by Doris C. Freedman (1928-1981), a champion of public art who served as New York City's first Director of Cultural Affairs, President of the Municipal Art Society of New York, and was a tireless supporter of New York City's Percent for Art legislation. In 1971, she founded the Public Arts Council while at the same time serving as president of City Walls Inc. Under her leadership, both organizations developed programs to explore the potential for art to become an integral aspect of urban public spaces. In 1977, she merged the two to form the independent, non-profit Public Art Fund. Since its inception, Public Art Fund has presented more than five hundred artists' exhibitions and projects at sites throughout New York City’s five boroughs, making it possible for artists to engage diverse audiences and, along the way, redefine public art in relation to the changing nature of contemporary art.
Early Public Art Fund projects include Messages to the Public (1982-1990), an exhibition series that ran on an 800-square foot animated light board in Times Square and featured more than 70 artists, among them Guerrilla Girls, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince, Kiki Smith, and David Wojnarowicz. More recently, we have presented iconic exhibitions like Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror (2006); Olafur Eliasson’s The New York City Waterfalls (2008); Sol LeWitt: Structures, 1965-2006 (2011); Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus; and have worked with dozens of emerging artists to realize new works that extend their practice into new realms.