Overview and Guidelines

July 10, 2013

The Campus Art Program at Princeton University seeks to enrich the University’s visual and intellectual environment by placing works of art in strategic locations across the campus. The Campus Art Program gives expression in intelligible and symbolic form to the experience of University members and visitors as members of a public society, relating individual works of public art to the educational, cultural, historical, social, or political dimensions of its environment.

Works of campus art enrich the broad University community as well as visitors by enhancing the educational experience; deepening a sense of place and the experience of space; stimulating diverse viewer responses; encouraging questioning; and creating lively gathering spots. As such, the Campus Art Program extends, and is a reflection of, the University’s core educational and research missions.


Campus art at Princeton includes:

  • The esteemed John B. Putnam, Jr. Memorial Collection, comprised largely of work by twentieth-century masters
  • The Princeton Portrait Collection of over 600 paintings and sculptures comprised mostly of likenesses of important Princetonians and later non-portraits that relate to the history of the University
  • The general Campus Art Collection that includes dozens of sculptures, monuments, and memorials important to University history and tradition, and fine art by a number of distinguished artists, including works in traditional media (such as stone sculptures, metal plaques, mosaics, and painted murals) as well as new media (such as electronic and digital works) and environments

The Campus Art Program cares for existing works of public art as well as advocating for and securing new works of campus art through gift, purchase, and loan.

Principles and Guidelines

The Campus Art Program strives to position works of public art of the highest caliber in settings appropriate to the scale, purposes, aesthetics, and materials of individual works. Stewardship for the existing collection of campus art and for all works entering the University’s collection in the future is an integral part of the Program. The Program strives to operate on a timely and responsive basis relative to University units, donors, and others and to foster productive relationships with the diverse stakeholders in campus art.

The Campus Art Program identifies works of public art as operating equivalently to projects of research and publication in a variety of academic disciplines. As such, the Program seeks to give visual and physical form to the University’s core values, such as freedom of speech and expression alongside respect for diverse viewers and the creation of a stimulating yet safe environment.

The Campus Art Program recognizes and makes use of the particular characteristics of public environments in which diverse users come together for a wide range of purposes. Accordingly, the Program seeks to balance issues of originality and intellectual and visual provocation with a respect for the diverse activities that take place in such spaces, and for the physical beauty and integrity of the campus and of campus buildings.

The Campus Art Program reflects the history of Princeton University, including the evolution of taste, values, and formal expressions in the spheres of art, design, and architecture, while also reflecting the University’s evolving priorities as a global leader in higher education. The Program particularly fosters new works of public art reflective of the University’s engagement in the world, both culturally and geographically (including essential international initiatives) and intellectually (including new disciplinary investigations).


The Campus Art Program applies a consistent set of criteria in evaluating works of public art—whether sited permanently or temporarily—that are offered to the University as well as works which the University or its units proactively seek to add to the public environment. Essential to these criteria are the following:

  • The aesthetic and/or historical significance of an individual work of public art and its potential to enhance the University campus
  • The significance of the artist or artists
  • The relative uniqueness of the work of art, including factors of originality and authenticity
  • The ethical position occupied by the work of art, including consideration of provenance
  • The contribution an individual work of art can be expected to make to the University’s educational mission, as well as to the existing collection of campus art
  • Appropriateness to site, including (for outdoor sites) appropriateness to the site’s adjacent architecture, hardscaping, and landscaping
  • The appropriate use of University resources, including funding, staffing, etc.
  • The University’s ability to assure the proper long-term care of the individual work of public art, including security, conservation, and maintenance
  • The safety of the work of art, as well as the safety of users interacting with it
  • Where works of art come as donations, the University’s ability to manage effectively the long-term stewardship of donor relationships

For site-specific commissions additional criteria include:

  • The way in which the work would affect the way we think about the world we inhabit
  • The work’s capacity to contribute significantly to the canon, probe the conditions of its own production and expand the possibilities and parameters of art as we understand it
  • The work’s capacity to withstand the test of time while embodying the vitality of artistic production today
  • The way in which the work honors the artist’s intention