Shelly Willis has more than three decades of experience planning, curating, and managing the production of hundreds of temporary and permanent artworks throughout the country.
As the Director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission’s Public Art Program from 2007-2017 she managed the City and County of Sacramento’s Art in Public Places Programs, including the $8 million dollar Sacramento International Airport and the $9.5 million Entertainment and Sports Complex public art programs. Willis came to Sacramento after six years of managing the University of Minnesota’s public art program where she also taught public art courses in the Departments of Urban Studies and Landscape Architecture.
In 2012, Willis curated “Finding Time,” a temporary public program involving 50 artists and 10 major works of public art in Columbus, Ohio. The innovative project “Broadway Augmented” employed cutting edge technology in 2014 to create 11 virtual public works in one of Sacramento’s most eclectic transitional neighborhoods.
Among other writings, her essay on the state of public art education in the United States was included in the book Public Art by the Book, edited by Barbara Goldstein and published by Americans for the Arts. Willis was the co-editor with Cameron Cartiere of the book, Public Art Practice, published by Routledge New York.
She is the recipient of two City Manager Commendation awards for recognition of service. In 2013, she was the recipient of the Arts Executive of the Year Award from the Sacramento Arts and Business Council, and in 2016 she received the Muriel Johnson Award for Arts Advocacy. Six of the projects she has managed and/or curated received the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year-in-Review award and two were awarded Our Town grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
As a private consultant since 2017 her clients have included, among others, the Cities of Sparks, Nevada, West Sacramento, San Leandro, Palo Alto, Elk Grove; the Port of Oakland and the County of Sacramento; artist’s Mildred Howard, Lava Thomas, and Janet Zweig; The McConnell Foundation, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Rail Arts District in Napa; and Napa Redevelopment Partners, Fulcrum Properties, and Riverview Capital Investments.
Last year she curated and managed 18 temporary projects throughout the State of California, as part of the State’s “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign which was designed to keep Californian’s healthy during the pandemic.