I've been developing the technique of taking a 3D model, unfolding it into connected pieces, getting those waterjet cut out of steel, and then bending and welding it into shape. This has been detailed in severalpreviousInstructables. (Please view those for technical details.) I recently finished taking it to an entirely new level, however, making a 6' high permanent public art installation.
The piece is called "The Visitor", a rusty steel tentacle pushing its way out of a manhole. It can be found at 23rd and Main in Vancouver, WA.
I started applying to public art calls last spring. This is all rather new and different for me, given my academic computer science background. I have experience in big kinetic installations, but it's all weird flaming death sculptures at Burning Man. Not exactly your standard artist background!
I've only had two successes so far out of about 15 submissions, so obviously I'm not the greatest expert on the process. I can only share what I've learned so far.
You'll see two basic types of calls: Request for Proposals (RFP) and Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
RFQ: You submit your resume and your portfolio. The committee will then choose 3-5 artists and pay them a nominal amount to come up with a design. One of those is then picked for the actual contract. This is how all the big, serious commissions are done. (And, yes, there are some *very* big commissions out there.) So far I've had no luck at all with these, probably because my portfolio and experience aren't solid enough yet.
RFP: This is when they're asking artists to submit more-or-less complete designs, from which they will choose a winner. These tend to be smaller (under ~$40K), since artists with an established reputation probably won't bother. You are providing free design work, after all! But they've proved to the best place to get started, at least for me. By providing an actual design, you have a chance to wow the committee a bit despite an unusual resume.
At the moment, I don't bother applying to anything above about $75K, as I just don't have the portfolio and experience that they seem to be willing to look at. Hopefully that will change after I compete a couple more permanent, mainstream installations.
There are several places you can go to find calls for artists. The callforentry.org system is pretty widely used, though that means anything listed on there will get a LOT of entries. Your local city probably has an artist opportunities page. For instance, I check the Seattle listing every week, as well as several others from across the country. Local artists mailing lists/Facebook groups are also a good source, as people will often pass along calls that they find. If I'm really bored, I'll sometimes try open-ended web searches.
Once you've found a call that looks promising (and I find 5-6 a month at this point), what do you do? I think it pays to be organized. I keep a calendar with the deadlines listed, so I can keep track of what I need to be thinking about. RFQs rarely take much prep, but RFPs will need a nice rendering or sketch. I download all the supplementary materials into a cloud drive, so I can pull up the PDFs whenever I have some downtime, to brainstorm ideas.
Calls all want the same basic things, so you'll develop a standard framework after a couple of submissions. They'll want a resume, portfolio images, descriptions of the portfolio images, a letter of interest, and references. If it's an RFP, then design renderings and description as well, of course. I have no idea if my resume is a good one or not, as I've never found an example to compare it against.
Most submissions are electronic these days, thankfully, but some still require them to be physically mailed. I bought a bunch of cheap thumb drives off Amazon, so I always have some on hand as needed. Remember that usually the rule is that submissions must be received by the given deadline, so they'll need to be mailed considerably earlier!