Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Terrain Biennial?
The Terrain Biennial is an international festival of site-specific art made for front yards, balconies, and porches produced by Terrain Exhibitions. The 2019 Biennial will open on October 1st and run until November 17th, 2019. 

What is Terrain Exhibitions?
Founded in October of 2011 by artist Sabina Ott and educator John Paulett, Terrain Exhibitions was a public exhibition space in Oak Park, IL. Terrain Exhibitions featured interventions into the conventional landscape of a front yard. Contemporary artists were invited to create site-specific projects challenging the space between public and private, decoration and function, figure and ground.

Terrain Exhibitions differed from many other alternative art platforms in that the artworks were accessible 24 hours a day, year round. Visitors, neighbors, school children, teachers and their parents were exposed to challenging contemporary art, offering the experience of discovery and surprise to the community. Terrain Exhibitions exhibited work that expanded the audience of an artwork and the function of the front yard.

In the spring of 2018, Sabina Ott, founder of Terrain Exhibitions established it as a 501c3 not for profit arts organization with the mission to organize and produce the Terrain Biennial, administer the Terrain Residency in Springfield Illinois and advocate for making public art from private spaces.

Sabina Ott passed away in the summer of 2018, leaving behind an ambitious and innovative legacy spanning three editions of the Terrain Biennial and countless artist projects at her home in Oak Park, IL.

How are artists and hosts expected to fund their projects?
Terrain Exhibitions policy for the 2019 Biennial is to not pay stipends for artists or hosts due to current lack of funding. This situation hopefully may change for future iterations of the Biennial as Terrain Exhibitions secures grant funding and other support. Terrain Exhibitions continues to be staffed and run entirely by volunteer efforts. As we grow, we will continue to look for ways to support participating artists in future years. 

What are the requirements for a Terrain Biennial project?
In past years, projects have ranged from sculptural installations to time-based performances to public interventions. We welcome all types of projects, and encourage diversity and experimentation in both project concepts and execution. The theme of this year’s Terrain Biennial is to take stock of the landscape that people are living in today. What is the terrain that we occupy? What is the topology of our moment? Artists should reflect upon the ways in which our environment changes us and how we are changing it through a site-responsive public installation.

We also ask that artists follow certain general requirements:

  • Projects must be visible to neighbors and viewers from the sidewalks and streets of the neighborhood

  • Projects are self-funded by the individual artist and/or host.

  • Projects should be completely weatherproof and able to last for the entirety of the Biennial (two months)

  • Secure your projects so that they do not fall over, especially in windy conditions

  • Be careful when using ladders, power tools, and sharp objects

  • Call 811 before you dig! (

  • Consult with the Terrain Biennial team if you are planning to install or suspend works more than 6 feet off the ground or if you project requires electricity.

For examples of past Biennial projects, visit 

How do I get my neighborhood to organize a block party opening?
We encourage you and your neighbors to organize a block party as the central opening for your neighborhood projects, during which performances and other time-based pieces can happen. We recommend your block party occur after the kick off reception in Oak Park on October 5th, 2019. 

How do I find out when and where other projects are happening?
Once the participating sites and projects are finalized, we will make a map available of all locations and the dates of the openings for each neighborhood. It will be posted on our website Or, if you wish to coordinate with another neighborhood, just contact us for information at

I have a question that isn’t answered here!
For general questions regarding the 2019 Terrain Biennial, contact Terrain Biennial Director Richard Medina at