Special Events

At the end of 2011, the Burning Man Special Events Team met to review the year and create a proposed event plan for 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area. We held December and January “Open Call for Participation Planing Meetings and kicked the year off using the resulting draft plan to spark further discussion about what gatherings our Bay Area community wanted to create together. At these meetings we also welcomed proposals for new events/workshops and brainstormed about how our team could best serve the Bay Area creative community. People had an opportunity to sign up for year-round team roles, to lead an event or sign up to help out at one. New folks were invited to fill out a volunteer interest form to express areas of interest; and all were invited to attend monthly public team meetings and join the team announce list.

In 2012, the Special Events team produced and assisted in some manner with the following workshops and community gatherings:

  • Art Grant Q&A + Art Lounge Mixer, January 12, 2012
  • Esprit Park Gardening & Park Servicing Day, January 14, 2012
  • “How To Survive the Apocalypse on $20 and What You Have in your Junk Drawer” workshop, February 8, 2012
  • Burnal Equinox community mixer, March 3, 2012
  • Department of Mutant Vehicles Art Car Workshop – March 21, 2012
  • Burning Man Leadership Conference mixer – March 31, 2012
  • SF Earth Day participation with artist Dan Macchiarini & crew– April 20, 2012
  • Newbie Orientation Workshop & Mixer – April 21, 2012
  • Blogging & Facebook for Creative Types workshop – May 13, 2012
  • Desert Art Preview artist lecture series, June 21, 2012
  • Precompression, June 30, 2012
  • No Spectators Day Scavenger Hunt – July 28, 2012
  • 2 Blocks of Art + 24 Days of Art – September 28, 2012
  • The 13th Annual Decompression Heat the Street FaIRE!, October 7, 2012
  • Dogpatch Neighborhood Clean-up, October 8, 2012
  • 2 Blocks of Art – October 19, 2012
  • Gift Circle workshop + Crafting and re-gifting workshop – November 14, 2012
  • Crowdsourcing & Fundraising workshop by Will Chase – December 13, 2012
  • Members of the team also helped the Black Rock Arts Foundation with their May fundraiser at ArtPad SF and the December ARTumnal Gathering benefit at the Bently Reserve.

The 2012 event plan was similar to 2011, but we did a couple less workshops and a couple more free street art events. Members of our team also volunteered to help supportBurning Man Project free events, BRAF benefits, and discussed how to better support and nurture year-round creative community in San Francisco and the Central Market area, where our San Francisco headquarters is located.

There was great consistency in team membership and new team members stepped in to expand our team. We regularly had 30-50 people at our monthly meetings and our events went very smoothly. This year we also began thinking beyond legacy events to how we can create and support new kinds of outdoor gatherings that positively engage public spaces, entire neighborhoods and cities. For example, we had discussions with city officials to offer input into planning for both the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary celebrations and America’s Cup activities. Our ideas and recommendations for including art programming in these festivities and helping them reflect the uniqueness of the creative community in the Bay Area were well received and hopefully will pave the way for city-wide gatherings in the future.

For those interested in participating in the Bay Area Special Events team in 2013, we are open to all levels of interest and experience. People who can take responsibility for entire workshops/talks/panels and other free community events are especially appreciated. We continue to think about “life beyond the playa”, what the right kinds of gatherings are for our year-round community in the Bay Area, and how best to encourage creative collaboration, “ARTicipation”, civic responsibility, and fun! Do you live in the San Francisco area and want to get involved with events here? If yes, email flambelounge(at)burningman.com with an event topic/idea or e-mail SEvolunteers@burningman.com to get involved with events in the San Francisco Bay Area.


  • DESERT ART PREVIEW – June 21, 2012We held this artist lecture at the International Museum of America, which allowed for a larger attendance than last year. Guests at this free event also got to enjoy complimentary admission to this unusual museum before the talks began. It was hosted by Beth Scarborough of the Burning Man Art Council, and participating artists and projects included: The Neverwas Haul; Dan Fox – Anubis; Laura Kimpton – Ego; Jessica Hobbs and Rebecca Anders – Zoa; The Circle of Regional Effigies; Melissa Barron and Gregg Fleishman – Otic Oasis; Otto Von Danger – Burn Wall Street; David Best – Temple of Juno.The Desert Art Preview continues to be one of the events our team is proudest to host each year and we are considering doing a version of it in the future that features off-playa art projects.
  • NO SPECTATORS DAY INTERACTIVE SCAVENGER HUNT – July 28, 2012In observance of No Spectators Day this year teams of adventure-seekers participated in a second annual art and experience-based scavenger hunt. This year’s hunt focused on some of the many hidden art treasures and arts/social service organizations in the Central Market district. It began at Hayes Green in Hayes Valley at artist Kate Raudenbush’s “Futures Past” art installation and then led people throughout the Central Market area on an interactive tour and odyssey! It took approximately four hours to complete the adventure and included stops at The Tech Shop, Institute for Happiness, Gray Area Arts Foundation, The Tenderloin National Forest, and works of art The Black Rock Arts Foundation has assisted in placing in San Francisco. Points were awarded for solving riddles, collaboration, completing as many challenges as possible in the allotted time, creating spontaneous art, and for originality in addressing various creative challenges throughout the hunt. And what an adventure it was! So much so, we’ll very likely be plotting a new hunt in 2013!
  • SF DECOMPRESSION: 13th Annual Heat the Street FaIRE!– October 7, 2012This daylong event has become an urban showcase for Burner art and culture, proving that what happens in Black Rock City doesn’t have to stay there! In fact, official Burning Man Decompressions now happen throughout the world in accordance with agreed-upon community event production criteria and the principles of Burning Man. The San Francisco Decom is the grandmother of them all and a much loved part of the Bay Area arts scene. Many look forward to it all year and for those who can’t get to Burning Man it is their Bay Area “family reunion” and showcase.Our attendance was down a bit in 2012 from the previous year due to conflicts with numerous events that overlapped in the city and extreme traffic and mass transit warnings, but you wouldn’t have known it. The energy was fantastic(!) and there was tremendous diversity in experience, ranging from quiet interactive art zones to full on dance areas, fire performers, and the Black Rock Roller Disco. We were also pleased to have A Cavallo join us and function as one of our public stages. A challenge we faced was being sensitive to neighborhood impact since more neighbors now live directly on the block, but we implemented several changes to traffic flow and our sound plan and got very positive feedback from neighbors on the changes. Many neighbors have adopted this event as their official block party and join the fun, sharing their patios, creativity and gifts of their own! It’s a much loved event and a highlight of our year.

Here were a few key improvements the team made this year:

  • To respond to sound complaints last year we reduced sound to allow for more quiet zones and varied programming throughout the day. We also moved louder dance content toward the least populated end of Indiana Street, near Mariposa, and made that our dance area. We received extremely positive feedback from neighbors that had complained the prior year and received only one sound complaint this year—which we promptly responded to.
  • Once again, we moved recycling and composting to rented private property, thereby allowing more exhibition space on the public street and minimizing sorting noise and loss of parking for neighbors at Homes on Esprit.
  • We provided more portable bathrooms inside and outside the main event, which cut wait times drastically.
  • We used more art vehicles as stages instead of boring rented stages.
  • We closed off part of Minnesota Street to through traffic and were able to improve neighbor experience driving in and out of the area when they needed to.

To everyone involved and to our neighbors in the Dogpatch, we love you! To thank our neighbors we left the neighborhood and city underpasses far cleaner than before our event; we are also making donations to support neighborhood improvements and a local school program in the area, and we will be coming back to host a gardening day with neighbors and the Department of Parks & Recreation on January 12, 2013 from 10am to 1pm. These are just a few things we do to try to leave things BETTER than they were—and we remain committed to doing so wherever we gather as a community.

What Worked For ALL Our Bay Area Events in 2012:

  • The team had virtually no turnover in staff and new members brought new energy and ideas.
  • Pairing new people with experienced team members to encourage learning and mentoring.
  • Event mission statements, role documents, volunteer announce lists, event timelines, and full year team meeting schedules—all helped get the team on the same page so as to plan ahead and work toward common goals.
  • Our events were well attended and we got rave reviews. We are bringing together diverse groups of participants and meeting community needs with varied content, events and workshops.
  • We had a financially successful year and donated profits from Decompression to The Burning Man Project non-profit to help kickstart new art, educational and civic engagement programs.
  • We continued to maintain warm and positive working relationships with neighbors, city officials, the Department of Recreation & Parks, Bayview Police Station, and the SF Fire Department on behalf of artists and our creative community.
  • Our events provided a forum for artists and performers to create new work. We also helped cover costs needed to restore numerous works of art after wear and tear in the Black Rock Desert.
  • We invited city officials and members of the Bay Area arts community to experience and consider art for public placement.

Top Challenges:

  • Finding appropriate and free/affordable venues that allow fire art and the exhibition of a full range of human expression.
  • The location we hold Decompression is becoming increasingly residential and the UCSF hospital will be opening nearby in a year or so. This makes holding the event at the current location increasingly challenging.
  • Many team members have no down time. Many also volunteer to help with BRAF, Burning Man Project and other community events; so avoiding burnout is an ongoing challenge—especially because we wish to do more!
  • Using technology smarter so we can share information effectively and work in sub-teams to do more without everyone needing to show up for lengthy meetings.

Key Lessons Learned :

  • Planning events earlier and locking in venues 12-24 months in advance reduced stress on everyone. We are endeavoring to plan 3-5 years out and finding the right venues is important for that.
  • The number of events was appropriate for the 2012 team, but we’d like to do more workshops and art events. We plan to create sub-teams to do this.
  • As we organize more gatherings and events we need to create tools and processes that allow us to work on events simultaneously and in tandem.
  • We need to think about what is the next phase of our social gatherings and how to keep our events meaningful as our community evolves and grows larger. We want to do more workshops, lectures and new kinds of art gatherings that fulfill a greater civic function and engage the world in new and inspiring ways!


  • 1/16 – Workshop
  • 1/12 – Esprit Park Gardening Day – meet there 10am-1pm
  • 2/7 – Workshop
  • 3/2 – Burnal Equinox at Public Works in SF
  • 3/20 or 27 – Workshop
  • 4/20 – Burning Man Presence at SF Earth Day at Civic Center Plaza
  • 5/9 – Workshop
  • 6/15 – Precompression or a new event
  • 6/20 – Desert Art Preview
  • 6/27 – Workshop
  • 7/27 – NO SPECTATOR’S Weekend – Interactive Art & Experience Scavenger Hunt in Central Market area + DIY ways anyone can celebrate!
  • 9/27 – 24 Days of Art on Market participation
  • 10/13 – Decompression Heat The Street FaIRE! – date and location TBA
  • 10/14 – Dogpatch Neighborhood Clean-up
  • 10/18 – 2 Blocks of Art participation
  • 11/14 – Recycle your Life + Gift-making Workshop
  • 12/12 – Workshop

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would like to help with year round community events here, e-mail flambelounge@burningman.com and join us for a team meeting. Regardless, we encourage you to keep the fire burning all year long in your own unique way!

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