Special Events

At the end of 2012, the Burning Man Special Events Team met to review the year and create a proposed event plan for 2013 in the San Francisco Bay Area. We held December and January “Open Call for Participation Planning 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. At these meetings we also welcomed proposals for new event and brainstormed about how our team could best serve the Bay Area creative community. People had an opportunity to sign up for team roles, to lead an event or sign up to help out at one. New folks were invited to attend monthly public team meetings and join the team announce list.

In 2013, the Special Events team produced and assisted in some manner with the following:

  • Esprit Park Gardening & Park Servicing Day, January 12, 2013
  • Burnal Equinox community mixer, March 2, 2013
  • Burning Man Global Leadership Conference mixer – April 6, 2013
  • SF Earth Day participation – April 20, 2013
  • Newbie Orientation Workshop & Mixer – April 20, 2013
  • Cinco de Maker Workshops – 5 maker workshops – May 5, 2013
  • Desert Art Preview Artist Lectures, June 14, 2013
  • Precompression, June 15, 2013
  • No Spectators Day Scavenger Hunt – July 27, 2013
  • 2 Blocks of Art – September 27, 2013
  • The 14th Annual Decompression Heat the Street FaIRE!, October 13, 2013
  • Dogpatch Neighborhood Clean-up, October 14, 2013
  • Collaborative Art Discussion Panel – November 14 2013
  • Members of the team also helped the Black Rock Arts Foundation with their November ARTumnal Gathering benefit at the Bently Reserve.

The 2013 event plan was similar to 2012, but the Burning Man Project took on organizing the workshop series, as that fit nicely with their new Education Program. Members of our team also volunteered to help support the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) and Burning Man Project free events and discussed how to better support and nurture year-round creative community in San Francisco. We regularly had 30-50 people at our monthly meetings and our events went smoothly.

DESERT ART PREVIEW – June 14, 2013

We held our annual artist lecture at the deYoung Museum of Art in the Koret Auditorium, which allowed for larger attendance than previous years. Guests at this free event also got to enjoy complimentary admission to the museum as part of a Free Friday Night series at the deYoung museum. This was wonderful, as we seek to keep this event free to attend and we found working with the deYoung staff to be an absolute pleasure. The talks were hosted by Beth Scarborough of the Burning Man Art Council, and participating artists and projects included Rob Bell speaking about Zonotopia; Don Cain talking about Mens Amplio; Marco Cochrane providing background about Truth is Beauty; Laura Kimpton speaking about BELIEVE and her many word projects at Burning Man over the years; Peter Hudson speaking about Homorouborus and Tantalus; The International Art Megacrew presenting unveiling plans for their Control Tower project; and Flaming Lotus Girls speaking about their collaborative fire sculpture and immersive installation, Xylophage. This is always a highlight of our year, as it is fascinating to get the inside story on some of the many inspiring and highly imaginative works of art in our community. Every seat was filled and, unfortunately, we could not accommodate everyone that wanted to attend this event.

SF DECOMPRESSION: 14th Annual Heat the Street FaIRE! – October 13, 2013NO SPECTATORS DAY INTERACTIVE SCAVENGER HUNT – July 27, 2013

In observance of No Spectators Day (officially July 31st) teams of adventure-seekers participated in our third annual art and experience-based scavenger hunt. This year’s hunt focused on a variety of new and 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 odyssey! It took approximately four hours to complete the adventure and included stops at Tech Shop, 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 within the allotted time, creating spontaneous art, and for originality in addressing various creative challenges throughout the hunt—all of which related in some way to the ethos and principles of Burning Man. And what an adventure it was!

This daylong event has become an urban showcase for Burner art and culture in the Bay Area, 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.
Our attendance was excellent and there was a tremendous range of human expression and art ranging from quiet interactive art zones to full-on dance areas, fire performers, and the Story Portal by Robert Rhu and crew—a do-it-yourself story telling interactive art piece—which received an art grant from Burning Man to join us at Decom from Colorado. At the Story Portal people could spin a wheel with various topics on it and tell a spontaneous story relating to the topic. It was a much loved work of art that first appeared at Burning Man and it was a great pleasure to see it in all its glory—inspiring people to share their stories on a public street in San Francisco!

We primarily refined improvements made to our plan from last year. These included:An ongoing challenge we face is 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 the new neighbors for the second year in a row. Many neighbors have adopted this event as their official block party—which we love—and they join in the fun, sharing their patios, creativity and gifts of their own! It’s a much loved event and a highlight of our team’s year.

  • Allowing for more quiet zones and varied programming throughout the day.
  • Keeping louder dance content toward the least populated end of Indiana Street and providing a phone number to call if sound got too loud for nearby neighbors.
  • We kept recycling and composting to a 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.
  • We almost exclusively used 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 necessary.

To thank our neighbors we left the neighborhood and city underpasses far cleaner than before our event; we also made donations to support neighborhood improvements and a local school program in the area, and returned on January 11, 2014 to host a gardening day with neighbors and the Department of Parks & Recreation. These are just a few things we do to not only leave no trace but try to leave things BETTER than they were; we remain committed to doing so wherever we gather as a community.

What Worked For ALL Our Bay Area Events in 2013:

  • Great team and plenty of volunteerism at every event.
  • Pairing new people with experienced team members to encourage learning and mentoring.
  • Event mission statements, role documents, volunteer announce lists, production schedules, 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 mostly well attended and brought together diverse groups of participants to meet community needs with varied content and a range of events.
  • We had a financially successful year and donated all profits from Decompression to The Burning Man Project non-profit to support its public art, education and civic engagement programs.
  • We continued to maintain warm and very 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 community.
  • Our events provided a forum for artists and performers to find collaborators and create new work. We also helped fund needed restorations for numerous works of art after wear and tear at Burning Man so they could have a life beyond the playa.
  • We invited city officials and members of the Bay Area arts community to experience and consider our artists for public funding and projects.

Top Challenges:

  • Finding appropriate and free/affordable venues that allow fire art and the exhibition of a full range of human expression. It’s getting harder and harder within the city.
  • The location we hold Decompression is becoming increasingly residential. This makes holding it at the current location increasingly challenging, though we are welcome to return for at least another year or two and many neighbors never want us to move.
  • There are so many events in June now that our Precompression event had very low attendance and needs rethinking. We don’t wish to compete with artist and theme camp fundraisers so the team will think about what can be done to reinvent it and whether it continues to serve our community.
  • Using technology smarter so we can share information effectively and work in sub-teams on more events simultaneously.
  • Our team needs to consider how we can support Burning Man in its next phase of development as we do more kinds of events and educational programming on a year-round basis.

Key Lessons Learned :

  • Planning events early and locking in venues 12-24 months in advance is necessary.
  • The number of events was appropriate for the team, but we’d like to do more art events and hybrid art experiences.
  • 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.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would like to help with year-round community events here, e-mail flambelounge (at) burningman (dot) 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!

Submitted by,

$teven Ra$pa