The Artery took on a whole new shape and form in 2005, and everybody involved was well served by those changes, including volunteers, artists, and participants. The changes came just in time, as Artery staff placed a record number of art installations on the playa in 2005: 275, in total.
In response to challenges identified in 2004, the team kicked off 2005 by forming the Artery Council to take on the day-to-day management responsibilities for the Art Department and the Artery. Council positions include: Operations Management, Planning, Artist Advocacy, Technology, and two liaison positions representing Art Support Services and the Performance Safety Team.
The council worked exceptionally well together and produced comprehensive plans, processes, policies, and documentation for the operation of the Art Department on and off playa. Council meetings are always open to attendance by Artery team members, and meeting minutes are regularly conveyed to the entire Artery team in monthly meetings. Artery Council proposals always returned to the full team for discussion and consensus building.
Key Changes and Improvements
Some significant changes in 2005 included the implementation of flexible work schedules for Artery staff, increased and more thorough pre-playa training, development of a comprehensive Artery Manual and process flows, refinement of the Art Installation Questionnaire and pre-playa registration process, and improvement of on-playa Art Registration Forms.
These changes helped the Artery to field a large, well-trained staff of volunteers on the playa, where they worked effectively together to greet, register, and place artists with relatively few glitches. Preparation helped volunteers to troubleshoot artist issues, as well as provide information about the art to curious participants.
A team of trained Shift Leads gained the authority to troubleshoot on the fly as they answered escalated questions and issues and managed Artery shifts, thus significantly decentralizing the team’s management structure. Knowledgeable and well-trained leads facilitated successful implementation of flexible work schedules for volunteers, who could work as few as two shifts or as many as they wanted, giving those who wished ample time to play on the playa.
The Art team also created the new position of Resource Organization Manager, whose role was to ensure that all Artery resources – from pens to label makers to golf cart keys – would be easy to find when a staffer needed them. This person ensured availability of essential supplies, an especially critical need with such a large, fluid volunteer staff.
Challenges again included limited golf carts, radios, and GPS units to perform placements as quickly as desired, but creative adaptation let the team muddle through and get the job done, with a limited amount of frustration on the artists’ part. The Artery looks forward to having adequate supplies in the coming years to effectively serve artists.
Resident technologists improved the global positioning system (GPS) database systems to pre-load GPS units with coordinates for all the pre-registered art installations before anyone left for the playa, which made pre-placing CD site markers (aka “pink floofies”) much easier than in years past, when placers relied upon best guesstimates, relative positioning, and sketchy range finders. These efforts also allowed placers to automatically upload new GPS coordinates into the units as “walk-in” installations (84 of the total 275) were placed on playa.
Once again in 2005, extremely popular Art Tours left the Artery headquarters twice daily, taking participants on guided tours of some of the key installations on the playa. Inevitable challenges resulted from broken-down and otherwise unreliable transportation, but the good graces of mutant vehicle owners saved the day when they volunteered their vehicles to support the tours. As popular as they are, these tours do present a large stress load on the Art Department as well as other departments, and we will look to alleviate those pressures next year.
To augment over-booked guided tours, Artery team members created self-guided walking tours (paper) and audio-tours (CDs), both of which were distributed to eager participants at the Artery. These tools were a great success, and the team hopes to formalize and expand them in the coming years.
Our ongoing collection of playa gifts continues to grow, as participants drop off gift items at the Artery during the event, or mail them into us throughout the year. We maintain a physical archive at our offices, and also an online collection of these playa artifacts, containing over 700 items to date. Instructions on submitting photos to the online gallery can be found in the Playa Artifacts FAQ. Objects can also be mailed to us at: Archives, PO Box 884688, San Francisco, CA, 94188.
In a continuing effort to educate artists about how to successfully create artwork for the playa (no mean feat, that), the Art Installations and Art of Burning Man sections of the website saw much-needed improvements. New information emphasized best practices for building playa-proof structures, lighting artwork, burning artwork, and leaving no trace.
The Artery HQ
The Artery headquarters, located on the Center Camp ring, was expanded and redesigned for 2005 with the help of homegrown construction and décor teams, who really did wonders to improve the layout, look, feel, and flow of the structure. As an additional treat, the Fire Conclave’s Convergence desk was an annex to the Artery structure, and the team enjoyed the camaraderie of the Conclave members.
The Future of Art
Turning from successful improvements to the logistical operations of the Artery workflow in 2005, the team now looks forward to a new focus toward more artist-oriented improvements in the coming years. Specific measures will look for ways to make the process of bringing art to the playa even easier, and to ensure that artists feel just as appreciated as they, in fact, are.