The Burning Man Art Department manages and facilitates the process by which all art gets to Black Rock City.
This includes the activities of the Artery, the Performance Safety Team, Artist Support Services, and the construction of the Man and the Man Pavilion. It also encompasses the Fire Conclave and the year round Special Events Team.
The Art Department enjoyed a wonderful year in 2006, benefiting from changes made in 2005.
The art grant program was robust, with more than 180 proposals submitted. Of these, 40 were awarded grants. The art grant budget of $425,000 covered these grants as well as ten projects, which were placed inside the Pavilion of the Future. In 2006 the contract-signing process was streamlined and the art department met with thirty groups of artists to discuss and finalize their plans during the month of March 2006. Funds were made available in April, earlier than ever before. Two projects had to cancel: one due to financial difficulties and another to a structural failure that destroyed a major component of the installation. Both projects will be completed in 2007.
2006 was the best year ever for the Art of Black Rock City, with more installations than ever before, and more participation from the community. The range of projects hit new highs, with several projects from Europe and Canada. Art management on the playa went smoothly, resulting in fewer crises than in the past and the art staff was able to enjoy more art this year.
The ARTery Council and ARTery functioned efficiently. ARTery meetings pre-event and on-site were well attended and well run, informative and enjoyable. A returning team of long-term members are expert in what they do, and fresh, new ideas came from contributions of many new members. As a result the ARTery Art Process pre-event and on-site was smoother than ever!
On-site the Art Support team, under new management, proved adept at assisting artists with heavy equipment needs and the Performance Safety Team assisted artists in the safe execution of open fire, flame effects, and/or pyrotechnic art installations. The Performance Safety Team’s aim is to communicate with and provide experienced support for artists both pre-event and on-site, to ensure the safe use of fire and pyrotechnics at the Burning Man event.
For the fourth year running, the extremely popular Art Tours operated out of the ARTery, taking participants on guided tours of over a dozen installations on the playa. The tours, a gift to the community happily shared by the ARTery, has helped shape hundreds (probably thousands) of participants’ exposure to and understanding of the art of Black Rock City.
In 2006 The Man stood on The Pavilion of the Future — a structure reminiscent of an Art Deco palace, embracing a sense of order and elegance. Building on the 2006 event theme of Hope and Fear, the Pavilion offered ten interactive installations that intrigued, beguiled and entertained. In comparison to the Man Funhouse of 2005, the number of installations in the Man base was relatively small. But while the number was smaller, arguably, the quality and sense of importance of the installations grew in 2006.
The Pavilion art, as well as the structure itself, reflected and communicated a pervasive feeling of hope or fear within Black Rock City, illustrated by a gauge at the opening of the Pavilion for the Man. While last year participants could physically spin the Man, this year it was the participants’ emotional state that moved the Man. When the city felt optimistic about the future, the Man was at his full height and stature, rising above the Pavilion. But when the citizens experienced a sense of fear, the Man would seem to shrink, lowering into the structure of the Pavilion. In this manner the Man seemed to not only act as the heartbeat of our beloved city, but also played as a barometer of the citizens’ emotions as well.
The Fire Conclave is a select group of people who work significant hours before arriving in Black Rock City to create fire performances dedicated to honoring the Man. These performances create a temporary community who choose to create their art as a gift in service to the Man. This is the largest convergence of fire performers in one place at one time. Under the night sky, before the release of the Man in pyrotechnic delight, more fire energy is expressed and let loose than anywhere else in the entire world.
In 2006 Burning Man’s Special Events team produced numerous events, including the first Fire Arts Exposition ever held within San Francisco city limits, on three nights in May. The S.F. Fire Department was cooperative and highly impressed with our safety record and general expertise, which bodes well for future events.
The cooperative teams that create the art of Black Rock City made 2006 the best year for art, ever. 2007 promises even more!