Jrs V10 I09


December 15, 2005


The future’s a projection of the here and now: expanding with our hopes, contracting with our fears. This year’s art theme will explore how we create futurity. Express what you most hope for! Express what you most fear! The Burning Man, as heartbeat of our city, will be made to rise and fall upon this tidal flow or our emotions and imagination. For more details visit the front page of our website http://www.burningman.com> and then express your hopes and fears for the theme at the “poll” on the middle of the home page! At the end of this JRS is information about Art Grants for 2006.


Some years these damn themes are right on the money, other times I dunno. But, ever since Larry began revealing the ’06 theme a few weeks ago, it’s reverberated more throughout the Project than any other I can remember. It probably started with the Burning Man Board retreat in October where we dealt with where the 6 board members are in our lives. Then the Sr. Staff and full-time office staff spent six days meeting. Time was spent reviewing this year’s event, but for the first time ever the majority of the retreat was spent talking about the future — the 5 year future, even the 10 year future.

We all seemed to agree that we are reaching a new comfort level with the event, a certain confidence in how we’re approaching things. We’re still learning about managing people, process and community. We’re still learning about how to create a society, if only for 8 days in the desert. But for many of the past 10 years we have been driven by the possibility the event might not even happen. We’ve struggled, fighting for survival. Living on adrenaline, we’ve learned to face our fears, but now that we’ve apparently come through, we’re forced to ask ourselves: What was all this effort for? For the mere right to exist, or for the hope of being and becoming something more? Very fortunately for us, we’re not alone, as it sometimes seemed in the past. Instead, we are surrounded by great and fertile and brilliant community of people — and it’s now their hopes and their initiatives that spur us on.

At the center of our part of this picture is the Black Rock Arts Foundation http://www.blackrockarts.org>, which saw a huge leap in activity and confidence in 2005. It started out the year by hiring a new Executive Director, Leslie Pritchett. She made it clear that the Foundation would not survive without a big push from all 12 board members. Not wanting to loose the ball of fire and energy that is Leslie, the board took notice. Not only did it distribute 5 grants to interactive art NOT on the Playa, but it also, with very, very little lead-time, hustled to install 2 large installations in San Francisco. One in May/June the other in October/November. Leslie drove the Board and community to raise the money for the installations at times when the bank account held barely enough to cover administrative costs. Leslie was driven by hope, the Board members were certainly driven by the hope, but possibly more of a fear of loosing momentum, and an opportunity to really illustrate what the Black Rock Arts Foundation is capable of doing.

It’s one thing to reach beyond the Black Rock Desert if the fruit falls easily into the green space of San Francisco, but our mission mandates that our efforts go beyond San Francisco. Throughout the year, as Burning Man board and staff members have traveled to regional events, lectures and an art car festival, some of us have also worn our Black Rock Arts Foundation hats. In the cold of February Larry Harvey and David Best (also a Black Rock Arts Foundation Board http://www.blackrockarts.org/board.html> member) were invited to speak to students at the University of Michigan. Afterwards, the regional contact hosted a gathering at a local pub. Of course they all began to scheme and plan for ways to bring large scale public art to the Detroit area. The seed of that idea now has two sprouts on it. One likely to manifest itself through the Black Rock Arts Foundation and the Burning Man regional contact in Michigan in February 2006.

The other is, well, way-cool on a “David Best, Burning Man, Black Rock Arts Foundation, Holly Shit” sort of scale. And, it’s NOT in San Francisco, and it’s NOT in the Black Rock Desert.

This was before Larry was asked by a non-profit organization in Houston to join the judges panel for the largest art car parade in the United States. The Orange Show (the name of the non-profit), http://www.orangeshow.org/> not only produces the Houston Art Car Festival http://www.orangeshow.org/artcar.html > but is actively supporting outsider urban art in Houston. The Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burning Man donated the first prize for the night-time illumination category.

This happened right about the same time we received the call from the Executive Director of the San Francisco Arts Commission http://sfartscommission.org/home.htm> wondering if David Best might want to install his art temporarily in a new green space. How fast and calmly can you say “Hell yeah!”? (As we scramble to raise the funds.) Then there’s the call from people in the city infra-structure just as we headed off to the desert. They wondered what interactive art we’d bring back ready to install in the city. Uh, let me get back to you after I drag all my shit into the desert, back home again, take a shower and decompress a little. No time for that. Approval was given before the end of September for the next piece. Michael Christian’s “Flock” http://images.burningman.com/index.cgi?image=2728 > from Burning Man 2001 was brought out of retirement and installed in mid-November in the Civic Center of San Francisco across from the mayor’s office.


Then the calls went from a trickle to a flood. Burning Man and non-Burning Man artists want to know how to get their work displayed in temporary settings around the country. The interest from artists is nearly overwhelming.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the initiative taken by Burning Man regional contacts to draft a plan for moving art pieces from one regional community to another. Or the collaborative community art projects brought to the playa like the Machine from Seattle. http://images.burningman.com/index.cgi?image=21340> And did you see Charlie Smith and Jamie Laudet’s Synapses project? http://images.burningman.com/index.cgi?image=24478> Did you know each piece was produced in a different Burning Man community with instructions from Charlie and Jamie? http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/2005/ 05_art_funded.html#synapses>

And brought to the playa? Can you say collaboration? Community? The warmth you felt standing amongst those pieces at Burning Man 2005 came from the hands and hearts of a cross-continental collaborative project that reached far beyond our event! Don’t you want to see more? And NOT just at Burning Man?

WOW, but can we make all of this happen? The Burning Man Project is not able to fund the efforts of the Black Rock Arts Foundation. We are depending on members, supporters, foundations and volunteers to make all of our interactive art dreams come to fruition. With all this excitement and who-ha you wouldn’t know that at the last Board meeting Leslie made it clear BRAF’s financial situation, as we approach the end of 2005, is very challenging, and that we’ll not be able to engage in any of the ideas on deck for Detroit, San Francisco or maybe, soon, in your hometown, else unless we can raise more funds.

I feel like I’m personally living next year’s theme. Excited by the hope of placing one of the most striking pieces of art from Burning Man on top of a building in San Francisco (and doing it without installing any hardware that would damage the historical building), traveling to visit regionals, listening to artist map out where and when to install their pieces.You think Black Rock City is big? Hey we’ve got an entire planet outside the orange fence line!

Can we do it all? Do we have the manpower? The help? The inspiration? The money? Jeeze the MONEY. That’s the hardest part. We don’t sell tickets to the Black Rock Arts Foundation. We raise money to make stuff happen. But what happens if we don’t raise the money?

On Saturday evening, I had a conversation with our youngest member of the BRAF Advisory Board. We both agree the Burning Man event will have a finite life span, but to keep the ethics, values and core experience alive that influences so many lives is what’s so inspiring to us. I don’t want the event to end, and I fear it’ll end before we have the Regional Network working at full strength. It’s hard to really swallow, but when we compared Burning Man to other important stretches of time we both admitted that big cultural swaths left upon the past aren’t often marked with 20 year tags, but more often 50, 100 or 200 years. If that’s the case, then we both agreed that the efforts we’re engaged in might not fully realize themselves in our lifetime. Excitedly driven forward? Towards what? For what?

Black Rock City is the purest manifestation and highest concentration of Burning Man values once a year in the Black Rock Desert. There is no reason why people can’t live year round in a more connective, creative, self-expressive empowering way for an entire lifetime. To do that we’ll need more than an annual ritual with 35,000 participants on a dry lake bed.

It’s that time of the year when not only are each one of us trying to find, make, express gifts for our loved ones, but non-profits are hitting us left and right for a year-end tax-deductible donation. Well, the Black Rock Arts Foundation http://www.blackrockarts.org> is in the same position. Though its mission may not seem as tangible as animal shelters, it’s getting more tangible by the minute. We have the momentum, we are making it happen right before our very eyes. But we are caught between hope — the brilliant ideas, options and projects spread out before us in our great community — and the fear of not having enough energy, money or manpower that will allow of this to come to life. 2005 hasn’t even ended, but “Hope and Fear: the Future” has already begun. “We are emitters of the future”, this year’s theme text says. Please donate http://www.donatetoblackrockarts.org/doanam.html> money now to BRAF and make that future happen.


Now that the theme is announced, we’d like to inform everyone that the deadline for art grant proposals is February 15, 2006. We do not require that your project be based on our theme (See Burning Man’s Top Ten Art Myths at http://burningman.com/installations/top_myths.html>) , but we do give extra points for that, as well as for interactivity. If you wish to apply for a grant visit http://www.burningman.com/installations/art_guidelines.html >. Please read this document through to the end. It will tell you what to do next. It states somewhat bluntly: Most proposals submitted will not receive funding — but this doesn’t mean that many projects won’t be given grants! We are eager to see what you might propose. If you have any ideas to run by us before you write a proposal, feel free to email artgrants (at) burningman.com. To gain a broader view on the entire art installation process, we strongly recommend that you first inspect our Art Installation Guidelines and Questionnaire http://www.burningman.com/installations/new_guidelines.html>. This will help to guide you in preparing a proposal. One last tip: If you get your art proposal in early – say, before February 1 – we might have a little more time to read and consider it before our deadline.

This year we are also creating a special category for interactive art works that can function in conventional civic settings, as well as at our event in the Black Rock Desert. Already, in 2005, the Black Rock Arts Foundation has installed two major public art works in San Francisco – a temple by David Best and a large sculptural installation by Michael Christian, entitled Flock, which currently stands in front of City Hall in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza. Furthermore, such projects are by no means limited to Burning Man’s hometown. The Foundation also has plans underway to erect a temple designed by David Best in the heart of Detroit! In 2006, BRAF hopes to cull even more portable art projects from among those that appear on the playa. Its ultimate aim is to distribute and erect this art, with the help of local communities, in cities throughout the country. If you would like your artwork to be both eligible and feasible for such a purpose, please first communicate with us at artgrants (at) burningman.com and we’ll give you advice. All decisions regarding this program or any art works that might be displayed will be made by BRAF in the coming year.


Thanks for a great year! You all ROCK!

Maid Marian
Jack Rabbit Speaks
jackrabbitspeaks (at) burningman (dot) com