Grant Program Impact

As we reflect on our accomplishments of the last year we can’t help but notice a theme: collaboration. This comes as no surprise – the Black Rock Arts Foundation (now Burning Man Arts) was founded upon the values shared by Burning Man culture, which prizes community engagement, open exchange of ideas and resources, synthesis of creative efforts and interactive experiences. Our 2013 projects reflect our evolution, demonstrating our ever-deepening commitment to creating work that reflect these core principles.

Most of all, our 2013 endeavors demonstrate your commitment to collaboration. Your support and participation are the essential components that we need to build fantastic art. Whether you’ve volunteered for us, attended one of our events or contributed funding towards one of our projects, your collaboration with BRAF yields great results.

Read on for a report of the great things your involvement has produced. We hope you’ll work with us again. Together we are creating great works that evolve and advance the potential of public art. Help us expand our horizons even further by making a tax-deductible year-end contribution, today!

The Black Rock Arts Foundation is a financially sound, effective organization that is managed using non-profit best practices. Over the past few years, BRAF has developed a diverse revenue stream, with almost 21% coming through fee-based program services.


Still, BRAF’s largest source of revenue is its diverse contributions portfolio, which is as diverse as the communities that we serve. The largest slice of the pie comes from individuals like you!


Over 70% of BRAFs expenses are program related, with most of our spending going directly to artists who are creating inspirational, interactive public art.


All three of our program areas help us further our mission of supporting and promoting community, interactive art and civic participation, all over the world and all year long!


Since 2005, BRAF has completed over 25 Civic Arts projects in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, CA; Reno, NV; and Detroit, MI, all of which have met with immense enthusiasm and appreciation from local communities, and each of which has contributed to the advancement of community involvement, interactivity and quality in public artwork.

New works, such as The Bike Bridge, are created in collaboration with local community members, and are designed to express the unique character, heritage, and interests of their local culture.

Our goal is to sustain the momentum of building support, growth, and collaboration we’ve enjoyed, and to build lasting partnerships in communities. We seek to replicate our successful models of programming in other areas of the country, and to set a standard of community collaboration in public art.

BRAF’s work and the power of Burning Man art and community outside of the playa was the subject of a recent piece on the PBS newshour:

Here’s a quick look at what we accomplished together in 2013:

Big Art for Small Towns

In 2012, BRAF launched our new initiative, Big Art for Small Towns. A collaboration with the Burning Man Project and the City of Fernley, Nevada, this project was awarded BRAF’s second National Endowment for the Arts grant, an Our Town grant, in the amount of $75,000.

This two-phase project will happen over the course of two years. In the first phase BRAF and the City of Fernley conducted a Request for Proposals, and selected two projects for temporary installation in a new city-owned park in Fernley. The two works are scheduled to be installed in late spring of 2014.

BRAF is pleased to announce the two selected projects; the Bottle Cap Gazebo by Max Poynton and Andrew Grinberg, and Rockspinner, by Zachary Coffin. Originally made for the Burning Man event, both of these projects enact our goal of sharing the economic and cultural benefit of the event with its greater community.

The second phase of the project is underway. The City of Fernley and BRAF have selected a lead artist who will collaborate with the Fernley residents to create an original public artwork that reflects Fernley’s character, heritage, and culture. The lead artist and upcoming project activities will be announced shortly.

Rockspinnner by Zachary Coffin.
Rockspinnner by Zachary Coffin.
The Bottlecap Gazebo. Photo courtesy of James Addison.
The Bottlecap Gazebo. Photo courtesy of James Addison.


The Urbanauts project was a collaboration between BRAF Civic Arts artist Sean Orlando, Matthew Passmore of BRAF grantee Rebar, in residency at the de Young museum and in association with BRAF. The artists considered the ways urban inhabitants related (or didn’t) to the largely unseen mechanical systems, societal constructs, and cultural imperatives that mediate and structure life in the built environment.

In June of 2012, the Urbanauts team began by mapping a range of sites, from small to large-scale, providing a glimpse into unseen infrastructures, including the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, and the broader Bay Area. Over the course of the fellowship, these sites are explored, examined, documented, and discussed, and will inform the design of a sculpture series that is based on the aesthetics of urban infrastructure. The series culminated in an unique closing reception in October, 2013; an interactive, participatory event showcasing their explorations, inspired creations and live performances. Co-produced by BRAF, this event was free and open to the public.

Artist Sean Orlando at the Urbanauts exhibit in the Kimball Gallery, deYoung Museum, San Francisco, CA. 2013.
Artist Sean Orlando at the Urbanauts exhibit in the Kimball Gallery, deYoung Museum, San Francisco, CA. 2013.

Raygun Gothic Rocketship

May of 2013 saw the deinstallation of the beloved Raygun Gothic Rocketship, by Sean Orlando, Nathaniel Taylor, David Shulman, Alan Rorie and their talented crew, 5 Ton Crane. After much public acclaim and two permit extensions, the San Francisco community, BRAF and our collaborators, the San Francisco Port Authority, finally had to say goodbye to this unforgettable, spectacular work of art that stood on San Francisco’s Pier 14 for the last two-and-one-half years.

Towering at 40 feet tall and weighing 13,000 lbs, this aluminum and steel feat of engineering evokes the pop culture imagery of 1930’s and 40’s science fiction. While clearly a poignant commentary on yesterday’s idea of tomorrow, the Rocketship’s sheer artistry enchants, delights, and suspends disbelief. The installation first landed at Burning Man 2009, and has subsequently appeared at NASA Ames for Yuri’s Night, and at Maker Faire.

The "Launch Party" de-install event for the Raygun Gothic Rocketship. Photo courtesy of David Yu.
The “Launch Party” de-install event for the Raygun Gothic Rocketship. Photo courtesy of David Yu.

We bid the crew adieu with a roisterous “Launch Party” in March, 2013, complete with a crowd of several hundred Rocketship devotees, Dj’s, dancing, costumery and the shenanigans we’ve come to expect from this fun-loving collective of artists and craftspeople. It was an absolute pleasure working with this crew for so long and we wish them the best on their continuing journey!

The crew of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship after it's "launch." Photo courtesy Becca Henry.
The crew of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship after it’s “launch.” Photo courtesy Becca Henry.

Grants To Artists Program

Since its inception in 2002, BRAF’s Grants to Artists program has offered small grants, often in the form of seed funding, to artists and collectives across the country and around the world. BRAF has grown this program from $11,000 in awards in 2002 to $50,000 in awards in 2013. Today, BRAF has awarded over 100 grants to projects worldwide.

Watch our new video about our Grants to Artists program, produced by BRAF Board Member, Warren Trezevant.

BRAF’s 2013 grantees hailed from the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and from Brooklyn, New York; New Orleans, Louisiana; Boston, Massachusetts; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Oakland and Los Angeles, California.

2013 Grantee Bamboofonomat. Photo courtesy of the artists.
2013 Grantee Bamboofonomat. Photo courtesy of the artists.

Our Grantees represent diversity, both in their chosen media and strategies of bringing art into their communities. The concepts and implementation of the projects contrast greatly, employing both high and low- tech media, inviting both expressive freedom and refinement of craft, arising from both established partnerships and grassroots efforts, reaching both small-town and metropolitan communities. Each project responds to a community’s culture, needs, and environment in an innovative and unique way.

Read more about our 2013 grantee projects on the program’s webpage.

2013 Grantee Bartlett Events
The Opening Reception for 2013 Grantee Bartlett Events


(Above) 2013 Grantee Metamorphosis by Alex Andre Thevenot at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA.)


The Bike Bridge

April of this year saw the installation and unveiling of The Bike Bridge. During one of Oakland’s First Friday events several hundred BRAF supporters and fans of the Oakland arts scene gathered to celebrate this remarkable achievement of collaboration and community engagement.

The Bike Bridge was a collaboration with 12 young women from Oakland schools, artist Michael Christian (well known for his large scale metal works displayed at Burning Man,) and with partner organization The Crucible. Together, the young artists and Christian designed and constructed the piece using primarily reclaimed bicycle parts. The results are fantastic!

It was for this project that BRAF received our first grant, in the amount of $10,000, from the National Endowment for the Arts. We’d like to extend additional thanks to our partner organization, The Crucible, to the Bill Graham Foundation, the Darby Foundation, to Melissa Baron, Greg Galanos and Carole L’Abbe, and Bobby Sarnoff, to all of the backers of the project’s successful Kickstarter Campaign and, most of all, to the young artists for their creative vision and hard work!

The public enjoys the Bike Bridge at the Uptown Art Park Opening Event on Friday, April 5, 2013. Photo by George Post.
The public enjoys the Bike Bridge at the Uptown Art Park Opening Event on Friday, April 5, 2013. Photo by George Post.

The Bike Bridge is the subject of a new short documentary by filmmaker Pierre Forcioli-Conti.

The Bike Bridge by Pierre Forcioli-Conti (One ant red) on Vimeo


The Youth Education Spaceship (Y.E.S.)

BRAF was proud to join our partners, Maker Faire, Exploratorium, and the Crucible in supporting the Burning Man Project’s Youth Education Spaceshipor Y.E.S., debuted at Maker Faire this year. Lead artist Dana Albany worked with local San Francisco children to build the sculpture using mostly reclaimed materials.

Children from the Tenderloin, Bayview/Hunter’s Point Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco were given the opportunity to help create a spacecraft under the guidance of many artists skilled in several disciplines. Over the course of three months, the children made model spaceships and created mosaic stars and imaginary planets out of recycled glass, mirror, tiles, and repurposed objects collected at Recology and Building Resources. Their work adorns the exterior of the spacecraft. At the Crucible, the kids learned how to make fused glass tiles and the art of glass sand-casting, which has been installed in the interior. During the formation of the spacecraft they were engaged in discussions about recycling, creative reuse, environmentalism, solar energy, LED lighting, photography, soundscape creation, robotics, space travel and astronomy.

So far, the Y.E.S. has made appearances at San Francisco’s Exploratorium and at Maker Faire in San Mateo, in California, in May, 2013, and the Learning Village in Las Vegas, Nevada in November, 2013. It will continue to tour schools, art and science centers, museums and playgrounds, serving as a future model of a mobile classroom for science and art education.

Y.E.S at Maker Faire 2013
Y.E.S at Maker Faire 2013. Photo by George Post.


Twilight at the Presidio

In October, BRAF partnered with San Francisco’s Presidio Trust and with Off the Grid street food vendors to co-produce a series of casual, friendly and free community gatherings we called Twilight at the Presidio. Each Wednesday night in the month of October, 2013, community members were invited to relax under the stars, lounging next to toasty fire pits, or under the cover of lantern-lit cabanas. Off the Grid street food vendors served up tapas-style dishes and cocktails while acoustic musicians set the soundtrack to this cozy, campfire evening.

Twilight at the Presidio. San Francisco, CA. 2013.
Twilight at the Presidio. San Francisco, CA. 2013.

BRAF curated fire art sculptures for the evening, sharing our community’s artists with a new audience. Participating artists included Kristin Humphreys of Vulken fire dance group, Christopher Schardt, John DeVenezia and Charlie Gadeken.

These leisurely events were extremely well received and BRAF looks forward to participating in more in the future.

A visitor directs the action of Christopher Schardt's fire sculpture, Pyroticulation, at BRAF's Twilight at the Presidio event, October, 2013.
A visitor directs the action of Christopher Schardt’s fire sculpture, Pyroticulation, at BRAF’s Twilight at the Presidio event, October, 2013.


Homoroborous at the Exploratorium

BRAF was honored to have the opportunity to once again support Peter Hudson’s beloved work, Homouroboros, in an installation on Pier 15 in San Francisco. The Black Rock Arts Foundation exhibited Homouroboros in San Jose in 2008 and we are thrilled to present, to the Bay Area public, another chance to interact with it. The piece is located in front of the new facility of BRAF’s partner organization the Exploratorium. This exhibition of this iconic piece of Burning Man art is free and open to the public, without museum admission, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day. Homouroboros was installed on October 24th, 2013 and will remain up through January 6th, 2014.

Peter Hudson's Homoroborous at The Exploratorium, December, 2013. Photo courtesy of George Post.
Peter Hudson’s Homoroborous at The Exploratorium, December, 2013. Photo courtesy of George Post.


Aurora the Willow

In 2011, Aurora the Willow made its debut at Burning Man. The festival’s 60,000 attendees were enchanted by Aurora’s fairytale whimsy, dazzling lights, and serene yet majestic presence. The piece found its way into the hearts of many, including those of local Palo Alto, California, children Sam (age eleven) and Julia (age nine) Hirschman, and Aurora’s journey to their hometown was set in motion. With the help of their father, Harry Hirschman, they launched a campaign to bring the sculpture to their city.

Aurora, named and inspired by artist Charles Gadeken’s young daughter, is a 35’ tall sparkling, opalescent metal sculpture of a weeping willow tree. Its 40’ canopy is composed of 4,200 hand-­beaten copper leaves and is illuminated by over 40,000 LED lights. These lights cycle through an algorithm of colors that correspond to the seasons.

The Hirschman family reached out to Gadeken, and to BRAF, and together we launched a fundraising campaign, a Kickstarter campaign, hosted fundraising events and installed the piece at Maker Faire, in May, 2013, where participants had the opportunity to create additional leaves for the tree.

Aurora at Maker Faire 2013.
Aurora at Maker Faire 2013. Photo by George Post.

The Hirschmans tirelessly pursued their vision, and won the approval of Palo Alto’s Art Commission, who committed to host the sculpture’s public installation in King Plaza, in front of Palo Alto City Hall, where Aurora was installed in November, 2013, and will remain for at least one year, pending funding. But the aspirations of these young art enthusiasts would not have been realized if not for the contributions of BRAF supporters. Aurora’s installation in Palo Alto is a demonstration of collaboration, community and creative vision.

The project quickly attracted the enthusiasm of other local children, who identify themselves proudly as the “Aurora Kids.” This passionate group of youth initiated several outreach campaigns and have proposed interactive programming that will be pursued, funding permitting. 

2013 Civic Arts project Aurora, by Charles Gadeken, in Palo Alto, Ca.
2013 Civic Arts project Aurora, by Charles Gadeken, in Palo Alto, Ca.


The Artumnal Gathering

The Artumnal Gathering is BRAF’s annual gala and celebration event, and is a major source of funding for BRAF projects. The financial success of this fundraising event determines the reach of our programs in the year to follow. This year’s Artumnal Gathering was our most successful event to date!

Aerialist Jocelynn Rugig performing at the Artumnal Gathering, 2013, San Francisco, CA.
Aerialist Jocelynn Rudig performing at the Artumnal Gathering, 2013, San Francisco, CA. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez.
Installation by Paul Hayes (hanging above,) and Love by Laura Kimpton at the Artumnal Gathering, 2013. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez (
Installation by Paul Hayes (hanging above,) and Love by Laura Kimpton at the Artumnal Gathering, 2013. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez (

This extremely popular event honors and showcases our community’s extraordinary artists, educates about BRAF’s mission and goals, and rallies support for future endeavors. It has become an annual tradition for our community, who look forward to donning their finest attire, seeing friends and fellow BRAF supporters, and enjoying the many spectacles of this extravagant evening.

A member of The Lucent Dossier Experience dancing at the Artumnal Gathering, 2013, San Francisco, CA. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez.
A member of The Lucent Dossier Experience dancing at the Artumnal Gathering, 2013, San Francisco, CA. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez.

The evening included a sumptuous dinner, a high-spirited live auction, a silent auction, wine, dessert, interactive art experiences and original works of art by our community’s artists, featured and roaming live performances, DJ’s, dancing, raffle, photography and fine art sale and one-of-a-kind treats.

The Artumnal Gathering, 2013. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez.
The Artumnal Gathering, 2013. Photo courtesy of Marco Sanchez.

This year’s Artumnal Gathering featured original works by Laura KimptonPaul HayesBunnie (Bonnie) Reiss, and BRAF grantee project by Alex Andre Thevenot and performances by Metamorphosis BalletMaterializedThe Lucent Dossier Experience, and many, many more. BRAF is grateful to the 100 performers and 250 volunteers who donated their time and effort, and for all who attended and showed their support for our future projects. Thank you!


Future’s Past

In 2012, BRAF worked with local organizations and residents to raise necessary funds for the installation of Kate Raudenbush’s Future’s Past in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The work continues to be warmly received by the local residents and was granted an exhibition extension of one year by the City of San Francisco. It will remain on view until May, 2014.

In an ongoing collaboration with the Hayes Valley Arts Coalition (HVAC), BRAF and HVAC curate works of art that reflect the vibrancy and character of the Hayes Valley neighborhood and advocate for the improvement of the installation site, making it ready to host more works of art in the future.

In this project, we worked with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation to install a permanent electrical connection at the site. As with many sculptures we work with, Future’s Past’s lighting effects are integral to the work’s overall impact and aesthetic. This site improvement was critical to our ability to showcase this sculpture and hopefully others of equal caliber in the future.

First exhibited at Burning Man in 2010, Future’s Past is an intricate metal sculpture standing 24 feet tall, and tells a story of civilization being reclaimed by nature. The 12-foot base of the piece harkens an ancient pyramid. Springing from its top is an ornate 12-foot Bodhi tree, a symbol of freedom from earthly attachments.

Futures Past in Hayes George Post 2

IlluminArts Walk

Another exceptionally successful pilot event, BRAF’s IlluminArts Walk, in early December, 2013, invited community members to don illuminated costumery and wearable art for an evening stroll, touring some of BRAF’s favorite illuminated works of art in San Francisco. Produced in partnership with Illuminate the Arts, this evening of participatory pageantry was literally a strolling light installation at the human scale, as participants became art by illuminating their funnest evening finery and proceeded from North Beach to the Embarcadero.

The walk bridged three works of illuminated art, two neighborhoods, and brought new energy to San Francisco’s sidewalks. The entire route explored gorgeous vistas of The Bay Lights, by BRAF Advisory Board member and acclaimed light artist, Leo Villarreal.

The Bay Lights, by BRAF Advisory Board Member Leo Villareal. Photo courtesy of John Curley.
The Bay Lights, by BRAF Advisory Board Member Leo Villareal. Photo courtesy of John Curley.

This event was created in support of San Francisco Travel’s inaugural Illuminate SF, a new seasonal program which offers the entire city of San Francisco as a gallery of light-filled art, illuminating the dark winter evenings of November to January.

The evening began at the North Beach intersection of Columbus and Broadway at 2007 BRAF Grantee project, Language of the Birds, also commissioned by the San Francisco arts Commission’s Public Art Program. There, the walk’s host, BRAF Executive Director Tomas McCabe, introduced The IlluminArts Walk participants to site-specific light art and creators Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn discussed their art: solar-powered books mimicking birds in flight, created in conjunction with scientist David Shearer and City Lights Books.

The IlluminArts Walk, December 5, 2013. Photo courtesy of George Post.
The IlluminArts Walk, December 5, 2013. Photo courtesy of George Post.

The glowing group the proceeded to walk via Telegraph Hill to the Exploratorium on the Embarcadero. As they descended the Filbert Steps, vistas of The Bay Lights, the world’s largest LED light sculpture appeared. Its 25,000 white LED lights are individually programmed to create a never-repeating, dazzling display across the Bay Bridge’s west span. The IlluminArts Walk participants were treated to stories of the creation of The Bay Lights from Illuminate The Arts dynamic executive producer, Amy Critchett.

The group’s final destination was the Exploratorium to experience Homouroboros, a large-scale interactive zoetrope by San Francisco artist Peter Hudson, in the public plaza at Pier 15. Creator Peter Hudson met the group to discuss his ground breaking and inventive interactive art piece.

After the walk, our IlluminArts Walk participants had the option to attend The Exploratorium’s monthly adults-only event, After Dark: Glow. This month’s After Dark event highlighted a number of activities related to exploring bioluminescence, florescence and phosphorescent artwork and activities. Light-focused artworks on display included the installations by Ruby Bettencourt & Jeff Howe’s, Whirld (viewable from outside the museum), and Mark Lottor’s Cubatron Core.

Ruby Bettencourt's Whirld. Photo courtesy of George Post.
Whirld by Ruby Bettencourt and Jeff Howe. Photo courtesy of George Post.


Bliss Dance

The Treasure Island Development Authority has granted an indefinite extension of the exhibition of Bliss Dance, by Marco Cochrane. BRAF is thrilled that the community shares our appreciation and affection for this piece.

The sculpture, of a dancing woman, stands 40 feet tall, weighs 7000 pounds and is ingeniously constructed of triangulated geodesic struts. By day, the dancer’s ‘skin’, made of stainless steal mesh, shimmers in the sun. By night, it alights brilliantly with a complex array of 1000 slowly changing LED colored lights. Viewers may interact with and manipulate the lighting effects with a smartphone application. The dancer’s delicate, graceful form precariously balances on one foot, adding to the astonishing impression of imminent movement and lifelike presence.

Bliss Dance by David Yu
2011 Civic Arts project Bliss Dance, by Marco Cochrane. Photo by David Yu.

We hope that you’ll work with us again to evolve and advance the potential of public art. Help us expand our horizons even further by making a tax-deductible year-end contribution today.