Artist Agreement Revisions

Eidolon Panspermia Ostentatia Duodenum by Michael Christian, 2014 (Photo by Scott London)

Eidolon Panspermia Ostentatia Duodenum by Michael Christian, 2014 (Photo by Scott London)


Black Rock City Art Grants Program — Summary of Artist Agreement Revisions

Following the 2014 Burn, Burning Man undertook an initiative to better understand Burning Man artists’ needs so that we could institute positive changes to our art process, policies and contracts. This began with a pair of artist forums in November 2014, during which several artists raised the Honorarium contract as a point of concern. As a result, we invited Burning Man artists to talk about the art contract over a series of meetings, wherein both groups shared needs, concerns, challenges, and suggested changes. We also gathered further input through a survey sent to 302 Burning Man artists, including those who attended the forums and those who were invited to apply for Honoraria grants (more than 100 responses were received).

One outcome of this process has been to make some significant revisions to the Black Rock City Art Grant Agreement and policies for 2015. Burning Man Project is also expanding its fiscal sponsorship program — piloted by the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) in 2014 — and exploring the possibility of setting up a group insurance plan that artists can join.

Here’s a brief summary of key changes that were made to the Black Rock City Master Art Grant Agreement and Schedule:

Fiscal Sponsorship / Funding
In 2014, BRAF launched a pilot program that would allow Black Rock City honorarium art projects to accept tax-deductible donations through a Model C fiscal sponsorship program. Burning Man Project will continue and expand this program in 2015.

Intellectual Property
The Master Agreement gives Burning Man limited intellectual property rights (a “license”) to enable it to promote the work of artists and Burning Man. Based on feedback from artists, the new contract restricts Burning Man’s right to create “derivative works” without the artist’s separate permission. Under the new agreement, Burning Man also may not sublicense its rights to any additional parties without the artist’s consent.

Liability / Insurance
Artists have requested that the contract shift some responsibility for public safety to Burning Man. We have found, however, that doing so would put Burning Man in the position of creating specific rules and guidelines, effectively overseeing the design and construction of art in BRC.  This would not only constrict artists’ freedom and creativity, but also constrain participants’ interaction with the artwork — fundamentally changing the essence of the Burning Man experience. So while Burning Man is unable to substantially change the way the contract handles the artists’ liability, we hope we can help artists by offering an easy-to-use and affordable group insurance plan. We are exploring a “TULIP” (Tenant / User Liability Insurance Program) plan that will enable artists to insure their work in Black Rock City.

While other festivals may offer mutual indemnification through strict exhibit agreements that control access to the artwork, and granting agencies may offer it for a single piece of art with no specific exhibit location, Burning Man funds multiple interactive artworks and provides “exhibition” space within Black Rock City, where participants have unrestricted access to the artwork 24 hours a day. Burning Man’s insurance only covers work that Burning Man owns, controls, designs, etc., so it is simply not feasible for Burning Man to provide mutual indemnification.

Sale of Artwork
Burning Man funds its support for the arts from a variety of sources, including ticketing, grants, fundraising, and art sales. In the past, if a piece of funded art was sold, art agreements assessed a fee of up to 10% of the gross sale price – but not more than the amount of its honorarium payments – to help fund more art in subsequent years. For 2015, this contractual fee has been reduced; it will be capped at 10% of the net sale proceeds, after deducting other commissions or debts that an artist owes on the work at the time of sale, and still not more than the honorarium payments. The fee is now also limited to sales within a period of 15 years after the artwork’s exhibition in Black Rock City.

Budget Guidelines / Artists’ Stipends
This year, in response to requests from artists, Burning Man allowed budgets submitted with Honorarium applications to include a line item for an artist fee or stipend. We hope that this experiment will provide additional insight into the full costs of making art for the playa.

We’d like to thank all the participants (artists and staff) for their commitment to this process over the last 5 months.  We will continue working with artists on improving our processes, ensuring that more inspiring, engaging and interactive art is created for Black Rock City and the greater world.