Word Play: The Art of Jeff Schomberg

This video vignette about artist Jeff Schomberg is a fantastic portrayal of an artist whose trajectory of work has been irrefutably changed by Burning Man. Here, Jeff tells us about how Burning Man expanded his concept of public art, and opened up the possibility for his own artistic growth.

In this video, Jeff also talks about his experience of interacting with the Art Support Services at Burning Man, his appreciation for other artists on the playa, and for Burning Man’s art grants.

Jeff began attending Burning Man in 1998, and since has collaborated with artist Laura Kimpton to create numerous works, including 2008’s massive interactive fire and metal installation Celtic Forest, and the many “word” pieces that have become iconic to the vista of our playa (including Mom, Oink, Love, and Believe). He and Laura collaborated with the Black Rock Arts Foundation to bring Celtic Forest to Reno, Nevada, in 2009, and continues to create and share his work in public settings.

This brief window into his creative and production process reveals Jeff’s focused and dedicated work ethic, his esteem for his crew and artistic collaborators, and his conviction about the community-building potential of public art. Thank you, Jeff, for all your work!

BWB Winter Ball Fundraiser for the Chicago Community Grant Program!

[This post reprinted from Burners Without Borders.]

Photo by ‘Great Eye Films’
Photo by ‘Great Eye Films’

Chicago’s annual Burners Without Borders fundraiser, ‘The BWB Winter Ball’, was a night to remember for all of the organizers, artists, volunteers, and participants who made it such a huge success. It was a night filled with art, food & performances; an evening exploring how artists can contribute their gifts in meaningful ways to their local communities.

Photo by Jenka Pechenka
Photo by Jenka Pechenka

The fundraiser was held to support the ‘Chicago Community Grant Program’: a collaboration between the local BWB chapter and Chicago’s burner-run arts & culture 501c3 Bold Urban Renaissance Network (BURN) that started in 2012.  Based loosely on ‘The Sunday Soup’ model, the program is an experiment in opening up the grant selection process by allowing community members to vote for the grant winners themselves.  Twice a year, a salon event is held where four civic projects are invited to come and give a ten minute pitch explaining their ideas and the audience follows up with a five minute Q&A session.  After the pitch session everyone is served a delicious meal and has the chance to cast one vote that decides that evenings winners.  After three years and six cycles, the program continues to exist as an enriching community event and vital funding model for grassroots initiative.

(Read more about the program here.)

Orielle Anaïs Caldwell, aerialist (Photo by Jenka Pechenka)
Orielle Anaïs Caldwell, aerialist (Photo by Jenka Pechenka)

The BWB Winter Ball was conceptualized to be the main fundraiser for this program, and such a successful event shows that the local community believes in what’s been happening.  This year’s fundraiser brought a 338% increase in earnings compared to the year prior.  Another way to put this success into context is to consider that BWB Chicago raised more money on this single night than they’ve been able to give away over the past three years of the entire grant program’s existence. After expenses just under eight thousand dollars was raised!

So what does this mean for BWB Chicago and the Chicago Community Grant Program? The ability to have more impact!  The program is looking at expanding in size, awarded grant amount, and number of grants given.  Implementing a completely new microloan program for business focused projects is also under consideration.

Curious where the funding goes? Take a look at our 2015 Honored Projects:

Jakmel Ekpresyon – (www.facebook.com/JakmelEkspresyon)
Slow + Roll Chicago – (www.facebook.com/SlowRollChicago)
Free write Jail Arts – (www.facebook.com/freewritejailarts)
Share Your Soles – (www.facebook.com/ShareYourSoles)
Consensus Chicago – (www.facebook.com/consensuschicago)
Why Not Here? – (www.facebook.com/quinncommunitycenter)
Follow the Alphabet Road – (http://marylyonschool.com/)
Kedzie Carroll Garden –  (www.facebook.com/TheKedzieStop)

Keep in Touch with Burners-without-Borders Chicago:
www.facebook.com/bwbchicago    /   Civicgrants here: Civicgrants (at) boldurban.org

The March of the Little Green Man

On an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday, around 80,000 people sat nervously in front of their computers, waiting for the noon hour to strike. And when it did, they quickly clicked the link to get into the queue to purchase one of 40,000 precious tickets to Burning Man 2015. And then began … the wait.

As we’ve learned, it takes time to process all those transactions. Maddening time. Anxiety-inducing time. Time people spent on an emotional rollercoaster from hell, as they waited helplessly to see whether or not the winds of fate would blow a golden ticket into their hands. And during this time, probably more intensive psychic energy was heaped onto one single thing than anything else in Burning Man’s 29-year history: The Little Green Man.

The Little Green Man
Green Man walkin’.

The Little Green Man (yes, we’re capitalizing it, shut up) was the little dude standing, strolling or running along the progress indicator bar, marking one’s advancement through the ticket queue. As ticket-seekers urged him on with a fervor worthy of a filly at the Derby, he ascended to the level of a little green mythical being of possibility that would make the average totem, rune, relic or fetish (wait for it…) green with envy.

And while technically he’s white on a green background — Burners are known to be loose with aesthetic interpretations — he will go down in Burning Man lore as The Little Green Man. We’ve pulled together some of the sale-day homages to the little guy here (and we’ve saved our favorite for last) ….

And our favorite (this one’s a JOKE, people) …

Individual Sale Recap

Ticket pile!
Ticket pile!

The Individual Sale for Burning Man tickets started at 12 noon PST yesterday. Just over an hour later, the allotment of 40,000 tickets and 12,000 Vehicle Passes had been purchased.

Nearly 80,000 people registered for the sale and each person could buy up to 2 tickets (and one Vehicle Pass). In the end, roughly 21,500 people purchased the 40,000 available tickets (the average was 1.87 tickets per purchase).

So it makes sense that a lot of people are disappointed that they couldn’t get a ticket — for every one person who purchased a ticket (or two), there are nearly three more who were registered for the sale but didn’t reach the front of the queue before tickets were sold out.

The tough reality is that demand for Burning Man tickets is just way higher than the supply, and not everybody who wants to attend will be able to in any given year.

So, how does the system work?
We wanted to give you a little insight on how the ticketing system works, because while a number of people are understandably upset about having not gotten tickets, the system actually worked. We hope the technologists out there will forgive us, as we’re going to put this in layman’s terms.

The system had to process roughly 80,000 people hitting the server at almost the same time (12:00pm PST). So imagine 80,000 ball bearings being dumped into a funnel at once, all vying for a spot in line to make it through the hole at the small end. Physics (in this case, load-balancing and sorting technology) sorts them into a line (in this case based on the time they clicked the ticket link), and a queue is formed in a matter of milliseconds. Some are going to be in the front, some in the middle, some at the back — but only the first 20,000 are guaranteed to get through to purchase a ticket (40,000 tickets for sale, maximum two per person).

So even if you clicked the link right at 12:00pm PST, you may not have gotten to the front of the line. Is that fair? Inasmuch as everybody’s in the same boat, it’s about as fair as it can be.

What about the fluctuating wait time indicator?
The wait time is an estimate — it fluctuates based on the time it’s taking people to actually make their purchase, which is determined by how fast people click and type, how fast the servers are processing, and how fast the queue is releasing people into the purchasing stage. A few minutes into the sale the queue was intentionally paused for 5 minutes (to allow the system to catch up to all the people hitting it), which is why your time estimate changed.

So what about the rumors of people sneaking to the front of the line?
Unfortunately there is some truth to this. Approximately 200 people created a technical ‘backdoor’ to the sale and made their way to the front of the line. Absolutely no tickets were sold before the sale opened at 12:00 pm, but they were able to purchase the first batch of tickets when the sale started. The good news (for us, not them) is that we can track them down, and we’re going to cancel their orders. The tickets from those orders will be made available in the OMG Sale in August. Of course, steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again in future sales.

Did the servers crash?
No, they never did and the ticket buying process was never stopped — the queue was intentionally paused (briefly) to allow the servers to catch up to the demand — and nobody lost their place in line as a result.

Why were people held in line for so long only to find out tickets had sold out?
The system lets people into the purchasing stage, and then people purchase their tickets. Until they’ve all successfully purchased their tickets, it’s not sold out. If for some reason somebody doesn’t complete their transaction (bad credit card, they bail out, etc.), then their spot is given to the next person in line. So we don’t remove people from the line until all the tickets have been successfully purchased, because technically you still have a chance to get one.

Why was there still an opportunity to donate to Burning Man Project once tickets had sold out?
Honestly, that was a mistake — we didn’t realize that option would still be available once the sale had ended. We totally understand how that came across as adding insult to injury, and we feel badly about it. All transaction pages including the donation page should have been pulled as soon as tickets sold out.

Were people given any advantage if they made a donation?
No, not at all. It was first-come, first-served for everybody.

What about the other reports of glitches in the system?
There have been some additional claims of technical issues with the sale, including a report of an individual bypassing the line by going through Ticketfly’s homepage and one about someone using multiple codes to buy more than two tickets. So far we haven’t found any proof to substantiate these claims, but we are continuing to look into it and committed to its resolution. When we have more information to share, we will certainly do so.

What about all the overpriced tickets being sold on StubHub, eBay, and other reselling sites?
Our community has historically demonstrated its commitment to buying tickets at face value — a very small percentage of participants in the past have paid inflated prices, and we are certain that “scalpers” are not responsible for the high demand for tickets. While our options for preventing this behavior are limited, we do actively weed out known resellers as part of the registration process (that’s one of the reasons we have you register for the sale). But as long as people are willing to buy tickets at exorbitant prices (we wish they wouldn’t, but some apparently do), there will be a market for predatory resellers. It’s antithetical to our community’s ethos, but it’s also the reality of supply and demand (and technically legal). When we’re able to find out the serial numbers of these tickets (see below for how to report them), we void them. We’ll publish a list of voided ticket numbers on tickets.burningman.org this summer (so you can double check the number if you are buying a ticket on the secondary market).

Here’s how to report marked-up tickets on different sites:

eBay
See this.

StubHub
Send an email directly to yourfeedbackmatters here: yourfeedbackmatters (at) stubhub.com containing the name of the event (2015 Burning Man Festival and 2015 Burning Man Festival Vehicle Pass), the dates of the event, and if you want to get super detailed you can also list exact URLs for each ticket you want to report. IMPORTANT: Include your contact number so they can reach you if they have further questions — they’re far more likely to take the complaint seriously if they can actually reach someone to respond. They want to help, so don’t abuse the StubHub folks, they’re not the ones who listed the tickets.

CraigsList
Offer the buyer face value plus fees. If that doesn’t work, flag the post and it’ll be taken down … do it often enough and maybe the seller will be more willing to listen to reasonable offers.

Anywhere Else
If you see marked-up tickets being offered anywhere else, contact ticketsupport here: ticketsupport (at) burningman.com so we can pursue it (and yes we really do). The more information you can provide us, the better, including screenshots since people often pull down posts if they think they are being flagged.

Gah! Vehicle Passes Sold Out Before Tickets Did?!

Vehicles on Gate Road, 2010 (Photo by George Post)
Vehicles on Gate Road, 2010 (Photo by George Post)

As part of our multi-pronged effort to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to and from Black Rock City (which is one of biggest challenges Burning Man faces, and a significant risk to the future of our event), we started requiring every vehicle driving into Black Rock City to have a Vehicle Pass (VP) in 2014. The intention of this program is to encourage carpooling.

This year, we reduced the total number of Vehicle Passes we’re making available from 35,000 to 27,000, based on the number of passes that were actually used in 2014 (e.g. 27,000 of them). And since Black Rock City will be the same size this year as last year, there should be plenty of VPs to go around — in fact, people were literally giving them away on Gate Road last year.

So why did VPs sell out before tickets did in the Individual Sale? We analyzed the buying habits and demand for VPs in each of our sales last year and then cross referenced that with actual use. From there we allocated specific amounts to each sale to ensure that every sale would have an appropriate number available and they wouldn’t just all be gobbled up in the earlier sales. As a result, fewer VPs were made available (12,000) in the Individual Sale than tickets (40,000) and some of you were able to purchase a ticket (or two) but not a VP. But the good news is that the ratio of purchases of VPs to tickets was actually really good today — 36,000 tickets were sold before the 12,000 VPs sold out.

If you didn’t get one, please know that you’ve still got options:

  1. Vehicle Passes will be sold in the OMG Sale. In fact, there will be more VPs available than tickets. For those who have not purchased a VP from us yet, there will be an option to register to purchase just a VP — so if you didn’t get a VP in the Individual Sale, you’ll be able to register to purchase one in the OMG Sale.
  2. A lot of folks bought a VP not knowing if they need it or not, and will be looking to offload theirs. Ask around, and keep an eye on the open market for them — they’ll be out there.

And if for some reason you can’t get one, there are alternatives to driving your own vehicle to Burning Man:

  1. Burner Express shuttle buses run from San Francisco, Reno and possibly a third location that has not yet been determined.
  2. Check this out: if you’ve got a bunch of folks looking to ride from your city, you can ask Burner Express to pick you up.
  3. The Burning Man Rideshare Board, which will crank up in the Spring, connects people offering rides with those needing rides — it’s always a good option.
  4. Get information about chartered flights into the Black Rock City airport.

OK so you can feel good about the fact that you’ve secured your ticket. And don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to get your transportation sorted out, too.

What If I Don’t Get a Ticket to Burning Man?

BM41252_the Sad Ghost
Don’t despair, little ghost!, 2005 (Photo by Maria Tyomkina)

The Individual Sale is coming up on Wednesday, for those who registered — you DID register right? Well, a lot of you certainly did. Around twice the number of tickets available, in fact. Yep, that’s right … the secret’s out about Burning Man, and the reality is that some of you aren’t going to be able to get a ticket in the Individual Sale.

The size of Black Rock City is relatively stable (peak population at this year’s event is expected to be very close to what it was in 2014) — so while demand for tickets is steadily increasing, the number of available tickets is not. However, if you don’t get a ticket in the Individual Sale, here’s why you shouldn’t despair:

  1. You have a number of other opportunities to get tickets, including through the Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP), the OMG Sale in August and the Low Income Ticket Program (which is reserved for those who are in, and can demonstrate, actual financial need).
  2. Historically, many tickets exchange hands among Burners during the summer as people’s plans change. Be patient, get the word out there, stay connected to your Burner community, and one could very well make its way to you.

Some things to consider when purchasing tickets in the open market:

  1. Don’t buy a ticket from someone you don’t know unless you’re certain they aren’t ripping you off (with this much demand, the predators will be out there).
  2. If you purchase a ticket from a stranger, be absolutely sure it’s not a counterfeit before you buy it. (Stay tuned for a post about how to recognize a counterfeit.)
  3. Buying a ticket above face value perpetuates the scalping system. Don’t be part of the problem. Use STEP, or buy from people you know and only pay face value plus fees.

And remember, making it to Black Rock City is not the only way to get your burn fix. There are many official Regional Burns throughout the year, including Nowhere in Spain, AfrikaBurn in South Africa, Israel’s Midburn, Flipside in Austin — there are over 60 Burns happening around the world. Heck, there’s even one in Korea! And these Burns, like the one in Black Rock City, are as amazing as you make ‘em.

Best of luck in the sale, and we hope to see you on playa.

Panel Discussion on Pop-up Urbanism

Burning Man recently hosted a panel discussion on innovative uses of urban space, from temporary parklets and community gardens to maker spaces and pop-up art. If you’re interested in activating your own city in radical ways that don’t necessarily rely on city bureaucracy and established processes, there’s a lot to learn from these folks.

Moderated by Blaine Merker of Gehl Studio and REBAR, with panelists Marc Roth of Learning Shelter and TechShop, Jake Levitas of the Urban Prototyping Festival, Jessica Hobbs of Flux Foundation, and Jay Rosenberg of 49 Farms and Hayes Valley Farm, this event was recorded at Burning Man headquarters in San Francisco in December 2014.

Morris Burner Hotel: A Short Documentary about Burners Transforming Reno

The Morris Hotel in Reno is nothing less than the first Burner hotel in the world. It’s more than 80 years old, and for much of that time, it was dark, dingy, and underutilized. But that all changed when Jungle Jim and his community of Burners got his hands on it.

Now the hotel’s 43 rooms are designed and decorated by artists, and the facility provides space for the practice of the many Burnerly Arts, not the least of which is helping the homeless. The Reno Gazette-Journal has posted an 11-minute documentary on the work they’re doing, which we present here for your viewing pleasure:

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