The Artumnal

artumnal2-6There was a whole lot more proof on Friday night, even if none was needed, that Burners clean up real nice.

The setting was the Bently Reserve in the Financial District of downtown San Francisco, and the occasion was the Black Rock Art Foundation’s Artumnal fund-raiser.

Everything about the event said class. From the truly fabulous sit-down dinner to the steady stream of entertainers and DJs to the generosity  of the art-buying patrons, the whole event was just plain first-rate. And a lot of fun. And there were plenty of old friends on hand, too.

There was Shrine, with an engaging new work in the center of the hall. Like the Temple he built on the playa in 2008, it was made entirely of recycled materials, and it was beautiful.

artumnal2-2And there was Maid Marian and Sting Ray and Michael Michael and other Black Rock luminaries. And there was Playground and Makeout Queen behind the bars. And there was Megs and Minx and Lily, and Affinity and Monkeyboy and Joe the Builder, and dozens of others who always look more familiar covered in dust. It was homecoming week.

The  Burning Man people know how to get the jump on the holidays. Last weekend was “Thankzaweenmas,” the combination thank-you, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas party all rolled into one. And then on Friday came the Artumnal. With these two amazing gatherings  behind us, we’re fortified for the family affairs that are coming right up. OK, bring ‘em on. We can take them now.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. It never is. There always seems to be a higher purpose lurking beneath the surface, and Artumnal was no exception. All that planning and hard  work will mean that artists from everywhere will get  financial help with their projects. The Black Rock Arts Foundations supports art projects all over the world. (And was I the only person who didn’t know that the organization doesn’t fund art on the playa? Maybe, maybe not. But BRAF ‘s mission is to take the spirit of the playa and spread it all over the globe. That’s the motivation behind the Artumnal, and a sold-out affair plus a successful auction is fine news for art makers.)

artumnal2-7The Bently was transformed over the course of a single DAY into a rocking party place. Volunteers showed up early Thursday to start getting the venue ready, and by Friday evening the transformation was complete. But that’s not where the hard work ended. When the party wound down in the wee hours, the overnight volunteer crew came in to put everything back the way it was (another “leave no trace” event). The Bently was booked for a wedding the next day, which meant that there had to be a late volunteer shift, which went from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. Oof.  At one point late in the the evening, there was Steven Raspa and Squirt and others huddled on the floor in the corner of one of the auction rooms. Were they just chilling out at the end of a long day? Um, no. They were planning the logistics for the break down.

So thank you to the crew, and to all the people who made the event so amazing, and onward and upward with the arts. And for some thoughts about art and civic engagement, click on the accompanying video from Rosalie Barnes.

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You can post your responses here, if you like. And you can check out more pictures over on Facebook and Flickr, too.

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

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