More Butts, Fewer Seats!

traffic jam
UGH.

Back when Black Rock City’s population would barely overwhelm an In ‘n’ Out drive-thru, let alone the two-lane highways leading to the Black Rock Desert, the Burning Man Rideshare board was just a handy way for people to catch a ride to the playa.

But with our burgeoning population — and hopes of burgeoning it yet more — ridesharing has become a necessity to ensure the long-term survival of the Burning Man event in Black Rock City (we say “in Black Rock City” because there are 60+ Burning Man events around the world … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here). The environmental impact aside, the reality is our favorite two-laners to nowhere just can’t take the traffic. So the Rideshare board? Very important.

The board was getting seriously long in the tooth and creaky at the knees, so we sent in our crack tech team to beef, clean, and pretty it up, and then add flight sharing into the Black Rock City Airport (or any other airport for that matter … but there we go getting ahead of ourselves again) and other cool features to help you find the ideal seat for your butt.

Rideshare!
Rideshare!

OK so here’s the really cool part: we’re making our Rideshare board available to any Burning Man Regional event to manage their own carpooling efforts. That’s right, we’re taking our sustainability efforts global. Any of the 60+ Burning Man Regional events around the world will be able to facilitate carpooling and flight-sharing using this system (whether they do or not is up to them).

Wait, flight-sharing what? Yes, that’s right. If you’ve got an extra seat to share on your plane, we got that covered too — whichever airport you’re using.

Cool huh? OK so say it with us: More Butts, Fewer Seats!

Now … get in there, and find your ride.

David Best to Build Temple at Patricia’s Green

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) and Burning Man are pleased to announce the creation of The Temple at Patricia’s Green by renowned artist David Best, to be installed in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Originally proposed by SFAC, and produced in close collaboration with the Burning Man nonprofit, the new temple will commemorate the 10th anniversary of Best’s Hayes Valley Temple, exhibited at the same location — on Octavia Street at Linden Street — in 2005.

Please join SFAC, Burning Man, and the Hayes Valley community in celebrating this wonderful work of public art at its Opening Reception, June 26, 2015, 11:00 a.m., at Patricia’s Green in San Francisco, California. The artist and special guest speakers will be present.

Burning Man is committed to creating experiences that inspire joy, lift the human spirit, address social problems, and foster a sense of culture, community, and personal engagement.

David Best's recent Temple in Derry-Londonderry, Ireland, 2015 (Photo by Josh Lease)
David Best’s recent Temple in Derry-Londonderry, Ireland, 2015 (Photo by Josh Lease)

“Burning Man is thrilled to be working with David Best and the Arts Commission to make this project possible,” says Burning Man’s Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives Tomas McCabe. “In our ongoing effort to make Burning Man culture accessible to everyone, we’re excited that Hayes Valley and the entire City of San Francisco will once again have an opportunity to co-create a powerful, interactive community art experience.”

The project is made possible with development impact fees from Hayes Valley private developments, which were set aside specifically for artwork in Patricia’s Green, and with additional support from San Francisco Grants for the Arts; the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant / Market Octavia Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plans Grant Program; and Burning Man.

History

The Temple of Grace in Black Rock City by David Best, 2014 (Photo by Scott London)
The Temple of Grace in Black Rock City by David Best, 2014 (Photo by Scott London)

In 2005, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Arts Commission encouraged the Black Rock Arts Foundation (now a subsidiary of Burning Man) to collaborate with the San Francisco’s Hayes Valley community and David Best to create an interactive “Temple.” The Hayes Valley Temple quickly became a cherished focal point for the community, providing a beautiful space that inspired connection, dialog and civic pride. It demonstrated how artists, city officials and community members can collaborate to create meaningful work specific to the needs of their community, and became the model for Burning Man’s Civic Arts Program.

“David Best’s temple was universally loved and continues to be among the top most memorable temporary art installations the city has ever presented. It just made sense to bring it back for the 10th anniversary of Patricia’s Green,” says Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny.

About the Artist

In addition to his collage, painting, ceramic and mixed media sculptural works (shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Oakland Museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, and diRosa,) David Best is known for his massive, exquisitely decorative temples built and burned at the annual Burning Man event in the Nevada desert.

Artist David Best, 2014 (Photo credit unknown)
Artist David Best, 2014 (Photo credit unknown)

Best’s temples fill a critical societal need, providing the rare opportunity to publicly acknowledge grief and hope concurrently. The structures become a collective tribute to the shared human experiences of contemplation, reflection, sorrow, affection and hope. Most recently, Best collaborated with UK-based charity Artichoke and local community members to create a temple in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

About the Artwork

The Temple at Patricia’s Green will honor the loss of community members and celebrate the community’s dreams and aspirations for the future.

The new temple will be made of wood. On par with his other large-scale works, it is expected to be approximately 15 feet in width and length and approximately 37 feet in height (pending final plans). Best’s temples often feature alcoves and niches conducive to private reflection. Community members are welcome to write the names of, or messages to, lost loved ones, and/or their aspirations and thoughts on the temple’s walls. As people contribute to the piece, the space becomes a communal expression of very personal experiences, creating a new sense of affinity among participating community members.

As David Best says, “When we finish the temple and turn it over to the community, it is an empty building. They bring their mothers, they bring their brothers, they bring their best friends, their weddings and their celebrations to it. And then it becomes something. It has no life until the community brings that life to it.”

With the creation of The Temple at Patricia’s Green, Best will take the concept of community collaboration even further. He proposes an installation period of 10 days, from June 13 to June 21. Spanning two weekends, this will create time for both scheduled and informal opportunities to interact with the public. The new temple will be on display for at least one year.

Kicking Concierge Caboose in Black Rock City

Yes, they really made this. Yes, that's a computer-generated plane.
Yes, they really made this. Yes, that’s a computer-generated plane.

I’ve Got Your “Vacation Package” Right Here

Festivals Concierge Services, part of a larger European-focused concierge company called The Key, offers VIP-priced packages for events and festivals around the world, which is great for them. They also want to offer them for Burning Man, but that’s not going to happen.

We believe strongly that paying upfront for a prescribed, curated experience that doesn’t require individual effort misses the mark and erodes Burning Man culture, and it’s absolutely not okay to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. This is precisely the kind of service we hope to eliminate from Black Rock City: one that essentially offers participation and “self-expression” in a box.

[In case you forgot, we have a comprehensive website section about how we deal with turnkey camping.]

Read on to learn about our interactions with Festivals Concierge Services, the actions we’re taking to stop what they’d like to do in Black Rock City, and how you can help.

History

We first learned of Festivals Concierge Services (FCS) in the summer of 2014 when we received reports about their website — burningmanvip.net — which was selling concierge services involving Black Rock City. We reached out concerning their unapproved uses of Burning Man’s intellectual property (IP) and offer of unauthorized services. Festivals Concierge Services changed the website as we requested, and they claimed that they were not offering any services at or to the 2014 Burning Man event in Nevada.

We next heard about Festivals Concierge Services in March 2015 when we received reports about the “Art on Playa Foundation,” an organization that Festivals Concierge Services started, purportedly to help their wealthy clients provide financial support to Burning Man artists. We saw that the Art on Playa website was using our logo and other IP, and causing confusion among artists and other participants about our involvement with them (we had none). So we reached out to Festivals Concierge Services again, explained our principles and policies again, and asked them to stop using our IP on their websites. Once again, they agreed to comply with our requests.

Sadly, we can’t say we were totally surprised when we learned that Festivals Concierge Services recently added a new “Burning Man concierge” page to its website. They have since changed the leading graphic — bearing a garish, computer-generated private jet flying over Black Rock City — to read “Black Rock City” instead of “Burning Man,” but FCS still uses the Burning Man name liberally (for example, at press time, FCS lists Burning Man as one of its “Products” on its Facebook info page). The page makes unauthorized use of Burning Man’s IP and claims to offer concierge services at our 2015 event (everything from transportation and tickets to Mutant Vehicle rentals and on-site theme camp management). This is all completely unauthorized by the Burning Man organization. Our community also took notice, and offered their pointed opinions protesting these activities in a Facebook thread that was deleted by Festival Concierge Services on 5/20/15.

Taking Action

We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:

  • Notifying applicants to our Outside Services (OSS) and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if we learn they are doing business or subcontracting with concierges services (such as FCS) or their clients, we will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs.
  • Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system (this process began after the 2014 event).
  • Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
  • Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
  • Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
  • Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.

We welcome your questions and comments below. If you’re aware of any other companies using Burning Man’s intellectual property to sell “VIP Burning Man experiences” or the like, send a report to ip here: ip (at) burningman.org.

Green Tortoise: the Exception that Proves the Rule

Green Tortoise bus on playa (Photographer unknown)
Green Tortoise bus on playa (Photographer unknown)

With the influx of concierge companies seeking to capitalize on Burning Man’s popularity, we are taking a hard line with companies that want to provide tourism services and turnkey camping at the event. We don’t believe in spending money to avoid self-reliance in Black Rock City, and it’s absolutely against our principles to sell people “the Burning Man experience” as a vacation package. But there’s a balance to be struck between a “No Spectators” ethos and keeping our culture open to everyone.

We’re reviewing the ways we strike this balance and may make additional changes in the future, but for now, we’re continuing to make an exception to our approach to turnkey camping in the case of the adventure company Green Tortoise, with whom we forged a relationship in the year 2000. It’s worth explaining how in this case, Green Tortoise is the exception that proves the rule.

In the beginning…

In 1998, heavy rain flooded the event site just as Burning Man was coming to an end. With vehicles unable to leave Black Rock City, many Burners were stuck on playa. To make contact with the outside world, they trekked into Gerlach on foot, leaving a muddy mess in the small community (if you’ve ever been on playa when it rains, you know the deal). In response to concerns from the Gerlach community, participants were not allowed to leave during the event in 1999, creating challenges of its own: this time Gerlach lost the economic benefit of Burners frequenting its stores and facilities during the event.

Beginning in 2000, Green Tortoise agreed to provide shuttle service to Gerlach, enabling participants to purchase supplies and make contact with the outside world using the local payphones, while minimizing impacts on the local community. Most importantly for us, Green Tortoise provided a much-needed service for our participants that we couldn’t provide ourselves.

Then and now…

For a while, we gave Green Tortoise a small number of tickets they could resell as part of their compensation for providing shuttle service because, while we were short on money, we had plenty of tickets. Over the years, we grew to know and trust the Burners running the company and their staff and customers made valuable contributions to Burning Man, so we allowed them to expand their presence by offering a trip to Black Rock City, which is a noteworthy exception to our current policies.

For 2015, the Green Tortoise package costs $995 for the week (the event ticket is sold separately). It includes transportation to and from Black Rock City, along with water, shade, and food for cooking meals. Campers must bring and set up their own tents/sleeping accommodations and participate in meal preparation. These are not luxury trips to Burning Man. Green Tortoise encourages participation and has an excellent Leave No Trace record.

Though the need for daily bus trips to town has declined (participants tend to come more fully prepared these days), our relationship with Green Tortoise has continued. The current contract provides Green Tortoise with infrastructure for their camp, and the option to purchase up to 185 tickets (at $390 each) for resale to their customers only. Green Tortoise does not share a portion of its profits with the Burning Man organization; Burning Man does not benefit financially from this relationship in any way.

What Green Tortoise Brings to Burning Man

Green Tortoise campers include first-time Burners and 20-year veterans. They span a wide age range and are primarily backpackers from overseas. The service is particularly appealing for people who travel long distances to participate in Burning Man, as it makes some of the logistics and supply acquisition easier and more affordable. Of the 150 participants who will go to Burning Man in 2015 with Green Tortoise:

  • 69.3% reside outside the U.S.
    • The largest group of international campers are from Australia (24% of all campers), The Netherlands (24%), and the U.K. (11.5%)
    • Other home countries include Colombia, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Argentina, Singapore and the Bahamas.
  • The average age is 37
    • The youngest is 18
    • The oldest is 79

And Green Tortoise campers have made significant contributions to BRC over the years. These include:

Art Projects: Green Tortoise campers have played an integral part in the conception, design, building and implementation of various playa art projects, including a wall of light (multi-colored technology-driven LED display), The Rolling Light Balls project, and pieces for CORE (The Circle of Regional Effigies), including two from Victoria, B.C.: PsychoPhilia (the big head) in 2012 from and Fleur pour les Morts in 2013.

Art Cars: Green Tortoise campers have created three art cars: The Tiki bar (a VW van chopped up and re-fabricated into a tropical-themed, roaming bar), The Cloud (the same chopped-up VW van fabricated to resemble a fluffy, mobile thunderstorm), and the Galapagos Tortoise. All art cars were hop-on, hop-off style and were built with accessibility in mind to encourage any and everyone to ride them.

Regional Contacts: Two Green Tortoise campers have gone on to become Regional Contacts (from New York and Georgia).

BRC Departmental Support: Green Tortoise campers often sign up to volunteer for various departments prior to arriving on playa. Others have become more engaged upon arrival or in subsequent years. Green Tortoise campers have become Black Rock Rangers, BRC nurses, Lamplighters, Center Camp Cafe staff, Earth Guardians, Temple Guardians, and more.

In 2014 alone, Green Tortoise campers:

  • Built and performed on a stage at Green Tortoise camp. This included acoustic guitars and a flute player ensemble, as well as DJs with ambient lounge chill-out music, providing a relaxed atmosphere for anyone to drop in on.
  • Built a sultan-like tent for the Caravansary theme and held meditation sessions.
  • Held free massage sessions by licensed massage therapists.
  • Hung a slew of hand-made birdhouses in random locations.
  • Performed for the public: sang at center camp, drummed at the pre-Burn ceremony and other events, hula danced, fire danced during the Burn ceremony and in other performances using batons, poi and other various flaming crazy-fun props, stilt-danced, and sang sea shanties on several of the pirate-themed ships.
  • Created a BRC Junior Ranger Program (not affiliated with the real BRC Rangers); over 300 participants received booklets describing participation-based tasks. Upon completion of the tasks in the booklet, each of the applicants were awarded patches.
  • Formed the French Fashion Police, complete with aviator glasses, tight shorts, whistles and ticket books, and held “Fashion Friday – a Costume Giveaway” and offered face and/or body painting to whoever passed by.

In short, this is no frou-frou, chichi turnkey camp. It makes significant contributions to BRC that have flourished for many years.

Going Forward

While we appreciate the long relationship we’ve had with Green Tortoise and are continuing to support their efforts in 2015, we’re also working with them to make some changes to how they operate to bring them more in line with Burning Man’s principles. The owners of the company understand and are working with us to address our community’s concerns around turnkey camping, and we may make further changes to this arrangement in the future.

Get Your Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ Today!

Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)

Participant posing in front of a portapotty. (Photo by Mario Covic)

One of the best things about Burning Man culture is that its participants are also its creators. Burning Man is what its participants do and say and make about it — and that includes creations that reference Burning Man.

Burning Man is unique in the way it encourages participants to incorporate its logo and imagery — including the Man symbol and design, the names Burning Man and Black Rock City, and the shape of Black Rock City — into their creations and offerings to the community. We see these uses most frequently in the season leading up to the event, often as part of fundraising efforts for art projects, theme camps and products offered to Burners.

The challenge comes when those creations conflict with the 10 Principles, and it’s usually an issue related to Decommodification. We don’t support projects that turn Burning Man into a commodified product for sale. We do license the Burning Man identity for certain third-party projects, but we do so very carefully for projects that represent the best of Burning Man culture. An example of this is allowing the use of “Burning Man” in the title of a book of photographs from Black Rock City. But we don’t license Burning Man for use as a commodity. You’ll never see Burning Man Brand LED GlowyFur™ available at your local BoxStore™. When a work crosses that line, we step in to protect the culture from misrepresentation and exploitation.

A recent example is the Burning Man Board Game. The developers reached out to us a year ago, and after extensive review, the developers were told they would not receive permission to use any of Burning Man’s legally protected intellectual property, including the Burning Man and Black Rock City names, the Man logo and the signature shape of the city.

Last month the game appeared as part of a Kickstarter campaign. While our fundraising policy allows the creation of crowd-funded campaigns that directly fund art, theme camps and mutant vehicles, the board game Kickstarter was being used to fund the creation of a product, with only a portion of revenue to be donated to theme camps or playa projects.

There’s an important distinction between using Burning Man’s IP in the appreciation gift one receives for making a donation (which is fine, as long as the guidelines are followed), versus in the product that is being crowdfunded itself. If we were to allow the use of our name and symbols in the product (in this case the board game), then it would open the door for other entrepreneurs to sell Burning Man merchandise under the guise of fundraising. This could set a dangerous precedent in terms of protecting our cultural integrity.

In the case of the board game, the campaign organizer stated the fundraising effort was designed to comport with the 10 Principles in that one portion of the donation would go toward the cost of producing the game and another portion would be donated as a gift to one of several high profile theme camps. However, in keeping with the Decommodification and Gifting Principles, we allow participants to use Burning Man’s intellectual property to fundraise directly for Black Rock City-bound projects, including specific artwork, theme camps, and mutant vehicles. Any other use requires special approval and a licensing agreement from the Burning Man organization.

The Burning Man board game is just one example a project that comes in conflict with the Principles. Others have included an individual selling jewelry with the Man symbol to raise funds for his camp, a high-end concierge service using the Burning Man name and logo to market their services, and companies offering to ship large quantities of their product to Black Rock City to give away for “free on playa” in return for the right to market the experience to the world.

In the vast majority of cases, these kinds of issues are resolved with a phone call. Only very rarely have we been forced to resort to more formal action.

Here’s the thing: We are truly inspired by the creativity of Burners — the range of ideas from our community continues to expand in impressive ways. And on the surface, many of these ideas sound great. But we take the responsibility of protecting Burning Man’s long term cultural integrity seriously, and we have to examine all of the possible outcomes and unintended impacts of a project.

Participants are welcome to gift items that incorporate the Man, the Black Rock City design, etc. to their donors. But that’s different from manufacturing a product at cost and selling it, which is not allowed. For more information about Burning Man’s approach to intellectual property, check out http://burningman.org/network/about-us/press-media/trademarks-images-faq/ on our website.

Remember: It’s not a gift if there’s a price tag attached to it.

San Mateo Innovation Week: “Maker Cities: Inspiring Engagement, Dialogue, and Participation”

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.51.12 pmWhat: Maker Cities: Inspiring Engagement, Dialogue, and Participation
When:
Thursday, May 14, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm (PDT)
Where: Kingfish Restaurant, 201 South B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401

Social media, on-line platforms, and urban prototyping have transformed the ways citizens interact and participate within their communities. Information is more accessible, dialogue is on-going, and expectations for involvement continue to rise. Burning Man and the Davenport Institute join the City of San Mateo during San Mateo Innovation Week to explore the strategies, techniques, and philosophies that inspire citizens to get involved and contribute to making lasting solutions in communities near and far.

This panel features Burning Man co-founder and former City Manager of Black Rock City, Harley Dubois; Ashley Trim, Assistant Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy; Leslie Pritchett, Public Art Instigator and board member to several arts-based and nonprofit ventures including The Crucible and American Steel Studios; and Gordon Strause, Director of Neighborhood Operations with San Francisco-based Nextdoor. Stuart Mangrum, Education Director for Burning Man will facilitate the discussion.

Refreshments will be provided. Please visit San Mateo Innovation Week 2015 for more information and reserve your space.

Desert Arts Preview 2015

Burning Man Arts hosted the 10th annual Desert Arts Preview on Sunday May 3 at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco’s Fort Mason. This sold out event, held in its largest venue to date, featured eight artists (and art teams) talking about their artworks in progress destined for Black Rock City 2015.

Speakers included Jon Sarriugarte and Kyrsten Mate (Project Empire), Rebecca Anders (Illumicanth), Scott “Skeeter” Cohen (The Life Cube), Flux Foundation (Dreamland), Capra J’neva (Axayacoatl), Chris “Kiwi” Hankins (Goddess of the Empty Sea), Marco Cochrane and Julia Whitelaw (R-Evolution), and Jazz Tigan (Temple of Promise).

We’ve recorded the event for your viewing pleasure. So grab a tasty beverage, sit back, relax, and enjoy:

Get Your Makin’ Pants On, Maker Week is June 12-18!

Youth Education Spaceship at Maker Faire 2013 (photo by Harley Dubois)
Youth Education Spaceship at Maker Faire 2013 (photo by Harley Dubois)

It should probably go without saying that we’re all about makers, and the maker movement. Our friends at Maker Faire are kicking some serious maker butt these days, with over 130 Maker Faires now happening around the world annually, inspiring thousands of people to start making, and giving makers the showcase they need and deserve to show off their creations.

The movement got an incredible boost last year when President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” And so here we are, doing just that. The White House recognizes that by “democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.”

2013 Global Arts Grantee Metamorphosis at Maker Faire in 2013.
2013 Global Arts Grantee Metamorphosis at Maker Faire in 2013.

This year, the White House will celebrate a “Week of Making” from June 12-18. The week will coincide with the National Maker Faire in Washington D.C., featuring makers from across the country and participation by a number of federal agencies including the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, Corporation for National and Community Service, Department of Homeland Security and the Smithsonian. Pretty cool.

President Obama with Lindsay Lawlor and Russell the Giraffe (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with Lindsay Lawlor and Russell the Giraffe (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At last year’s Faire, President Obama met Lindsay Lawlor, who built a 17-foot, talking robotic giraffe named Russell that you might have seen loping around Black Rock City in years past.

As the President put it, “Today’s D.I.Y is tomorrow’s Made in America.” Yeah, he gets it.