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:
The creative generosity of Burners Without Borders never ceases to amaze. One project in particular, run by the Detroit BWB chapter has gathered enough momentum that you should definitely know about it, in case it inspires you to help out the homeless in your community.
The Burners Without Borders Detroit: Homeless Backpack Project has given away over 1200 backpacks full of water, food, clothes, blankets, and hygiene products to the homeless people of Detroit since it was conceived by Danielle “Doxie” Kaltz in 2008. Their target for this year is to give between 400 and 500 more. It gets cold in Detroit. These people need lots of supplies to survive. This 100% volunteer organization, nearly 100 people strong, is making a major difference for them, making grantors like the Pollination Project into repeat customers.
“It started out of the back of my Jeep,” Doxie says. “In winter 2006/2007 I started to see homeless under the bridges on the highways in Detroit, and it made me realize I had too much stuff. Don’t we all. So I started to fill my car with blankets and food, then I would stop and take items to the people who I started to call the Highway Men. Brave or stupid I realize this, but it was a calling, and I had to do it.”
Then Doxie’s friend, Rosey, asked her family to donate supplies to the Backpack Project instead of giving her Christmas gifts that year, and that’s when Doxie says “the project leveled up.” Rosey had the idea to put the supplies into sturdy backpacks instead of paper or plastic bags. Now nearly 100 volunteers help fundraise, gather supplies, and distribute backpacks. Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics has donated office space to the project for storing the supplies and hosting the backpacking events. Best of all, now that other volunteers are helping out, Doxie can now spend more time getting the word out.
“I do have one request of everyone who helps pass out backpacks,” Doxie says, “and that is that they ask the name of the person they are engaging with and that they tell them their name. It is easy for us to ignore homeless as we busy ourselves with our phones or radios or just simply refuse to turn our heads. I hope to humanize the experience as everyone deserves to be acknowledged, and I really do think we can change humanity if we just say ‘hi’ to people, not just homeless, and mean it. Time to bust our bubbles and connect to others.”
This spring, in a desert halfway around the world from Black Rock, another Man will burn. The second Midburn, the official Israel regional event, is May 20–24, 2015. The theme is Transcendence. There is now a beacon of Burning Man culture in the Middle East, and may it be a force for peace.
Ha’ish (the Man) burns on the night of Shavuot. It’s the holiday of the gathering at Mount Sinai, the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses, the bonding together of a holy community through an earth-shaking mass revelation in the desert. This Biblical event underlies all the faiths — Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike — that call these flowering deserts the Holy Land. People of all those faiths — and plenty of people from non-faiths — Israelis, Palestinians, and international travelers will share the burn that night. (more…)
“Interactive Community Collaboration is the context for creativity that blurs the distinction between audience and art form. People are transformed from spectator to participant and are given permission to become active contributors to a creative process. Gifting the experience of interactive art to a community is a way that is inclusive rather than exclusive, that permits spontaneous and immediate opportunities to interact with the art and to create ritual around such engagement.”
I was joined on the panel by David Best, the great sculptor who created the Temple at Burning Man, Sean Orlando from Five Tone Crane Arts Group, and Delaney Martin of New Orleans Airlift. We discussed the ideal vessel or receptacle for allowing interactive collaboration to flourish — be it Black Rock City or a public square in New Orleans — as well as the art of setting your art on fire, a practice of impermanence that’s far from the norm in the art world.
While in New Orleans, we also had an opportunity to take a tour of the Public Art of the City, which I truly enjoyed.
The Bay Lights, which first started sparkling across the Bay Bridge in March 2013, just hit its funding goal and will now be a permanent installation. The 1.8 mile-wide, 500-foot-high LED sculpture is the world’s largest, made of 25,000 white LEDs whose patterns glow from sundown to sunrise and never repeat. It will stay lit until 2026 at least.
In an email to supporters, Ben Davis, founder and CEO of Illuminate the Arts and big-time Burner, says that the $2 million raised so far was matched by philanthropist Tad Taube, bringing the organization to the $4 million baseline goal.
The Bay Lights installation is the brainchild of Leo Villareal, a world-renowned artist with many equally dazzling installations under his belt. He’s also one of the founders of Disorient, which is a Burning Man camp that, even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve definitely heard. You know the blinky orange-y camp on the 3-o’-clock side of the Esplanade? Used to rock a giant orange traffic cone-looking thing? Yeah, them. Leo joined the inaugural Burning Man Board of Directors in 2011, and he re-upped after his initial term ended, continuing to serve on the Board today.
Villareal has been coming to Black Rock City since 1994, and he brought his first blinky installation in 1997 to solve a clear, simple problem: he had trouble finding his camp at night. That drove him to build his first large-scale piece in New York in 2003, and it just got more ambitious and beautiful from there. As a Burning Man veteran, Villareal is surely used to having to take apart his art and pack it up, but now he’s built the largest LED sculpture in the world, and the people have raised the money to keep it lit.
The piece has to be taken down for bridge maintenance next year, but the New York Times arts blog reports that the piece will be up again by January 2016.
Thank you to everyone who donated to keep this beautiful piece alight in the cities from which the global Burning Man culture has spread.
Burning Man founder Crimson Rose attended the 2014 World Cities Culture Forum and Summit in Amsterdam and brought back insights from some of the world’s greatest cities. These insights can help us think about Black Rock City in new ways, of course. But they’re also lessons Burners can bring to any city at any time, just as we do with the art and the values we’ve developed in our home of Black Rock City.
The overarching issues discussed at this year’s summit were remarkably relevant to Burning Man culture, and it’s a good thing a Burning Man founder was there to offer reactions. Crimson reports that there was a pervasive attitude among the representatives in attendance that the culture of a place can be “branded” and sold like any other economic product. Crimson’s response was that culture is more like a living organism; it must grow, eat, breathe, and change, or else it will die. Black Rock City residents know this well.
In another example, Amsterdam is attempting to change the word “tourist” to “visitor” in its tourism culture. We know this “no tourists!” problem well enough to understand that changing the word for it is not enough. All the norms around integrating newcomers into the city have to change, and that extends to all residents, not just official policy. That challenge is going to be harder in Amsterdam than it is in BRC; the Netherlands is starting to see anti-tourism protests during big events.
Cities are also often hosts to spectacular cultural events, like sports and performances, which have a tried and true formula for how they run: people buy tickets, buy concessions, sit down, watch the show, and leave. Crimson was pleased to see that some cities, particularly Montreal, are beginning to push for more interactive and participatory events.
Crimson herself appeared on a panel called “Transformational Outdoor Creative Projects.” The other panelists were Pep Gattell of La Fura dels Baus, Helen Marriage of Artichoke (a Burning Man Project partner), and Mark Ball from Lift. The moderator was Ruth MacKenzie, director of the Holland Festival. It was an open, free event attended by Summit attendees and locals. In further conversation after the panel, Crimson introduced Daniela from the Amsterdam Regional Group to some of the officials and guests at the Summit, many of whom didn’t know about the Burning Man Decompression event happening in Amsterdam two days later. These kind of serendipitous connections are just waiting to happen at a summit like this.
Crimson says Amsterdam was delightful, bike-friendly, and arts and culture were bursting into the streets. Sound like a dusty city you know?
You know what? I fucked up. I told her, “Don’t worry about your bike.” I honestly thought we’d be able to keep our eye on it. But come on, brother. It was the middle of nowhere out there, and I know better.
Still, seriously, what the fuck, right? Don’t take the material advice of some dust-wizard in the dark of night.
The Black Rock Desert is a place unlike any other – a wide expanse of possibility set in the heart of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. This area is part of nation’s prized National Conservation Lands, a special designation given by the U.S. Government to some of the most scenic, culturally rich, scientifically important and yet least known public lands in the country. We’re lucky to build Black Rock City in this beautiful location, and we should be equally committed to respecting and protecting this special place.
The relationship between Burning Man and the Bureau of Land Management hinges on our mutual care for this exquisite desert. The BLM released a very friendly video showing how they do their part in protecting the land where we build Black Rock City. The video also features the Earth Guardians, the Burners who represent our communal effort to be environmentally responsible and respectful. Check it out:
Jayson Barangan, BLM’s Public Information Officer for Burning Man 2014, wrote in about the recent signing of the Special Recreation Permit (SRP) for the event. “With a 68,000 Burner threshold, this SRP is the biggest and most complex within BLM. Burning Man is a monumental logistical undertaking and through cooperative integration with BRC and multiple agencies and jurisdictions, the world’s largest Leave No Trace (LNT) is able to occur on federal public lands. LNT is one of the founding principles for Burning Man and is in unison with the SRP’s stipulations, whose chief priority is natural and cultural resource protection, as well as public safety.”
He also pointed out how this year’s Caravansary theme fits in beautifully with the heritage of the surrounding lands, which are National Landscape Conservation Lands (NLCS) lands administered by BLM. “There is a very interesting nexus between Burning Man’s theme this year, ‘Caravansary,’ and the Black Rock High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (NCA), Jayson writes. “One of the cultural resources contained within the NCA is the Applegate Historic Trail, which is an emigrant trail used by early pioneers. It is the longest stretch of protected and intact emigrant trail in the USA. I think this particular resource dovetails very nicely with this year’s theme. The NCA also contains several designated wilderness areas; 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.” Once again, Black Rock City is about to become a temporary oasis for this year’s Caravansary, just like the caravansaries of old.
It’s for the sake of this land and its heritage that we leave no trace of Black Rock City after our caravan moves on. If you want to contribute more to this effort, check out the Earth Guardians and consider joining up.