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 – (
Slow + Roll Chicago – (
Free write Jail Arts – (
Share Your Soles – (
Consensus Chicago – (
Why Not Here? – (
Follow the Alphabet Road – (
Kedzie Carroll Garden –  (

Keep in Touch with Burners-without-Borders Chicago:    /

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:


European Leadership Summit Rocks Amsterdam

Over 100 community leaders from twenty-five nations converged on Amsterdam for the second annual Burning Man European Leadership Summit, February 6-8 in Amsterdam’s historic Beurs van Berlage. Burning Man Regional Contacts, Meta-regionals, event organizers, and headquarters staff joined forces for a fast-paced weekend of teaching, learning, and creative collaboration.

2015-02-07_BM-ELS-day1_022_∏photo-company.nlAfter kicking off the event with a celebratory parade through the streets of Amsterdam (the latest installment in Jan Beddegenoodts’s “Moving Europe” project), participants enjoyed two busy days of panels, workshops, group discussions, and networking.


A highlight of the program was a series of talks on art, technology, and culture. Philosopher Alexander Bard introduced the group to syntheism, a model of how atheists can achieve the same feelings of community and awe experienced in theistic religions. Author Yuri van Geest discussed the attributes of what he calls exponential organizations, agile groups that can survive and thrive in periods of rapid change. And the artist Dadara hosted a showcase of his work, which includes celebrated and sometimes controversial on-playa projects such as the Exchanghibition Bank and Like4Real.

2015-02-07_BM-ELS-day1_138_∏photo-company.nlAnother popular offering was a half-day seminar in collaborative creativity hosted by the THNK School of Creative Leadership. Participants were guided through an accelerated cycle of small-group ideation, prototyping, and refinement at the THNK campus, generating a number of actionable projects that people were buzzing about for the rest of the weekend. Back at the Beurs van Berlage, breakout sessions offered in-depth discussion of topics including BWB-style civic projects, leaving no trace, community event production, volunteerism, and conflict resolution, which spilled over into many after-hours discussions of art, culture, collaboration, and the challenges of translating the Burning Man ethos to new languages, cultures, and physical environments.

2015-02-08_BM-ELS-day2_123_∏photo-company.nlThanks to all the conference participants for an amazing weekend, and especially to the Dutch Burners for their gracious welcome and hard work in helping to make this summit a success.

Burners Without Borders Detroit: Homeless Backpack Project

Danielle-Kaltz-Burners-Without-Borders-Detroit-Homeless-Backpack-Project-Impact-Grant-2014-225x300The 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.”

10846487_10204479782309056_4169549143634316576_n-300x168Then 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.”

You can follow along with Burners Without Borders Detroit on their website or on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of the Pollination Project

“Moving Europe” brings Burning Man art to Amsterdam

moving2Belgian filmmaker, photographer, and art-activist Jan Beddegenoodts brought his Moving Europe project to Amsterdam last week with a spectacular mobile gallery and interactive parade. Participants took to the streets of the old city carrying oversized prints of Burning Man art photos taken by Jan and fellow photographers Thomas Dorn, Sidney Erthal, Scott London, and Gaby Thijsse, accompanied by a brass band, dancers, fire spinners, and no small number of delighted Amsterdammers caught up in the spontaneous celebration.

moving6The event was an apt kickoff for the second annual Burning Man European Leadership Summit, a two-day event bringing together community leaders from twenty-five countries for an intensive weekend of knowledge-sharing, alliance-building, and cultural collaboration.

In the months ahead, Jan and his team will bring the Moving Europe experience to more cities including Riga, Athens, Lisbon, Berlin, and Reikjavic, 2015-02-06_Moving-Europe_136_∏photo-company.nl_-1024x582working with local artists and burners in each country to imbue the event with local flavor and make each parade a unique street party. The Moving Europe team is also compiling video footage for a documentary project, interviewing people of all ages but particularly children and the elderly about their impressions of the show and their dreams for the future.

Bringing the 10 Principles Home: A Series on Burner Activists

Our annual rendezvous in the desert with 60,000 of our favorite people is a feast for the senses. It offers something — in fact, many, many things — for everyone. But what happens after the dust clears? How can our daily lives in the default world pay homage to our experience together in the desert?

The playa is obviously an inspiring place to explore people, activities, art, and experiences that may be scarce in the default world. Many, especially virgin Burners, may come to fetishize the playa, thinking it to be the only place we can embrace our most authentic selves.

But many Burners embody the Ten Principles on as well as off the playa. Given how many of our communities are concentrated in the west, I’ll focus this post on several inspired burners from places where you might be surprised to find our communities flexing in fascinating ways.

Like those working with Black Rock Solar and Burners Without Borders, a handful of Burners in the nation’s capital, and one in the Deep South, present moving illustrations of how our socio-cultural revolution in the dust can inform and inspire the default world. They practice the 10 Principles — and the various skills we build during our gatherings — to build conscious counterculture in the default world, and shift the latter in a more humane, peaceful, and sustainable direction. (more…)

Midburn 2015: Seeking Transcendence at the Israel Regional Burn


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…)

Harley Dubois Shares Burning Man with ‘The Feast’ Attendees

feast logoBurning Man Founder and Chief Transition Officer, Harley K. Dubois, spoke at the 2014 Conference of The Feast in Brooklyn, New York. The speakers in 2014 were asked to address building new skills, offering and receiving each other’s new perspectives, and supporting projects and innovators in realizing the future together.

The mission of The Feast is to connect makers, doers and innovators around shared vision and to work together to transform each other, communities and the world.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 6.14.45 AMHarley began her talk (which you can watch online) by asking how many attendees had been to Burning Man, and if they had not, had they heard of it. Lots of hands went up in the audience.

In her presentation, Harley referenced the image of Black Rock City, and how the horseshoe shape of the City centers around the Man as a constant reminder to be present and participate. And she explored the 10 Principles and how they infuse themselves into daily life in Black Rock City and beyond.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 6.29.25 AMHarley noted that most of the attendees were at the conference because of a shared desire to make the world a better place — when you met someone in the hall, you could assume you have this mission in common.

That should ideally be the case at Burning Man as well. The 10 Principles are the same kind of shared context, making it easier for Burners to trust each other’s intentions and strike up an interesting relationship. And in their various, sometimes counter-intuitive ways, they’re also all about improving the world.