As we just mentioned in our earlier Amber Lyon post, if you’re looking to the official Burning Man site for news, good luck to you. They’re running on Burning Man time, not Twitter time. They told you this event was coming up, but haven’t updated their site yet to tell you it’s over. Meanwhile, at Burners.Me, we bring you news of the Burning Man Project Panel. Here’s some bluesy video put out by the City of San Mateo (yes, they do talk…eventually!)
Danger Ranger had this to say about the whole thing:
“What we do literally is we take peoples’ sense of reality, and we break it apart. Burning Man is a transformation engine. It has hardware and it has software. You can adjust it and tweak it, and we’ve done that. We take people out to this vast, dry place – nowhere, very harsh conditions – and it strips away their luggage. The things that they had brought with them, the idea of who they thought they were. And it puts them in a community setting where they have to connect with each other. It puts them in this place where anything is possible. In doing so, it breaks the old reality, and it enables them to realize that you can create your own reality, you can do anything.”
Here’s what the SF Examiner had to say:
San Mateo gets lesson on community building from Burning Man
- From left, moderator Stuart Mangrum, Burning Man co-founder Michael Mikel and entrepreneur Ilana Lipsett discuss community-building strategies. Photo: SF Examiner
The Burning Man event symbolically came to San Mateo recently, but there were no naked people, art cars or burned wooden effigies involved.
Burning Man was instead front and center on the subject of community-building during a discussion in conjunction with San Mateo‘s Innovation Week festivities, featuring Burning Man co-founder Michael Mikel. Joining him onstage were three activators, Burning Man participants who talked about how their experiences at the yearly Nevada desert counterculture event have influenced their efforts as community leaders.
San Mateo spokeswoman and economic development specialist Rebecca Zito said the city is in the process of “activating” its downtown area, and the panelists’ insights could be applied to beautification projects such as the North B Street Improvement Initiative. Community-building skills associated with Burning Man are relevant to the B Street project, she said, because there is a lot of outreach and communication involved with residents, merchants and property owners, who all have different concerns.
Panelist Ilana Lipsett talked about her Freespace project, which uses the Burning Man principle of “radical inclusiveness” to bring San Francisco residents together to collaborate on art, technology and civic projects.
She noted that people who are increasingly painted by the media as natural enemies, such as technology workers and artists, have been able to get past those labels and work together at Freespace.
One example Lipsett cited was that of a disabled, formerly homeless man who cautiously enteredFreespace’s Market Street location, wondering whether he would be welcome there. The man had an idea for a digital billboard that could provide homeless San Franciscans with information on services and resources, while simultaneously offering music and visual entertainment to draw users in and beautify the public space. According to Lipsett, the resident tech employees and artists got involved and worked to turn the concept into a reality.
Panelist Karen Cusolito, the founder of American Steel Studios, which rents workspaces to artists in West Oakland, said operating the space has forced her to get involved in local politics because, she said, “The city planned to turn West Oakland into an office park.”
And for Cusolito, that effort to prevent office buildings from displacing art studios has been successful, she noted.
“As an artist, it just doesn’t feel possible that you can influence public policy, but we did,” Cusolito said.
Another panelist, Mike North, host of the former Discovery Channel TV show “Prototype This!” talked about how the creative freedom and unconditional acceptance he got from Burning Man supported his involvement with tech innovation projects designed to help disadvantaged people.
He recounted his experience developing a brace that children born with clubfeet could wear to correct the condition. North said the brace was designed to be very affordable so it could be used in developing countries where corrective surgery is not available. Recalling how he was deeply moved when he met one of the children using his brace invention, North said, “I thought, wow, this kid is going to walk.”
In speaking with The San Francisco Examiner about the gap some might perceive between Burning Man’s freewheeling spirit and the city of San Mateo‘s staid image, Mikel said, “People say Burning Man has become mainstream, but it’s actually that the mainstream has become Burning Man!”
I guess if you’re a Burning Man founder, wherever you go in the world, everything is given to you for free. So naturally it would seem as if the whole mainstream world was like Burning Man. I live in Marin County, California – it’s a pretty mainstream place. To me it seems quite different from Burning Man, even though I’m sure some of the people who live here are Burners. There are trash cans, you can buy food and drinks, there aren’t any blinky lights or lasers or thumping subwoofers, there are no art cars, people have clothes on, the cops don’t walk around with dogs and bullet proof vests…
What all this kerfuffle will actually mean to the good people of San Mateo, remains to be seen. Hopefully at least the Burning Man Project will be able to post a complete video of the free event…”soon”.