Bringing Burning Man to Berkeley

There is a free event tomorrow in Berkeley, to promote Burning Man culture. The CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, John Caner, teamed up with some independent Burners who wanted to see more Burner art in the East Bay. They decided to throw a community-building event in the spirit of the festival.

The second annual Berkeley Spark will happen in Civic Center Park (Martin Luther King Jr. Way between Center Street and Allston Way) this Saturday, July 19. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

From East Bay Express:

If you ask someone who has been to Burning Man to explain it, they’ll often say that you can’t fully understand the magnificence of the experience until you go. But for those who aren’t up for the trek (or the dust), there’s now a way to grasp the event without leaving the safety of the Berkeley bubble: Berkeley Spark.

John Caner, CEO, Downtown Berkeley Association

John Caner

The idea for Berkeley Spark came about partly through the organizing efforts of Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner, who hadn’t attended Burning Man until last year. In October 2012, Caner was walking past Revival Bar + Kitchen after Berkeley’s Sunday Streets festival when owner — and burner — Amy Murray asked him to meet some fellow burners who were discussing how to bring Burning Man art downtown. Eventually, the group realized that instead of merely bringing the art of Burning Man to Berkeley, they could go a step further and create a community-building event in the spirit of the festival.

spark festival berkeleyKat Parkin, who has been attending Burning Man for six years, had recently moved back to the East Bay after 25 years away and decided to take the lead on organizing the event as a way to re-immerse herself in her surroundings. “I’ve been gone a long time, and what better way to get to know my community than by throwing a party?” she said.

berekely mapDescribed as a “community-driven art, innovation, science, and technology festival,” the second annual Berkeley Spark will happen in Civic Center Park (Martin Luther King Jr. Way between Center Street and Allston Way) this Saturday. It will feature a market with items that those going to Burning Man may need on the playa, interactive art sculptures, Burning Man theme camps, workshops, food, a beer and wine garden, and a hip-hop open mic, a musical performance by Laura Inserra from the multidisciplinary performing art and music organization Samavesha.

While the festival does offer resources for those preparing for a trip to the playa in August, organizers emphasized that the event is intended for the whole community. “It’s really a fun festival that isn’t just about Burning Man,” said Caner. “It’s about igniting creativity.”

Michael Caplan, City of Berkeley

Michael Caplan

The organizers also hope that the event draws more people to the downtown Berkeley area and highlights its cultural and commercial revitalization. To that end, the City of Berkeley sponsored the event last year and is doing so again this year. “We’re the first city to put money into a Burning-Man-related project,” said Michael Caplan, Berkeley’s economic development manager. Caplan’s hope is that the tech innovation corridor — a new feature of the festival where attendees can meet with local designers, hackers, and innovators — will help generate enthusiasm for Berkeley’s emerging start-up and maker scene. “Bringing several thousand people who are interested in Burning Man to come and experience downtown — that’s a good thing,” he said.

Despite the City of Oakland putting money into the event – the first city to do so with a Burning Man related project – BMOrg have been uncharacteristically quiet on this. It seems to perfectly fit the mission of the Burning Man Project to facilitate and extend Burner culture, so what gives, BMOrg? No keynote panel opportunities for your directors? Or still feeling “burned” from when the East Bay community didn’t like you claiming all the credit for the Peralta Junction project?


“Mass Bliss”: Brooklyn Gets Inspired by Burning Man

DNAInfo New York has a story about two yoga teachers who are offering a preview of their Burning Man-inspired festival of mindfulness. The Mass Bliss mini-festivals will be set up next weekend, Saturday July 12, in Grand Ferry Park (Williamsburg), Prospect Park (Prospect Heights), and Barretto Point Park (the Bronx).

Andrew Belcher and James Puckett; photo credit: DNA Info/Serena Dai

Andrew Belcher and James Puckett; photo credit: DNA Info/Serena Dai

BROOKLYN — Two former yoga teachers with aspirations to start a Burning Man-inspired festival focused on “mindfulness” are offering a preview of the event next week in local parks.

Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Andrew Belcher and his business partner James Puckett, a former computer programmer and yoga teacher, are offering a one-day-only “MassBliss” mini-festival in parks in Williamsburg, Prospect Heights and the Bronx.

The group will set up three 10-by-10-foot tents — also referred to as “Breathing Booths” — at sites in Grand Ferry Park, Prospect Park and Barretto Point Park on Saturday, July 12.

A host of free programming including yoga, hip-hop, pilates, tango, drawing and more will take place in the tent and on the surrounding lawns throughout the day.

The booths are a preview of the duo’s planned larger, four-day festival where they want people to connect with themselves on “a more authentic level,” Belcher said.

The upcoming festival, with a date and location yet to be determined, is inspired by the Burning Man festival, where thousands of people descend on the Nevada desert for a week-long creative event.

“Our mission is to inspire and nurture the joy of presence,” Belcher said. “We feel that an authentic connection to the present moment allows individuals and communities to make more intentional, deliberate actions and choices.”

MassBliss is already talking to sponsors and scouting locations in New England for the larger festival next year, which will be part Burning Man, part Austin music and tech festival South by Southwest and part Tennessee music fest Bonnaroo, Belcher said.

Activities for next year’s festival could include concerts where artists would engage with the audience, theater performances where actors transition to sudden street art spots and workshops where attendees can learn yoga or pilates.

Workshops and talks will be filmed and uploaded online later, so anybody can experience them, Belcher said.

The variety of activities stems from idea that “mindfulness,” or being in the present moment, can happen in different ways, including movement, interpersonal connection, art-making and live performances, Belcher said.

Next year’s festival will cost money and have sponsors, Belcher said, adding that MassBliss believes that being for-profit and doing good in the world can go hand-in-hand.

lululemon assThat said, the former school teacher said he thinks restrictions on access to yoga and meditation, through expensive classes or pricey gear like Lululemon clothing, have become barriers to entry for many people.

“This mindfulness stuff is so powerful,” he said. “Its presence is available to anyone at any time, if they’re willing to just listen.”

Breathing Booths will pop up in Grand Ferry Park, Prospect Park and Barretto Point Park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 12. A schedule of programming can be seen here.

It sounds like they have picked up the principle of “Immediacy” from Burning Man. They’ve also got the principle of making public statements about “making profit and doing good in the world” from BMOrg. It’s not clear what other aspects of their events will be familiar to Burners. This is the first time that I’ve heard the theory that Lululemon is a barrier to entry for yoga – you can buy the pants for $39 on eBay, but I’m pretty sure that you can wear other types of clothes while doing yoga if that’s a problem for you.

Andrew Belcher says:

When has anything in your life happened at a time other than right now?

Despite all our wanderings into the past and worries about the future, our lives continuously unfold in the present moment. Right here, right now.

bad-girls-club-yoga-pants_3633d0edMassBliss was created to produce fun, immersive events that explore tools and skills to deepen our experience of the present moment and use that in tangible ways in our personal, professional and playful lives. Where to begin?

Most importantly, breathe. How much time do we spend thinking about our breath? Chances are, not very much—though without our little buddy breath, life isn’t going to happen. Our breath is a vehicle into our bodies, which always exists in the present.

Try it. Really. Pause.

Stop reading for a second, close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath or maybe three.

Anything shift?

Our lives are an infinite series of little moments woven together by our breath. In connecting with ourselves in the present moment we align with what is really happening right now as opposed to some thought about what we think is happening. Aligning with the present moment can inform a more deliberate decision about what move to make next. That’s when we create. Our ability to see the world in its present form, imagine something different, and then create that dream makes us human. None of us really know what we are truly capable of.

Take a deep breath and see what you find.

If any Burners attend any of these festivals, please take some photos and share.


Building The Community We Envision

reallocate_logoThe Burning Man Project are attaching themselves to other successful, Burner run non-profits like and [freespace]. They’re hosting a free panel in San Mateo, to show examples of how Burner values are changing the world.

It’s good to see the Burning Man Project getting involved with charities in the Burner ecosystem that are actually doing meaningful stuff. Now let’s hope they put their non-profit foundation millions where their mouths are, and help these charities out with some hard to come by donor dollars! Without this, the link to Burning Man is tenuous at best, and BMOrg are just riding off the coat tails of others’ largesse and dedication. Reallocate and [freespace] are out there making the world a better place, not just hosting panel discussions.

Come to San Mateo on May 14 for an event hosted by Danger Ranger called “Building and Inpsiring the Community You Envision”. From the official blog:

On Wednesday, May 14, Burning Man founder Michael Mikel and a few other Burner artists and organizers are coming to San Mateo, CA for a panel entitled “Building and Inspiring the Community You Envision.” The panel will discuss how Burner values can guide and inspire urban life and growth on and off the playa. The City of San Mateo invites the community to participate as part of San Mateo Innovation Week from May 12-16. It’s the first city on the Peninsula to partner with the Burning Man Project.

The panel also includes Karen Cusolito, Oakland artist and founder of American Steel Studios; Dr. Mike North, host of the Discovery Channel’s Prototype This! and founder of ReAllocate; and Ilana Lipsett, co-founder of Freespace. Stuart Mangrum, Education Director of the Burning Man Project, will facilitate.

Building and Inspiring the Community You Envision
Wednesday, May 14
6:00-8:00 PM
Joe’s Garage, 308 E. 6th Avenue, San Mateo

Registration is free, but space is limited. You can register to attend using Eventbrite.

Check out San Mateo Information Week on the web or on Facebook for more info!

Reallocate founder and double-digit Burner, Dr Mike North

Reallocate founder, double-digit Burner: Dr Mike North