Walking the Talk – New “Democratic” Process for Art Grants

BMOrg are introducing a “democratic” grant process for funding art grants, something the community has long been demanding. They have some funny ideas about participatory democracy, though.
Attendees at the Global Leadership Conference will vote on how to allocate a total of $1500 to art. The conference is invite only, and not open to the public. And artists will need to go through their local RC (Regional Contact…although in Australia RC means something else, more suited to this year’s Medici theme).

“Walk the Talk” Art Grant for GLC 2016

What is this grant?

A democratic grant process aimed at funding innovative community art projects within the Burning Man Global Network.  We are interested in projects that create collaborations, break down the distinction between audience and artist, are directly interactive and/or enhance the public, civic sphere.

Participants in a session at the annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference will award a total of $1,500 however they wish among any qualified projects. This is meant to both serve as an exercise in structuring and judging a grant opportunity as well as a way to provide a small amount of support and encouragement to worthy projects.

Timeline:

–  Deadline for grant submissions is March 25th. (Midnight U.S. Pacific Time)
–  Judges will review the grants at the 2016 Global Leadership Conference (March 31st- April 3rd)
–  Winner(s) will be announced Sunday afternoon at the GLC.  (April 3rd)

Apply Here 

Who is eligible to apply?

Individuals, Groups, and Not-for-Profits are all eligible to apply.  All projects *must* be endorsed by a local Burning Man Regional Contact.   The RC does not need to be heavily involved with the process, but rather they will serve as a point of communication between the granters and the grantees.

To find out who your Regional Contact might be, see  http://regionals.burningman.org/

How much can I request?

The total amount of grants given will be $1,500. This amount could go to one project or be split among two or more, so it might be helpful to explain what you would do with the full amount as well as how you would use a smaller amount.

[Source: burningman.org]

Here are the conference details. I’m sure if you buy a Leonardo VIP ticket (on sale now for $1200) and kiss a few of the the right rings they’ll let you attend.
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SF, CA March 31 – April 03, 2016

The 10th annual Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (GLC) is an annual conference of Burning Man community leadership that happens each spring in San Francisco. From humble beginnings in 2007, where 70 Regional Contacts joined us at Burning Man HQ, the GLC has since grown to include over 400 participants from around the world.

These highly-energized folks are Burning Man’s global representatives and community leaders, ambassadors of Burning Man culture in their regions who throw any of 65 Regional events in 20 countries. They participate in the GLC to share ideas, best practices and inspiration, and to make the invaluable face-to-face connections that may just lead to the next big thing.

The conference is for organizers and community leaders in the Burning Man Regional Network, and space is limited, so attendance isn’t open to the public

[Source: burningman.org]

Those of us not on the list will be able to participate by reading Tweets from the Chosen Few in attendance to see Larry dressed up as a worm, a guy with a slinky in his beard, and other hilarity. We might get to watch a few select sessions on YouTube.

In other news…
You can buy tickets to the Burnal Equinox – Night of a Thousand Guilds on March 19 at Public Works for $20.

Congratulations to Piper from Distrikt who is thrilled to be the latest member of Burning Man’s Communications team. Is she filling in the clown shoes left by departing Minister for Propaganda Will Chase? We shall see…

Screenshot 2016-02-18 17.00.16

A New Online Art Grant System Is Live

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image: Jim Bauer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new online system for Art Grants has quietly gone live. It’s buried deep in the blackrockarts site. The deadline is December 1 and you have to pay a fee to submit your Letter of Intent. It’s a little confusing – although it is called “Burning Man Grants for Art”, it’s only for art projects that aren’t going to Burning Man.

For Playa art, they provide a link to Burning Man’s web site, which says the deadline is Feb 15. This information conflicts with the last JRS, which said:

Burning Man Arts — the new department combining the Black Rock City Art Department with the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) — will launch a new online system in mid-November designed to make it easier for artists to apply for honoraria grants for art destined for Black Rock City.

This year, applicants will be required to first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI), which will allow the Grant Committee to select which projects will be invited to participate in the full grant application process, saving everybody time and effort.

The system will go live in mid-November, and LOI submissions will be accepted for four weeks. The Grant Committee aims to inform artists if they are invited to participate in the full grant application process by the beginning of 2015.

All artists hoping to receive a Black Rock City honorarium will need to participate in this new LOI process.

More information will be made available via the Jackrabbit Speaks and on the Burning Man Arts web pages as the rollout approaches.

Reading between the lines, I figure that both the blackrockarts.org and burningman.com sites have incorrect information, and artists who want an Honorarium Art Grant for a project at Burning Man 2015 should treat the Jackrabbit’s information as the most current – and wait for an announcement of the new system.

The other new online system that Black Rock Arts announced in their October newsletter, is for non-Playa art:

Burning Man Grants for Art (formerly the BRAF Grants to Artists program) 2015 grant cycle is underway!  The online form for submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI) is now live. Tell us about your fantastic idea for a community-driven, interactive art project!

We fund projects that incorporate community involvement and exist for public benefit. If you’re hatching an idea for a project that brings people together, prompts interaction, and reaches beyond traditional experiences of public art, we’d love to hear about it!

The deadline for “Burning Man Grants for Art” – which, to be clear, is actually for art that is NOT for Burning Man – is December 1 2014, so artists who want to be considered for that need to pay the fees and get their submissions in, in the next 11 days. They fund 10 to 15 projects a year, between $500 and $10,000, with grants typically being in the range of $2000 – $6000.

From blackrockarts.org:

We have begun accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOI’s) for our 2014-2015 grant cycle. Read on to find a link to the LOI submission form. The deadline to submit an LOI is December 1, 2014. Late LOI’s will not be accepted, with no exceptions.

Full proposals will be accepted by invitation only, with LOI applicants either invited to submit a proposal or rejected by early January 2015 (exact date TBD).

We prioritize funding highly interactive, community-driven, collaborative works of art that are accessible to the public and civic in scope.

What is ‘interactive’ art?

  • Art that requires human interaction to complete the piece.
  • Art that involves the community and the audience in its creation, presentation and display.
  • Art that prompts the viewer to act.
  • Art that can be experienced in more ways than visually. We are fans of art that is can be approached, touched, heard or experienced, as well as viewed.
  • Art that prompts people to interact with one another.
  • Art that responds to participants and to its environment.
  • Art that causes people to reflect on the larger community.
  • Art that challenges the viewers’ traditional perspective on art.
  • Art that belongs to the public and exists for the benefit of all.

What kind of work does this program not fund?

Although we are open to all proposed forms of media, there are some common projects that typically fall outside the scope of our criteria. The exception to all of the examples listed below would be if the project had a highly interactive element that moves the project outside the definitions of its genre.

We typically do not fund:

  • Static work, such as sculpture with no interactive component
  • Gallery work, such as paintings in a gallery
  • Publications – poetry books, photo books, fiction, etc
  • Photography
  • Screenplays or films
  • Musical, theater or dance productions
  • Social aid/relief efforts
  • Entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Art destined for the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City. There is a separate grant process to fund playa-bound artwork. Please visit the Burning Man website to learn more about the BRC Honorarium application process. (This program does, however, sometimes fund works headed to regional Burning Man events)

Our grants range between $500 and $10,000, but we most commonly award between $2000 and $6000. We typically fund approximately from 10 to 15 projects a year and receive as many as 300 proposals.

Full proposals will be accepted by invitation only in early 2015. To be invited, you must submit a Letter of Inquiry by December 1st.

Timeline

  • Our online LOI application for our 2015 grant cycle is live!
  • LOI’s are due December 1, 2014, 5:00 pm, Pacific Standard Time.
  • Selected applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal by early January, 2015 (exact date TBA).
  • Proposals are accepted by invitation only, and will be due in February, 2015 (exact date TBA)
  • Selected grantees are usually announced March 15 of the year of the award.
  • Funds are usually released to new grantees April 1 of the year of the award.

Late Letters of Inquiry and proposals will not be accepted. No exceptions. Please read our application instructions below for more details on how to apply.

Letter of Inquiry Instructions

Our online Letter of Inquiry will give you the opportunity to provide us with the following:

  • Name of contact person, contact person’s phone number, email address and mailing address
  • Name of the lead artist or program manager if different from the contact person
  • Name of project or program
  • An invitation code, which is “GrantsForArt-LOI-2015
  • Brief description of the physical manifestation of project or program (1500 characters, about 250 words or 1 double-spaced page)
  • Brief description of how the project or program fits the program’s grant criteria and definition of interactivity. (1500 characters, about 250 words or 1 double-spaced page)
  • One to three images or other media files
There is a $5.00 fee to submit your LOI. The entirety of this fee is payment to Slideroom.com, the online application service we use. You will be asked to pay with a credit card upon completion of the LOI. You will need an invitation code to submit the online LOI, which is posted on this page, above. [Code is: “GrantsForArt-LOI-2015″]
 
  

Proposal Instructions

Invitations for proposals will be extended to selected projects in late December 2014 or early January 2015. If selected, you will be invited to fill out our full application online. Uninvited proposals will not be considered.

In our online application, you will have the opportunity to tell us about your project, its goals, audience and interactive potential.

A complete proposal includes:

  1. The completion of the online proposal. We do not accept printed and mailed proposals.
  2. A timeline. Our online application has a form where you may describe your timeline, or you may upload your own format. We prefer you use our online form.
  3. A budget. Our online application will have a link to a template you may use, or you may upload your own format. We prefer you use our template.
  4. Supplemental images and materials. You will have the opportunity to upload images or other media files. We highly recommend you submit visual representations of your proposed project.
There is a $5.00 fee to submit a full proposal. The entirety of this fee is payment to Slideroom.com, the online application service we use. You will be asked to pay with a credit card upon completion of the proposal.
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image: Carrie Cizauskas/flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Carrie Cizauskas/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Once again, the burden is shifted to the artists, who have to pay to submit a Letter of Intent, and pay again to submit a full proposal. $1500 doesn’t seem like too much for BMOrg to spend on software licensing, to let the 300 artists submitting proposals send them in for free. It’s less than 3 Donation tickets. Sure, it’s only five bucks (twice, if the artist makes it through the first round) – but it’s only five bucks to the corporation raking in $30 million a year, too, and to the non-profit entity with more than $1 million of undistributed assets. It seems a little cheap, for a charity whose sole purpose is supporting the Arts.

We’re still waiting on the announcement of 2015’s theme, which would be helpful to know for artists submitting their ideas for grants.

The 2014 theme was announced on January 8, the 2013 theme was announced on November 30, 2012, and the 2012 theme was announced on this day, November 19, three years ago at the Artumnal Gathering fundraising gala. The 2014 Artumnal will be held this Saturday, perhaps the announcement will come then.

Art World Rocked By Burning Man’s Latest Move

The Black Rock Arts Foundation is on the way out. The BuMPy Burning Man Project will be taking it over. When? It’s already happened, but details are “coming soon”…of course.

Let us translate the doublespeak, exaggeration and misdirection for you. From the official blog:

What if I want to make a donation to Burning Man Arts moving forward?

At this time you can still donate through the BRAF website, here:http://blackrockarts.org/participate/donate. In the very near future there will be a new way to donate to art programs through the Burning Man Project. While details are yet to be determined, donors will have the option of directing support specifically to arts.

“Very near future” probably means “after we get back from Caravansary”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be “sometime in 2015”. They’ve been working on this non-profit thing since 2010. They announced it was completed in January of this year, which has turned out not to be true. This latest announcement is just another example of how much non-profit transition still lies ahead of us. How hard can it really be? How many more details are there to determine?

Burning Man today announced a reorganization of its arts programs to place more art in communities around the world, make more art available for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert, and create more opportunities for artists and donors.

More art, more opportunities, in more communities around the world. Sounds good. Will this actually happen though? I mean, I’m sure there will be more opportunities for donors. No doubt about that. BMOrg’s line of scarves and calendars and above-face-value-tickets will expand to other merch items, and every issue of JackedRabbit will be jam-packed with pleas for us to give them more money. “For the good of the artists”, we’ll be told, “to help the community”. Is there actually some sort of  plan with quantifiable goals behind these lofty statements? Like, “100 art works in 3 years”? Or is it just “eventually, we’ll do more?” Perhaps the thinking is along the lines of “when we increase ticket prices to $650 next year, we will also increase funding for art grants from $800,000 to $1 million”.

Black Rock Arts Foundation, which is now a subsidiary of the non-profit Burning Man Project, is joining forces with Black Rock City’s art department to create one program called Burning Man Arts. The mission of Burning Man Arts is to change the paradigm of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

“This change breaks down the barriers. Art for the playa and art for the world will be one and the same,” said Burning Man’s founder Larry Harvey. “It makes it easier for artists to apply for grants and support, and it enables donors to contribute to the entire spectrum of expressive culture that is pouring out of Burning Man.”

Err…and how exactly will it do that? They don’t know, the details are “yet to be determined”. Let’s just go ahead and execute a merger of two corporations, don’t worry about how it will work, that’s just details, details don’t matter, we can figure all that out later…we’ll drop some acid on an art car in Deep Playa and the answer will come to us.

There is plenty of “art for the world”, and the Burning Man Project’s merger takeover announcement is not suddenly going to make the Art World and the Playa the same. No-one is talking about what a problem the commodification of art is except Decommodification, LLC. Andy Warhol painted 32 different flavors of Campbell’s Soup cans in the 60’s, and that work is considered iconic. The art world is doing just fine without Burning Man. According to Bloomberg:

Global art sales approached their pre-crisis high last year, led by record prices for postwar artists and a jump in U.S. auctions. Sales of art and antiques increased 8 percent to $65.9 billion…Boosted by a 25 percent increase in sales, the U.S. confirmed its position as the international art market leader, representing 38 percent of the market by volume, a 5 percentage point increase from 2012, according to the report.

“Most high priced works in postwar and contemporary art are being sold in New York, both at auctions and in dealer sales,” Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who compiled the report, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just the U.S. buyers. People from Latin America and Asia are buying in New York.”

Is this just another big pie for Burning Man to stick their fingers into, in the name of “non-profit” – like oil? Will we see art galleries on the Playa soon, like at most other festivals?

So far in 2014, the Black Rock City art program has provided more than $1 million in grants and support to artists preparing works for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert during the last week of August.

Since its creation in 2001, Black Rock Arts Foundation has funded 149 projects worldwide, providing more than $2,500,000 in grants and support to artists. BRAF has awarded more than $430,000 through its Grants to Artists program and installed or otherwise supported 38 projects (with direct grants of $770,000) through its Civic Arts program. BRAF has also produced 82 memorable events and provided collaborative public art consulting services.

The word “partially” is missing from in front of “funded”. The artists still have to raise money themselves, grants above $20,000 are rare.

The word “support” is in there several times, and it’s crucial. This year’s Art Honoraria grants were $800,000, 2.6% of revenue – $10 from every ticket. So how do they get from that to “more than a million”? If a Burning Man staffer goes to project meetings, this appears to count as “in kind” contributions. So $1.2 million of cash sponsorship gets inflated to $2.5m in “grants and support to artists”. Most of the artists I’ve spoken to don’t really feel supported by the Burning Man Project, or feel any need to employ them as consultants. Many feel like they have to battle against BMOrg and their selectively enforced rules to make their projects happen. If they use the words “Burning Man” or photos of their artwork on the Playa in fundraising to get their art to the event, the kind of support they will get is more likely to be from the legal people sending them threatening letters, or demanding they take our insurance policies.

Perhaps this is all going to change in the new system, and Burning Man will raise money on behalf of artists and pass those funds through to the artists without taking a cut. Maybe Burning Man will take out a blanket liability policy for art at its event, and pay the artists’ share out of ticket revenues.

pigs fly

Unfortunately, their track record suggests otherwise. Burning Man Arts tells us one story on their web site, but the IRS filings of their non-profits from Guidestar paint a very different picture.

Black Rock Arts Foundation Assets Revenue Expenses Profit Grants Efficiency
2012 $560,917 $621,359 $477,525 $143,834 $114,449 18.4%
2011 $588,129 $735,147 $577,706 $157,441 $219,080 29.8%
2010 $392,205 $478,567 $461,961 $16,606 $169,274 35.4%
2009 $364,588 $405,762 $278,003 $127,759 $80,349 19.8%
2008 $237,910 $439,353 $498,831 -$59,478 $105,906 24.1%
2007 $268,433 $532,346 $352,662 $179,684 $116,790 21.9%
Total $560,917 $3,212,534 $2,646,688 $565,846 $805,848 25.1%
Burning Man Project
2012 $368,249 $591,672 $259,925 $331,747 $36,378 6.1%

woman-stacking-money-in-pyramid_webFor an organization whose very foundation principle is Gifting, they don’t appear to be very good at The Art of Giving. They seem quite good at stacking up the cash in their bank account rather than spending it on grants, though.

Believe who you want, Burners. Believe BMOrg, telling you that everything’s wonderful, and that centralizing art grants within the Burning Man Project is going to be good for artists and donors. Or believe us, showing you what 6 years of IRS Form 990 filings say. According to the IRS, BRAF spent $805,848 on grants between 2007-2012 – not $2.5 million.

For donors, this development means that financial gifts to art projects for the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert can be tax deductible and opens up a wide range of new opportunities for supporters of the arts

Donations to the Black Rock Arts Foundation were already tax deductible. That’s why we can see the IRS data. So, what gives for the givers? “A wide range of new opportunities”…such as? “Coming soon”.

it’s not technically a merger. Legally speaking, Black Rock Arts Foundation is becoming a subsidiary of Burning Man Project. Operationally, the two organizations are bringing their resources together to create one robust art program that will work on projects both on and off the playa

It’s not technically a merger, it’s technically a takeover. The new program will be run by BMP, who will bank all the money. BRAF board members who recently left are not being replaced.

I wonder if the real reason behind this is that BMP needs to do something “charity like” to maintain their tax-free status. Maybe the bean counters cautioned that sending founders to San Mateo for panel discussions where they took credit for charities they didn’t provide grants to wasn’t quite enough?

BMOrg provided us with a handy FAQ for their announcement. It uses a lot of words to explain that there are no new initiatives, programs, tools, or sources of funding and support for artists, and there are no new opportunities for donors to give. In fact, pretty much nothing’s changed. However, “ideas are being explored for the future”. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into how this merger could help artists and donors.

What are the benefits of doing this?

This change will benefit artists and donors, and will ultimately lead to more art being created and enjoyed by more people around the globe. It breaks down the barrier between art on playa and art in the world, and instead creates one entity that will work in the interest of both. Artists will have more opportunities to receive funding and other forms of support, and donors will have a new range of options for supporting the arts.

What is the timeline for this to take place?

The legal transaction was completed on July 24, 2014. The transition and restructuring of the entities will occur over the coming months and into 2015.

What happens to the BRAF Board?

Many of the BRAF Board members have stepped down and we thank them for their dedication and service building a vibrant, successful arts organization over the past 13 years. A scaled down version of the BRAF Board will continue to exist. We are working with members of the board to engage them in new ways with Burning Man Project and Burning Man Arts.

How will decisions on grants be made?

Burning Man and BRAF grant programs will continue to award grants based on the same criteria as before. While we will create some additional efficiency by merging these programs and sharing tools and other resources, we don’t anticipate making immediate changes to our grant criteria or decision-making bodies.

How are current BRAF programs being affected?

We don’t expect the transition to have any major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. They will be completed within the framework of BRAF in collaboration with Burning Man Project.

What new programs are being planned for?

None at this time, but there are some ideas being explored for the future.

Temple Builders Revealed!

by Whatsblem the Pro

The Temple of Whollyness - Rendering by Gregg Fleishman

The Temple of Whollyness – Rendering by Gregg Fleishman

With David Best out of the picture for 2013, there’s been a lot of anticipation over who will build the Temple this year. There’s even been talk of more than one Temple being built; one prominent industrial arts crew has been seriously considering building their own design without funding from the Org.

Today, the honorarium grant for the 2013 Temple was awarded to the Otic Oasis‘ triumvirate of Gregg Fleishman, Melissa ‘Syn’ Barron, and Lightning Clearwater III, who will build their “Temple of Whollyness” with labor courtesy of the Otic Oasis crew.

Syn, Gregg, and Lighting - Photo by Tedshots

Syn, Gregg, and Lighting – Photo by Tedshots

USC-educated architect Gregg Fleishman has been exploring the possibilities of interlocking slotted plywood for many years. Working out of his studio in Culver City, California, he creates elegant decorative furniture, model vehicles and other sculptures, and full-sized structures, all with no metal fasteners or joints. Fleishman works miracles out of single sheets of plywood, crafting compound curves from flat-cut material. Some of his pieces even incorporate wooden springs and hinges. His “SCULPT C H A I R S” are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NY), Yale University Art Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Not surprisingly, Fleishman expressed an interest in sacred geometry when we spoke. The concept goes back at least 3,000 years, to the time when King Solomon reportedly built his Temple on Mt. Zion to house the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon, so the story goes, received his blueprints directly from God, and his Temple was designed as a sort of architectural wave guide in which the God of the Hebrews would resonate harmonically, the way an untouched string on a guitar will vibrate when an adjacent string is plucked at the same note.

Photo by Gregg Fleishman

Photo by Gregg Fleishman

The 2013 Temple design is highly geometrical, and will be built using Fleishman’s patented connectors at each joint, capitalizing on the intrinsic strength of the arch at every opportunity in an interlocking jigsaw of triangles and pyramids. No nails, screws, or other metal connectors will be used at all. The gross form of the Temple will consist of a large central trussed pyramid, sixty-four feet tall and eighty-seven feet square, with four smaller satellite pyramids measuring twenty feet tall and twenty-nine feet at the base, intricately interlocked and ornamented in Fleishman’s signature style: Archimedes, Pythagoras, and R. Buckminster Fuller holding hands and enjoying some really good acid.

Birch Car - Photo by Gregg Fleishman

Birch Car – Photo by Gregg Fleishman

The Otic Oasis, a “wilderness outpost” intended to serve as Black Rock City’s equivalent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, debuted in 2011 and returned in 2012, providing a much-needed respite from Black Rock City’s continuous sound. There won’t be an Otic Oasis this year, as the crew will be busy with the Temple of Whollyness, but look for the Oasis’ return in 2014. As the city grows and becomes noisier, Otic Oasis is an increasingly vital resource for the dazzled and overstimulated among us, or for those of us who just want to connect with the spartan beauty and enchanting ambience of the desert.

The group also built the ‘Pistil’ sculpture inside the Man base in 2012.

'Pistil' - Photo by Gregg Fleishman

‘Pistil’ – Photo by Gregg Fleishman