I’ve returned from my 10-day adventure in the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man. It was exhilarating as ever, even with its sandstorms and freezing temperatures.
Once again, I had the pleasure of writing the art tour script and gave art tours to people who wanted to learn about the magnificent installations that spanned the playa. During the two-hour tour, I only was able to chat about approximately 40 of the 94 pieces that were awarded part of the $1.2 million Burning Man Arts bestowed this year. We tour guides were encouraged to make the tour our own, which meant I could emphasize some of the works that had a Reno connection. Get ready!
It was quite apropos that the first piece the art car passed was the FUNnel of Creation, which was built by Jeremy Evans and the Reno Core. With it’s brightly lit steel rods and fire poofers on top, it was a very impressive piece at night and one of my beacons to find my way back to camp. In close proximity was Pentamonium, built by Gary Gunderson in Seattle, Wash. Although it wasn’t built here, the 18-feet tall steel kinetic sculpture has a Reno connection. The Gateway Project, a coalition of nonprofits and community groups that is raising funds to bring artwork from the playa, is having a fundraiser on Oct 16. On Oct. 17, they’re celebrating the installation of Pentamonium in Idlewild Park.
Every year, a few installations become places for rituals, like weddings, and Mazu Goddess of the Empty Sea became one of those. In addition to telling the story of Mazu and highlighting its symbolic Chinese features, I told them that this temple was built at the Generator, a community art and builders space in Sparks. It was the ideal opportunity to talk about the 34,000 square feet workspace that operates on Burning Man’s 10 principles. Then we rode by David Boyer’s wind sculpture, Kinetic Forest, and I got to tell them to also walk around the arts district in downtown Reno and see his sculptures moving in the breeze.
Jeff Schaumberg and Laura Kimpton have shown us how powerful and precious words can be. This year, they planted a garden of affirmations: Dream, Be, OK, Live. This was my time to talk about all of the Burning Man art that has found a home in Reno, including our own word — Believe.
The Man is the focal point of this event, which drew approximately 70,000 people. He stood 60 feet-tall and stood on a 9-feet-tall base, which was covered with 32 hand-painted sideshow banners that were designed by Rex Norman, aka Killbuck, and painted at the Generator. At 320 linear feet, his whimsical bannerline probably set a world record.
Last year, Peter Hazel wowed us with his elegant daffodil mosaic. This year, the Verdi resident’s Manta Ray soared and glistened above the playa.
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, while Mayor Hillary Schieve delivered her state of the city address “It’s A New Day in Reno,” I had the pleasure of telling people from around the country and world the state of Reno’s arts scene. By the time they got off that art car, these participants knew Reno has a vibrant arts scene and is a major contributor to this festival’s art. I’m not going to go so far as to say it’s a new day, but I’ll definitely say it’s a different day.