AFTERBURN REPORT 2003
ART SUPPORT SERVICES
Art Support Services is the newest team within the Art Department, performing its oldest function. Among other things, we evaluate requirements of all funded art projects for materials, equipment, and labor on the playa.
The team’s mission involves determining what services are needed, when, and where, such as equipment needs (from massive cranes to smaller tools for digging shallow trenches) and workers to operate the equipment. Some artists arrive well-organized after planning out their equipment needs 5 months before; others have a much harder time estimating those needs ahead of time. Some artists need little or no help from the team, and others need serious help because of the scope of their projects. A full understanding of what the artist is creating helps the team to help the artist. This insight is achieved through an information-gathering dialogue. Once details are gathered, a budget for equipment is submitted, people with the right skills are hired, and the work is added to the ever-changing playa schedule. The focus for the team remains on supporting the artist, so that creating can remain that person’s main focus. The artist’s only stress should be completing the creative process within a limited time.
The Art Department has struggled for years to support artists by helping with their on-playa needs. The infrastructure finally evolved into an official, fully functioning team this last year. The Art Support Services team worked with the Department of Public Works (DPW) to provide consistent, effective assistance for artists. We also continuously documented this process, tracking labor-hours, equipment usage, transportation needs, and clean-up efforts. This information allows us to report back to artists about the true costs of their artwork, and it places accurate figures in the right departments’ budgets, which gives a basis for setting future budgets. The strong working relationship between the Art Department and DPW is a shining example of how cooperation between two departments can work miracles on the playa.
We have important plans for improving our service. We cannot be content simply to ask the artists what help they need. We must develop a better understanding of the art itself to make sure that equipment supplied is appropriate for the job.
In the past, when artists needed help from heavy equipment, they would request it directly from someone they knew in DPW. This practice created confusion and prevented correct allocation of labor-hours. The process will continue to be tightened, and further education will promote understanding of the chain of command. These changes will cut through a lot of confusion.
We will work to educate artists so they recognize the need to have two to three times as many people to help on the playa than they may have needed off-playa. Several art projects were delayed dramatically due to lack of cooperation within their volunteer teams. Pre-event admission also played a small role in the amount of volunteers that were available. In 2003, volunteers were allowed on the playa pre-event only if they had arranged permission beforehand. Teaching artists to manage volunteers will be a serious challenge for the Art Support Services team. But we know it will happen, because the A.S.S. team kicks butt!
Crimson Rose and Roger Ripps