AFTERBURN REPORT 2006
Every year, the ARTery evolves with each new challenge. 2006 was no exception. The team built upon experience and successful initiatives from previous years, tried out new methods, and refined existing processes for each task involved with art, artists, volunteers, and participants. Once again, the ARTery set new records in 2006 serving more artists and art on the playa, with 300 total registered installations and only 40 no-shows.
The ARTery on-site headquarters, located on the Center Camp ring, was given a fabulous new visual look and a much refined layout by our décor team. A new, dedicated Greeter table improved the flow of artists and participants through the ARTery headquarters. Having a dedicated "welcome center" for the artists helped direct them to the appropriate space within the ARTery to check in or start them with the registration process. While ARTery members have played the Greeter role in previous years, this official designation of both the role and its physical location within ARTery headquarters staved off potential frustrations and confusion for incoming artists and made an efficient welcoming committee.
Once again the incredibly visible giant wall map for art placement was a major attraction and an excellent boon for planning and communication. The map was placed optimally for highest visibility for volunteers at the concierge tables and for participants walking into ARTery headquarters. The map acts as an anchor and primary tool for ARTery staff and volunteers locating installation positions, as well as eager artists curious to know where their installation will reside for the week. The only drawback is that the map draws clusters of people and creates "traffic jams" and the map may need to be relocated in future ARTery headquarters.
The ARTery’s 8-member Council proved their worth yet again, guiding the ARTery team through the pre-playa process and organizing improvements implemented in 2006. The Council continues to take on more responsibility with organizing and running the ARTery and looks forward to maintaining this trend.
The ARTery experienced a large percentage of returning volunteers. This experienced staff helped share ideas and experiences with new volunteers, while also taking on additional responsibilities. Our ever-growing crew of volunteers took advantage of pre-event and on-playa training, reference materials and manuals, and the experience of their Shift Leads and other ARTery veterans. In 2006, the ARTery delineated new roles within the group, including dedicated personnel for handling various aspects of our supplies, technology, and even set up for the headquarters. These new roles, along with the focus of the ARTery Council aided in establishing areas of responsibility and authority.
Our incredible Shift Leads had their primary responsibilities streamlined and clearly defined, so they were prepared, empowered and available when difficulties arose. Greeters and Concierges conducted the flow of incoming participants and artists, answered questions, registered projects, and handled daily tasks. With Greeters and Concierges capably handling these tasks, the Shift Leads had the time and energy to take care of primary responsibilities such as managing schedules and volunteers, handling escalated issues. In 2006 the Shift Leads were consistent and reliable information and communication point persons, for volunteers and staff, on each shift.
The duties and authority of our Greeters and Concierges were more clearly defined for 2006. A variety of important changes to the art placement check in process led to reduced stress levels, increased confidence and flexibility, and made each job easier to do. New ideas were freely encouraged and often implemented on the spot and recorded for future reference. One especially important change was a specific process for moving artists from the Concierge to an introduction to a Performance Safety Team member when necessary.
The ARTery team was pleased to work closely with Performance Safety and Artist Support teams. Each of these teams strived to keep one or more personnel on hand at the ARTery headquarters during each shift. Having both teams as a presence aided in identifying potential issues, scheduling needed checks and services, while building stronger relationships with both the ARTery and the artists. We look forward to their continued presence and interaction in 2007.
Pre-event planning and organization depends upon regular meetings; however, many of our volunteers live far a field and cannot physically attend meetings in San Francisco. The ARTery and other departments experimented with and implemented new technologies and techniques to improve communication, to make these meetings more effective and to reduce costs. While there was, as expected, a learning curve in adapting the new technologies, these new tools promise an increased sense of interaction and cohesion for all ARTery member, both locally and long-distance.
Our newly refined ARTery manuals provided a solid set of answers and clear outlines for most tasks and were an invaluable resource for pre-event training and on-site reference. Our Shift Leads provided additional training and advice and kept the team up-to-date on changing procedures, as various surprises forced us to adapt. In 2006 a new addition to the art placement process was the 'Mistress List.' This list was a slim, powerful, and indispensable addition to our information-tracking arsenal. The Mistress Book acted as a hands-on version of the comprehensive yet bulky 'Master List,' which retains the largest portion of collected art data for the year. ARTery art registration questionnaires for pre-registration, on-site check in, and walk-in registration saw refinement in 2006. The ARTery continues to review and revise the questionnaire, improving the quality of information gathered as well as streamlining the process of registering art. While strides were made in 2006, next year should offer increased modifications to both the questionnaire and the check in process for the artists we serve.
Working On Playa
With over 240 pre-registered installations to place before the event opened, the GPS units with built-in displays of the city grid proved invaluable. The ARTery is investigating having more staff members on-site earlier to help map installations more quickly and efficiently. While the team that managed this process in 2006 did an impressive job, with the number of installations expected to continue to grow, we anticipate a need to have more people involved earlier.
Field Operations made good use of what golf carts were available, and greatly appreciated the occasional loan of an art car. The GPS units were also invaluable when placing or re-locating art on the playa. While placing 100 walk-in art pieces over the week of the event, our 'field ops' found that ready access to an exact position relative to the Man and other registered art pieces (even pieces not yet installed) was particularly useful in 2006. We hope to develop more efficient methods for keeping the art work coordinates in the GPS units up-to-date on a daily basis.
The ARTery's post-event checkout process was made remarkably easy by the much-improved condition of most art sites. More artists than ever held to the Leave No Trace credo in 2006, and there were fewer art messes than in years past. Moving forward, the ARTery will work even more closely with the Playa Restoration team to help educate and empower artists before arriving on playa, as well as communicating strategies and tactics that artists can easily employ to manage their MOOP.
We Love Our Artists
Newly added to our schedule this year were special events thrown to show our appreciation for artists and volunteers. The first event was a party thrown to honor the honorarium artists at sunset on the Monday that the Burning Man event opened (and the day that honorarium artists are contracted to complete), at the ARTery headquarters. This gave the artists the unique opportunity to interact, share ideas, admiration and inspiration together. The honorarium artists had the opportunity to meet one another, staff and volunteers, and to look at presentations, proposals, and photos of honorarium art on the walls of the ARTery headquarters while enjoying refreshments and music. Wanting to also honor artists who produced art without financial support, the ARTery held a second artist reception for ALL Burning Man artists at sunset on the Thursday of the event at the ARTery headquarters. This was an amazing opportunity for both the artists and the ARTery, as a celebration in support of the interaction and enjoyment of art. Both gatherings were well received, and provided a unique opportunity for artists to mingle with each other (when so often they are busy working on their art) and for interested participants to find out more about their favorite art and artist. The ARTery plans on making these receptions an annual tradition!
Art ToursFor the fourth year, the extremely popular Art Tours operated out of ARTery headquarters, taking participants on guided tours of over a dozen installations on the playa. The number of daily tours was reduced from two to one, with the Wednesday tour focused on children and the Thursday tour was a "Meet the Artist" tour.
The Art Tours are continuously evolving and new challenges are overcome every year. As popular as they are, these tours present a large stress load for the ARTery as well as other departments located within the inner ring behind the Café, with the number of vehicles attempting to meet the tours at the ARTery and hundreds of participants eagerly awaiting the tour. In 2006, in an effort to streamline the reservation and boarding process, the Art Tour team introduced the use of tickets. These were useful in prioritizing seating - focusing on those who find it physically challenging to venture into the deep playa. The tickets were a huge success, both for the ARTery in managing the numbers as well as sharing a sense of confirmation for the participants.
One continuing challenge for the Art Tours is securing enough vehicles for the Art Tours. While great steps were taken this year to streamline the process, the Art Tour team anticipates working with DMV in 2007 to identify potential vehicles before hitting the playa. Also, the Art Tour team is planning a "run your own" tour, offering suggestions, information and insights for mutant vehicles that may be deemed too small for the ARTery tours, but would like to conduct art tours for participants. In 2006 we were approached by about a dozen vehicles that excitedly offered their services but did not have enough room for the "traditional" tour. With the growth in the number of mutant vehicles in Black Rock City, we expect this enthusiasm and drive for participation to grow (pun intended).
The ARTery and Art Tour team are actively investigating new ways to alleviate potential crowd congestion and processes to ensure mutant vehicles can participate in 2007.
Once again, generous ARTery team members created two self-guided tours – one as an audio tour and the other printed on paper. Both tours were uploaded to the Internet and produced in limited quantities for distribution to eager participants. Due to their popularity in 2005, team members carefully rationed printed Art Tour materials to ensure they didn't disappear early in the week. As before, these extra tools were a great success, and we hope to see further development in the future. The Art Tour team also shared the materials with Media Mecca, helping educate and inform reporters on several installations. Huge kudos go out to the Art Tour team for the 'traditional' mutant vehicle tour and the self-guided tours - this gift to the community has helped shape thousands of participants' exposure and understanding of Black Rock City art in the art tours four years.
Another important function of the ARTery is an outpost for Material Culture collection. Participants continue to drop off artifacts of playa gift items at the ARTery during the event, or mail them to us at the San Francisco office throughout the year. The ARTery maintains a physical archive at the San Francisco office and the online collection of playa artifacts contains over 840 items to date. Of particular note this year was the Lamplighters' generous creation and donation of special ARTery coins, minted specifically for volunteers of our department. Sadly, the Material Culture project saw an overall decrease in donations for 2006. We are hoping to see a resurgence of gift giving and creative productions in the near future, and will increase communication to the community about Material Culture in 2007. This heightened level of information should aid in generating more interest in and excitement for donating examples of playa gifts.
If you have playa artifacts gifted (or to be gifted) at the Burning Man event, please see the instructions on submitting photos to the online gallery, which can be found in the Playa Artifacts FAQ EDITOR. Objects may also be mailed to: Archives, PO Box 884688, San Francisco, CA, 94188.
In the eternal effort to educate artists in successfully creating artwork for the playa (no small feat, that), the Art Installations and Art of Burning Man sections of the website were further updated in 2006. Be sure to check these excellent pages for tips and procedures on building playa-proof art installations and structures, lighting artwork, burning artwork, and ensuring your art installations Leave No Trace.
After 'The Future'
Every year is a learning experience. As we have done in previous years, we further refined logistical operations of the ARTery workflow in 2006. We have improved our ability to help and guide artists in their creative labors and we have stepped up our efforts at showing the artists how much they and their work are appreciated on the playa.
The ARTery seeks, as always, to make the process of bringing art to the playa easier than ever and we will endeavor to treat artists fairly and support their efforts towards bringing their art to the playa.
Kevin K Wiley and Beth Scarborough