Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ignition NW -- Temple of Dawn

The creation of Ignition NW was spawned over the last several years as some of the 3,000 people from the Pacific Northwest who attend Burning Man each year have come together and developed a thriving, year-round arts community. Ignition NW
was formed over a series of conversations which looked at what the needs and desires of the community were, and what vehicle would best carry them out. Only recently has the group galvanized to form this hot-off-the-presses non-profit which has a board of eleven members that were elected in August 2005, and approximately 230 voting members to date.

Invited, in part, by Randy Engstrom, President of the Board and Executive Director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, a contingency of BRAF minded folks from California and Michigan attended Ignition NW's most recent Town Hall Meeting, held this past Monday, March 27th. Having just been called to order the meeting hall quickly went silent in acknowledgement of the 7 young people killed on Capitol Hill over the weekend. Grief counseling materials were made available to all, as at least one of the victims was a 'burner' and others had ties to the community.

As some 300 wet eyes were wiped dry the meeting continued with a presentation of what the Black Rock Arts Foundation has been doing. The presentation culminated with few words by artist and BRAF board member, David Best. David consoled the community while simultaneously inspiring them to act now, and to build a monument, a temple, a public memorial to the 8 young lives lost. He used examples from his experience building temples for the Burning Man event. He talked about the importance of moving through one's grief, yet not letting go of memory -- of working and weeping.

By meetings end a group had come together that was committed to building a temple to those lost on Capitol Hill -- a fundraiser date had been set (Saturday, April 1st), and at least $638.00 had been raised. Since then, the group has been working with David Best and the City of Seattle to confirm a design and a site for the temple; local construction companies have reportedly been offering their resources and services in support of the build. This is truly an incomparable group of people working to both heal, and better, their own community. Seattle, I salute you.

For more information on Ignition NW, including details on the projected temple build, please visit:

There are also a couple paypal accounts set up-
1) For the survivors and family: 2112relief@gmail
2) For the temple project: 2112templefund@gmail

Youngstown Cultural Arts Center

As our tour of this non-stop-coffee-riddled town continued we found ourselves in the halls of the newly completed Youngstown Cultural Arts Center -- an accessible, multicultural, affordable arts center which will annually serve about 75,000 people. A renovated school building, this four story building dates back to 1917 and houses 3 stories of artist live/work space (with rents based on the median income of the tenant!) on top of a ground floor chock full of facilities -- from a 150-seat theater, to a media lab, recording studio, workshop, movement studio, dressing rooms, kitchen, and classrooms -- all of which are available for rental to the public at exceedingly affordable rates! The space has already been used to, among other things, host a youth poetry slam which created a safe place for youth of widely varying backgrounds to make themselves vulnerable as they spoke eloquently about issues close to their hearts, homes, and realities.

To find out more about the renovation that transformed the Cooper School into the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, visit:

And form information on the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center as its current incarnation visit:

Rainier Vista Central Park

After having visited the incredible folks in Portland we made our way to the snow cap mountain encrusted town of Seattle. We came, as a large contingency representative of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, to see just what the movers and shakers in this neck of the woods were movin' and shakin'. We were treated to a tour of Rainier Vista, a new housing project which may prove to be the most culturally diverse neighborhood in the country. Our guide, Brenna, mentions "27 languages are spoken here," as a woman from Senegal, wrapped in a paradox of traditional fabric and stereotypically western fashion, passes beneath newly blossomed cherry trees as she saunters the length of a central park.

We are here because of this park, whose construction has been halted by a lack of funds. Much of the cement has been poured, but that's about it. The basketball courts, tetherball court, and play areas are all still just a myth surrounded by hurricane fencing. However, the Seattle Housing Authority, in conjunction with other neighborhood partners, aims to raise funds to complete the Rainier Vista Central Park by summer's end. And some of our friends in the region are looking at the possibility of installing some community based/created interactive artwork in the area. Very interesting indeed!

City Repair, PDX

The Black Rock Arts Foundation has been looking for other organizations in pursuit of a similar mission. And this time around, it just so happens they found us! We were so intrigued by Ben Dantoni and the work of City Repair in Portland, that we had to take a trip to parts north, and see what they were all about. Turns out, they're about many of the same things as the Black Rock Arts Foundations. They're reclaiming public space through interactive community efforts. They're actively creating spaces for people to interact with one another, their community, and their environment. They're using environmentally sound practices to create permanent installations throughout the city -- much like the ones you see here.

Top image: Life House, a memorial to a bicyclist.
This Life House was built to commemorate the needless death of a cyclist whose life was taken when a delivery truck ran a stop sign at this very intersection. The windows in the Life House are made from tricycle wheels artistically embedded with glass; in the evening the house lights up with solar power which has been culled throughout the day from a solar panel mounted on a bicycle fork which encourages passers by to track the sun throughout the day. The piece, built on private property with the consent of the home owner, also features a bench carved out of the retaining wall and covered with a colorful mosaic crafted from tile, old chain rings, and bicycle pedals.

Bottom image: Sunnyside Piazza.
Born of an intersection repair project at SE 33rd and Yamhill this fountain shrine to Sunnyside Piazza captures the vibrant colors which radiate out from this intersection and onto neighborhood houses!

For more information, check out City Repair now exists in 11 cities, maybe yours is one of them!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Make Way for 'Passage'

Now that 'Flock' has come down, it is of course, time to put a new installation in place. As part of the continuing effort to peppper our hometown of San Francisco with art first created for the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, we are pleased to bring you 'Passage,' by Dan Dasmann and Karen Cusolito. At the tail end of February Leslie, myself, and a whole host of supportive speakers paid a visit to the Port Authority in an effort to secure approval for the placement of this incredible sculpture along the San Francisco Waterfront! and... SUCCESS!!

'Passage' will be exhibited along the Embarcadero, just north of Pier 14 (roughly where Mission Street meets the Embarcadero), for a period of six months beginningin early June!! The dedication of 'Passage' is slated to coincide with the opening of Pier 14 as a new pedestrian access pier which will allow folks to walk several hundred feet out into the bay and view the piece from yet another perspective.

Those that remember this well-loved piece from the 2005 Burning Man event may be curious to know that the flame effects used in the desert WILL NOT be present as a part of this installation -- liquid fire and the bay waters just are not going to get along, nor are they going to get through the permitting process. That said, if you're curious about a few of the logisitcs surrounding the initial installation on the playa you may want to have a listen to the following Chronicle Podcast which captures an interview with the artists.

Flock's Final Migration

It's been just about a month since Michael Christian's 'Flock' migrated from SF Civic Center back to the East Bay where the sculpture will be readied for permanent installation at the di Rosa Preserve -- a 217 acre spread featuring three galleries and a 35 acre sculpture garden at the base of the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

On the first day of the de-installation, when we were gathered around the back of the truck for lunch, we witnessed a homeless man pulling up with a shopping cart. He stopped just short of us and sifted something out – it was one of the signs originally placed at the base of the sculpture, which read, Please to not Climb or Play on the Sculpture. He had fished it out of the garbage and put it back on site where it belonged, and that pretty much said it all. Here was this homeless man tending to our ‘Flock’, taking pride in the bit of civic space that he inhabits, and contributing to the success and longevity of the exhibition. Out of gratitude we fixed him a sandwich and sent him on his way with a soda and some nice lemon cookies.