We Have a Dream Petition

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

we curate the art!

Postby alleycat » Mon Nov 15, 2004 1:26 pm

the shipyard is proposing some great changes to how burning man approaches its art selection & curating.

check it out here: http://www.odeonbar.com/petition/1/peti ... do=do_sign
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We Have a Dream Petition

Postby thinkcooper » Mon Nov 15, 2004 4:54 pm

The information below is a short snip from a lengthy proposal and petition put forward by Jim Mason of the Shipyard. To view the full proposal click on this link...

We Have a Dream Petition

------ a proposal from the Shipyard ----------------

SUMMARY:
We are the artists. We feel that this event which we made great has gotten away from us and we would like it back. We want the art to be spectacular again and we are willing to step forward to do the work to make it so. But for this to happen, we think the "art curation" should be put in the hands of rotating "Guest Curators" and all funding decisions should be made by "Direct Vote" of the full community..

We petitioners request attention to these very reasonable demands or we commit to STOP CONTRIBUTING our art to Burning Man. Repeated discussions over many years have failed to result in meaningful change, so now we are resorting to more extreme measures.

FULL PROPOSAL
(A public service announcement from The Shipyard and the co-signees to your right)

----------- cut ------------
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Postby stuart » Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:04 pm

I was not aware there was any curation

don't we just show up and build our shit?
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Postby thinkcooper » Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:11 pm

curation? seems like it depends on what you're building and whether there is any funding side to it...
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Postby stuart » Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:26 pm

we would all be better served

the first indication of power hungry egocentrism

Fix the art

laughable

FUNDING OF THE ART

just show up and build your shit. Who has the balls to ask for funding?

SOMARTS and have an art selection party

insider SanFran centric

we all VOTE

art by comittee sucks. Also, it's recently clear that the whole voting thing does not always yield a very good result.

Can we finally admit in broad daylight that most of the art has little or no relationship to the theme? We just do what we want and dress it in appropriate words so the Borg will consider funding it or place us where we want to be.

continuing indication of egocentrism
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Postby Bob » Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:30 pm

Not sure whether the complaint is about too much artistic Viagra, or too little.
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Postby sparkletarte » Mon Nov 15, 2004 6:10 pm

Oh brother, more rules. After the art car issues this year, do you really think that curating the art is going to go over well?

The more this kind of stuff comes up, the more I want to bring my 'raver' and party friends and people who will just get drunk and walk around and not 'participate'. I'm starting to think I might be one of the yahoos/ravers that no one likes. Oh boo hoo. Suck it up. Be the change you want to see, just don't make everyone else be the change you want to see.
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Postby Isotopia » Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:03 pm

the shipyard is proposing some great changes to how burning man approaches its art selection & curating.


I've been mulling this over for the better part of the day. Initially I was a bit excited to seee the pot get stirred up a bit but reading and re-reading it all I'm really seeing for the time being at least are demands and not much else. No constructive suggestions. No elaboration on the demands. It'll be interesting to see some demands by others that they take it from rock throwing to actual dialogue and engagement.
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Postby thinkcooper » Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:05 pm

I understand the sentiment behind opposing this idea, but I'd speculate that there is no way that much of the extraordinary large art would show up on the playa without grants.

Stuart, I don't know what pieces you brought, honestly sorry about that, but I'm reasonably aware of the costs for the Illumination Village's Flaming Lotus Girl projects of late and a decent number of other expensive large-scale individual art projects such as their Hand of God, Kiki's firefall and Gadekin's enormous burning canvases. None of the artists behind these pieces could foot the bill without grants, and nobody but BM is going to fund projects so well-suited for the playa, because it's pretty much the only vehicle for exhibiting art like this. These projects run in the range of or well in excess of a full years salary for their creators. I enjoy the presence of these pieces and would like to see more of them, and don't buy into them needing to fulfill an arbitrary theme.

I personally buy art, cause I believe in supporting art. I know that BM is also buying art. Good for them. But there are egos getting involved on both sides and it sounds like taking individual egos out of the process would help.

Grants are a part of the art world, they have been for a mighty long time, and without public and private grants much of the worlds most remarkable art throughout history wouldn't have ever been created.

I believe that the event is an art phenomenon that's bigger than the organization and its owners, and that accepting that is going to hard for the ownership. The art isn't all that it's about, but it's a big part of it, and I hope it stays that way. I hear that the grant process may have problems going in both directions. But it does seem that seeing a bigger piece of the pie going to artist grants, with less restriction on the thematic elements would help more artists produce more varied art. That seems like a good thing.
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Postby stuart » Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:14 pm

you make a very good point about the history of patronage. I am a firm believer in that legacy. I also know the great patrons of earlier centuries, responsible for funding much of the great art in the world, would never allow thier patronage to be directed by a comittee and a vote.

when you buy art you get to choose what you buy.



FWIW I spent around $4K on my project this year
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Postby thinkcooper » Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:24 pm

You're right about the history of patronage exempting itself from committee oversight, with the exception of entities like the church. I guess the Medicis and their ilk steered pretty clear of commitees when choosing patronage recipients.

The BMorg is a little different though as they gather all their funding from our ticket fees and then fund art that adds to the event they are selling us tickets to. It's a little more convoluted than a well heeled private patron, opening up a little more to the creative mob.
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Postby Bob » Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:03 am

Looks to me like an inverted pyramid scheme, substituting one phantom elite for another. If the problem is favoritism, or bad choices, why trust any new gang to do a better job than the old gang? If the problem is boredom, maybe the petitioners should look more to the widening pool of attendees, rather than the same old gang of former grantees -- if "radical self-expression" means anything, it's that there is an expectation that all 35,000+ of us are artists who might take the "radical self-reliance" codicil a little more seriously if some of the former grantees weren't so intent on making it a joke.
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Postby Dork » Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:04 am

No constructive suggestions. No elaboration on the demands.


Are you referring to the main diatribe or the comments left by signers of the petition? Most of us don't even know how the process works, we just know that there's less and less art every year and more and more complaints from the few who did put something out there.

I, personally, don't know what the problem is. I only know there's a problem and the ORG seems stuck in a rut. Perhaps if we yell loudly enough they'll at least recognize that fact.
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Postby tritical » Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:44 am

stuart and sparkletarte: check your zippers - your ignorance of the topic at hand is showing.
Who has the balls to ask for money ? I do. And I got it. You can too, if you have the balls. That's the way it works. You gotta have the balls to think up a project that you couldn't pull off on your own. Then you gotta have the balls to try and pull it off anyway, with help from the org. Of course the funded art is curated. You think they just hand out checks to whomever asks ?
So far, I see very little constructive critique of the petition (which I signed, BTW) - only lazy attempts to pull it down and label the authors as "power hungry" and "egocentric".
I hesitate to bring this up, for fear of it seeming like one-upmanship, but I hope it will help with some perspective. The project I headed in 2002 received a grant from the org for $14K. I raised an additional $6K. This covered materials and transpo. costs. I also spent 6 months working on nothing but the project, living off of my savings account. I figure that was at least another $13K.
Was it worth it ? You bet. Would I do it again ? I can't. You see, the org only grants funds for materials, and sometimes, not fully. Everything else is up to you. I no longer have the luxury of $13K to live off while heading a project of that scope.
I *know* I'm not alone in this experience. Is it unfair to ask the org to pay for what the art *really* costs ?
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Postby thinkcooper » Wed Nov 17, 2004 9:27 am

Sadly, we lost another page and change of good responses to this topic with the 11-16 server crash.
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Postby Rian Jackson » Wed Nov 17, 2004 10:23 am

from buzzing through this topic and our regional listserv, it seems to me that this largely comes down to a few issues, one of which is 'Who's event is this?' If it's Larry's, since he started it and nursed it, then the much repeated advice of 'if you don't like it go start your own event' should be the end of this conversation. However, my guess is a lot of people see it as our collective event, in which case some sort of collective scheme for 'art curation' might be more appropriate.

Some concerns here:
1) How much space would it take up to put all of the art proposals on the internet?
2) Internet based community decision-making is necessarily selective: it's only for those who have computer access, time, and a fast enough connection. I'm lucky enough to be able to junk around here when the office is slow, but most times in my life i don't have that luxury. I'm sure i'm not the only one.
3) What would be the impact of this model for artists who aren't hooked into the internet?
4) How would the new art curation elite (which WILL form) influence the art of the playa positively/negatively? Do we say 'screw the fuckers who can't be bothered' or is it a problem that, even though this is meant to be community decision making, it won't be the entire community giving input?
5) What if some of the 'curation groups' can't hack it?

It would be interesting to have a rotating position on the existing 'curation board' to bring in new elements.

I'll post more as i mull this issue.
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Postby thinkcooper » Wed Nov 17, 2004 10:37 am

R'J',

I don't know if the proposals in the petition are the perfect points to present; like you, I'm mulling the options, and some of the ones you put forward seem mighty logical as alternatives.

My hope is that the petiton and artists' efforts behind the petition yields a process that is a more collective approach to providing approval, playa location and for funding as is already be done, but with less emphasis on strict adherence to a theme.

I'm supportive of the petition opening up a dialog with the organizers and hope it succeeds at doing so.
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Postby Papa Bear » Wed Nov 17, 2004 11:51 am

If funding big art is a concern, then what is stopping the artists in question from forming their own nonprofit arts foundation and seeking out donations to fund it? It's clear they are quite capable of publicizing such an effort, as demonstrated by how widely they've circulated this petition.

That would give them the control they crave, though not the easy (and IMHO, morally questionable) money that would come by taxing each participant.

In fact, I see very little proposed in this petition that the authors couldn't accomplish on their own. The one exception is the end to thematic restrictions on what art can be built, which is something I'd like to hear specifics on as it seemed to me that much of the art last year had no connection to the theme. Were there really art projects rejected for failing to adhere to the theme (in which case, which ones?), or is it perhaps that non-theme art simply didn't receive grant funding?
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Postby Badger » Wed Nov 17, 2004 12:06 pm

If funding big art is a concern, then what is stopping the artists in question from forming their own nonprofit arts foundation and seeking out donations to fund it?


Because it's often easier to demand out of a sense of entitlement than it is to actually work for it?
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Postby technopatra » Wed Nov 17, 2004 12:59 pm

Papa Bear wrote: Were there really art projects rejected for failing to adhere to the theme (in which case, which ones?), or is it perhaps that non-theme art simply didn't receive grant funding?


It's the latter. The art grants were created specifically and exclusively to fund theme art. I am curious where the petitioners (some of whom I know and have discussed some of this with) get off demanding that this money be applied elsewhere. There is an attitude of, I don't know, sibling rivalry? A jealousy that theme art is funded and other art is not.

The money is not put aside for all art. The money is put aside to support the theme. Don't like the themes? Well, frankly, neither do I, but I also don't feel a misguided sense of entitlement that encourages me to believe that since someone somewhere is getting money, I should get some too.

I hear so many people crying about how they have nearly bankrupted themselves doing art for the event, and if that somehow gives them a moral right to free money. Can we get back to the idea of personal responsibility? You can not blame Burning Man for your CHOICE to nearly bankrupt yourself, your CHOICE to select your own art topics, your CHOICE to buy a ticket and attend. That people act like their choices and finances are dependent upon the Project, rather than themselves is cause for concern and, imo, kills any reasonable argument they have.

Now the suggestion of opening up art grants to all art has a deeper motivation...some folks feel the theme itself creates an unacceptable constraint and limits the creativity of the entire event.

Clearly, alot of people like having a theme to guide them in a vague artistic direction. If you are not one of these people, you are still free to do whatever you want! Saying that you can't create good art, that no one can create good art, because of the theme, and the support of the theme, is malarky.

I actually think some of the ideas presented are worth discussing, but all of the rather vague "solutions" are stated with such a lack of reason and process that they will be difficult to act on. Saying "you should do this" is useless without the "how"., and there is no "how" in the petition.
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funding

Postby Anthony Bondi » Wed Nov 17, 2004 1:26 pm

I have presumed over the past couple of years that the organizational focus of Bman has been on infrastructure development with the goal of then becoming more able to focus more on the innards of the city, the art. I still presume that this is the case. I have judged that it was an inevitable development that Bman would be required to become more and more involved with Nye and Washoe County and Nevada state politics. This will not be a case in which bargains are made and then conversation can end; it will be an ongoing and time-consuming process from now on. Bman has become a significant political entity in northen Nevada both because of the numbers of people involved with BRC and because of the dollars involved. I can easily imagine Fernley or Wadsworth asking Bman to pony up some funding for a traffic light or two, in exchange for their hosting us 35k visitors annually passing through their backyards. Etc We who drop in to BRC for our magic week aren't going to see the tangible results of these conversations, unless we reflect on the wonder that BRC is still there.
Within the Bman organization, I haven't needed to be closer than 1000 miles from SF to guess that there are enormous pressures involved in ramping from an organization run on over-drawn credit cards to one which annually funnels millions of dollars through its accounts. Whether Bman organizers make a bunch or a little money, there are very good reasons why people with such responsibilities in other organizations typically do earn a lot of money; it's very difficult work. It is not only difficult work, but work which typically calls for people with a particular facility for such work to do it well. Since Bman was begun by a bunch of starving artists, what are the odds they anticipated in years ahead that chunks of their time might be spent digesting truly important financial statements? Meanwhile, outside the office, their old friends keep singing, "Why don't you come out and play any more?"
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Postby thinkcooper » Wed Nov 17, 2004 1:35 pm

Badger wrote:
If funding big art is a concern, then what is stopping the artists in question from forming their own nonprofit arts foundation and seeking out donations to fund it?


Because it's often easier to demand out of a sense of entitlement than it is to actually work for it?


Or perhaps it may be related to the kind of art that ends up impressing us most on the playa. It's pretty much all "outsider" art. Outside the typical schools and movements, created by out of the mainstream art world, generally disdained by "art society" and generally inappropriate for any gallery or traditional public display forum.

Kiki's Egeria for instance.
http://burningideas.com/firefall/egeria/index.html

I have trouble imagining any public location other than the playa or a BM art retrospective that would allow a fountain that flows burning coleman fuel to be displayed, let alone be functioning as intended with the audience letting flames cascade between their fingers. Egeria did indeed comply with the theme guidelines in 2003 (?) and was positioned in a prominent location, but all you have to do is view the Firefall documentary about Egeria's creation to see firstly, how impossible this piece would have been without grants and secondly see how many quirky obstacles were put in front of a project like this by the grant process and the grant curators.

The documentary "Firefall: The Road to Burning Man": http://www.spherical-productions.com/firefall/firefall1.html

Outsider art by it's nature isn't the kind of big art that gets funded. Big art that gets funded by grants is the kind of project you see project Mayhem rolling into a franchised coffee bar, the rare exception being the gracious granting that currently BM provides and curates. Harvey has stated in the past they BM is the largest private art grant program in California. So clearly "they" see granting as a critically important part of BM. My impression of the artists' concerns is that adding their voices to the jurying process will allow more freedom for those artists and in turn make the art on the playa less abritrtaliy constarined and more creative. I believe that has value.

Techo'P, I'd asked in an earlier post that was deleted during the crash if you had access to a list of the projects that have been funded on the Playa over the years. The list would be quite impressive to read and would include some of the most memorable pieces of art I've ever seen. I think it would be very good for the community to see what impact grants have had on the playa art, and also see that many of the people in the petition list were responsible for these pieces and that this petition is a stropngly worded dialog opener to hoepfully escort in a more open decision making process ito provide art for our community.

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more funding

Postby Anthony Bondi » Wed Nov 17, 2004 1:43 pm

I am surprised if it has become the case that art projects are funded based on their adherance to the annual theme. I always thought of the theme as a suggested direction for people who need a nudge to get started on something. I have always presumed a good fraction of the monies funneled through Bman went to artists' grants, solely based on the quality of the proposal. I hope this is so. Any proposal for an annual alteration of the BRC infrastructure can only work against artists. The cafe now has a magnificent structure. I have been happy to suppose this means that the structure of the cafe doesn't have to be an ongoing problem any more. Likewise with the street layout and any number of other BRC infrastructure problems that now aren't problems, leaving more time for interested parties to consider other issues.
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Postby technopatra » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:32 pm

thinkcooper wrote:Techo'P, I'd asked in an earlier post that was deleted during the crash if you had access to a list of the projects that have been funded on the Playa over the years. The list would be quite impressive to read and would include some of the most memorable pieces of art I've ever seen. I think it would be very good for the community to see what impact grants have had on the playa art, and also see that many of the people in the petition list were responsible for these pieces and that this petition is a stropngly worded dialog opener to hoepfully escort in a more open decision making process ito provide art for our community.

.


Hmm good question. I'll see what I can dig up in terms of a list.

On a side note, we have been discussing how we can make info like this more easily accessible on the website, so if anyone wants to join that discussion with the team, some to a web team meeting. Email me and I'll send you the deets.
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Postby blyslv » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:43 pm

tritical wrote:stuart and sparkletarte: check your zippers - your ignorance of the topic at hand is showing.
Who has the balls to ask for money ? I do. And I got it. You can too, if you have the balls. That's the way it works. You gotta have the balls to think up a project that you couldn't pull off on your own. Then you gotta have the balls to try and pull it off anyway, with help from the org. Of course the funded art is curated. You think they just hand out checks to whomever asks ?
So far, I see very little constructive critique of the petition (which I signed, BTW) - only lazy attempts to pull it down and label the authors as "power hungry" and "egocentric".
I hesitate to bring this up, for fear of it seeming like one-upmanship, but I hope it will help with some perspective. The project I headed in 2002 received a grant from the org for $14K. I raised an additional $6K. This covered materials and transpo. costs. I also spent 6 months working on nothing but the project, living off of my savings account. I figure that was at least another $13K.
Was it worth it ? You bet. Would I do it again ? I can't. You see, the org only grants funds for materials, and sometimes, not fully. Everything else is up to you. I no longer have the luxury of $13K to live off while heading a project of that scope.
I *know* I'm not alone in this experience. Is it unfair to ask the org to pay for what the art *really* costs ?


Why couldn't you do a less ambitious project for $13K and practice a bit more self reliance?
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Postby Rian Jackson » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:58 pm

I'm sure I'm gonna end up in the middle of a firestorm for this, but all of the sniping about how every art project should be able to fund itself seems pretty overblown to me. I didn't say illegitimate - but overblown.

Yes, whether or not there is funding will have an impact on what art is out there. Whether that's positive or negative isn't really for me to say. I know a lot of people (myself included) who don't have the capacity to put out even $4K for a project. Whether or not i need to raise the money myself is a judgement call. Do remember, however, that despite whatever personal enjoyment the artists receive for their efforts, a lot of them are (I assume) creating these things for the burningman community.

The fact is, we still can't come anywhere near finding agreement on this petition without addressing the issue of who the damn event belongs to, as I was saying earlier. Anyone willing to touch this? Anyone? I'm not fishing for one answer or another: this whole discussion makes it clear that I have none. Is that, perhaps, what this discussion is really about?

As far as theme or no theme when it comes to funding, I would prefer art to be funded on merit alone rather than the theme. However, if this is BuMP's event (and not yours/ours) then it just ain't ours to decide now, is it?
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Postby stuart » Wed Nov 17, 2004 3:09 pm

that's a good first premise to try and sort out.

personally, I can't see a way to say it's my/our event. I may work on crap for it a bulk of the year and I may like it a lot, volunteer, whatever, but it is no more my event than a bar I frequent regularly is my bar.
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Postby technopatra » Wed Nov 17, 2004 3:18 pm

Rian Jackson wrote:The fact is, we still can't come anywhere near finding agreement on this petition without addressing the issue of who the damn event belongs to, as I was saying earlier. Anyone willing to touch this? Anyone? I'm not fishing for one answer or another: this whole discussion makes it clear that I have none. Is that, perhaps, what this discussion is really about?


creeping in with ten-foot pole...

I am afraid that trying to define an "owner" is too simplistic a model for a complex situation.

Technically, the Board owns the LLC.
The LLC provides the means for organizing the event..the imanagement of the Project.
The Project is comprised of all the staff and volunteers that work to create the city infrastructure (such a small term for such and incredibly large endeavour), year-round legal wranglings (ditto) and communications (again, ditto), thereby making the event possible.
The Event is in one sense a venue for the community, and in another sense created by the community.

All the possible "owners" are interdependent. None could exist without the others.

But again, the LLC is technically a privately-owned business, and Burning Man belongs to them. We are all cultural stockholders, but not actual ones. The LLC has no legal imperative to accede to demands of any sort. Any agreements they would make would be done out of their respect and concern for the community they have spent the last 20 years nurturing.
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Postby thinkcooper » Wed Nov 17, 2004 3:40 pm

Wonderful description of ownership and the complexity of the interdependencies. Thanks for that!

A silly metaphor comes to mind- Professional sports fans don't own their home teams, but they sure do express their opinions to the team owners and managers regarding a variety of team issues. And the owners often make concessions to the ticket buyers and their team members to motivate fans to keep buying tickets and coming to the games. The pro sports example doesn't do a better job of explaining our relationship with BM; it merely points out there are lots of things in life that we express our opinions about, and sometimes those opinions shift seemingly intransigent positions.
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Postby tritical » Wed Nov 17, 2004 3:41 pm

blyslv wrote:
tritical wrote: I hesitate to bring this up, for fear of it seeming like one-upmanship, but I hope it will help with some perspective. The project I headed in 2002 received a grant from the org for $14K. I raised an additional $6K. This covered materials and transpo. costs. I also spent 6 months working on nothing but the project, living off of my savings account. I figure that was at least another $13K.
Was it worth it ? You bet. Would I do it again ? I can't. You see, the org only grants funds for materials, and sometimes, not fully. Everything else is up to you. I no longer have the luxury of $13K to live off while heading a project of that scope.


Why couldn't you do a less ambitious project for $13K and practice a bit more self reliance?


Well, I for one think that pulling off a project that cost $33K with only $14K of grant money from the org as quite a bit of self-reliance, thank you.

Yes, one could scale back one's vision. But the grants are currently there, and whether you view them as an unwarranted "tax" on the rest of the populace or not, they do enable the creation of some pretty amazing work, and allow people to create works that would otherwise be beyond their means.

For years, the porta-potties were a major issue, as in not enough and cleaned too infrequently. Someone please tell me that the org considered cutting back on the fireworks for the burn, or the monument under the burn, or the scale of the center cafe, in order to prop up an assumedly underfunded waste disposal plan.

Badger wrote:
Papa Bear wrote:If funding big art is a concern, then what is stopping the artists in question from forming their own nonprofit arts foundation and seeking out donations to fund it?

Because it's often easier to demand out of a sense of entitlement than it is to actually work for it?

And it's always easier to sit in comfort behind a computer and poke at people than it is to contribute constructively to a dialogue. Nothing is stopping the artists "in question" (this could be you too, all you have to do is step up) from raising money on their own, and in fact many (most ?) of them do. Kiki was selling T-shirts, for christsakes. I helped pull of a benefit event in Berkeley, and rasied $6K. Badger's comment tells me he has no clue about the amount of *work* that goes into a (large) grant project, all money aside.

Can someone please explain why so many people are getting so bent out of shape from a suggestion that the org spend more money on public art ? Or the suggestion that maybe a better way needs to be found to select said art ?
tritical
 
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