Dude, Where’s My Grant?


Let’s face it, this year’s been full of surprises (not all of them pleasant).
After the lottery debacle, many burners planning to bring an art project to the playa this year are wondering about the status of their Burning Man Art Grant Proposal. An announcement date of early March was originally given to those who applied. However, that time frame has come and gone and we still don’t know which lucky applicants will receive BM art grants. As with all things this year, Burners broke another record by submitting 349 proposal requests. According to a recent BMorg email to grant artists, “The art grant committee has read through all approximately 7,678 pages of proposals, peered through budgets asking for over $4.95 million dollars, dissected almost 1500 images, and more.” Its mid-March and we’re patiently waiting at our inboxes, hoping that email will come through and tell us where our money’s coming from.
It’s not surprising. The Burning Man Organization (BMorg) has a lot on its plate. With the fall out from the lottery, STEP going live, and record numbers of burners vying for a limited amount of resources, BMorg is experiencing overloads on more than just their ticketing servers, that includes the Grants Application Process.
Why would this effect grants?
There were a lot of things that took priority over art grants. What good is a grant that funds a piece of on-playa art if the people and camp producing it don’t have enough tickets to make that project a reality?
Everything got jumbled around after the lottery. Plans were changed, announcements were made, theme camps pulled out, and new policy was put in place, all in the matter of a few short weeks. The open sale was canceled, and directed ticketing had to be…well….directed.
As of March 9th, BMorg didn’t know what its final budget for Art Grants was going to be.
But they’ve had an extra 2 weeks!
And a higher request load than normal and unplanned pitfalls. BMorg can’t afford another Burner Relations disaster like the lottery. They’re taking their time, in hopes of getting it right, because they’re burners too, they breathe the same dust we do and they love it. They’re there to help us succeed at building Black Rock City, not fail. So they’re taking their time, good, now isn’t the time for another disaster and they know that.
But I was counting on that money!
Not everyone who wanted tickets this year got them. Not everyone who requested grant money is going to get it. That doesn’t mean that there’s no money to be had. There are dollar pools in the local Burn communities, like non-Burning Man affiliated art grants. Some projects could probably utilize reclaimed or free materials to offset some of their costs. Some projects will end up getting the money they requested from BMorg and some won’t. It’s up to the artists to find their funding, because at the end of the day it’s their creation.
I don’t want any commercial funding for my art!
Kickstarter, Crowdrise, and throwing good ol’fashioned fund raisers; there are ways to fund projects that don’t require supplication before the plastic idol of corporate capitalism. The burner community is bigger than it’s than ever before, that means more money; that means more resources, more ideas and more labor. Now’s the time to reach out to the new folks and get them involved—those virgin burners who were lucky in the lottery and want to help with a project so that when they see that Giant Arrow, or fierce flame effect on the playa they can smile and say, “I helped. I’m a burner.”
Because they aren’t tourists, once they step through those gates, they’ll be home. They’re burners awaiting their baptism by dust and fire—we all were once.

Until they start holding grant applications in the Thunder Dome, we’re stuck with trial by paper work and that takes a long time. Patience will not reward all, but proactively seeking alternate funding in the face of possible grant denial will.

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