The Morris Burner Hotel is magical. It holds the feeling of Burning Man but it’s not in Black Rock City. Immediately upon entering their front door on 4th street in Reno you are welcomed home. Within moments you’re whisked away by your costumed bell hop of the moment who checks you in and tells you all about the space. The lobby is full of lounging burners, comfy chairs, tons of art, and the burning man insignia everywhere. It feels as if you’ve walked into any camp anywhere on the Playa.
One of the best and worst things about Burning Man is that it happens only once a year. We spend the rest of our time in the default world trying our hardest to bring that Playa magic into our everyday lives. The Morris has actually succeeded in not only creating that special community feel of Burning Man but also of upholding the 10 principles and putting them into action That is what creates that type of Burning Man magic.
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Every guest room of The Morris has a different art theme, designed by various artists, some which include The Cuban Gangsta, Enchanted Forest, Down the Rabbit Hole, The Goddess, The Temple Suite, The Desert and, of course, The Sparkle Pony. Even though these rooms were created by a specific artist, anyone who feels inclined can add their touch to the space. While staying at The Morris we found an amazing bright pink Disney television, which we added to the Sparkle Pony because we all know those guys love cartoons. (To make sure it worked we placed a Beastie Boys DVD in the princess contraption and it was extremely gratifying to watch Ariel swim dance to the phresh rhymes.)
That level of welcomed participation permeates every aspect of The Morris Burner Hotel. People come in, they get inspired, the community supports them and they make it happen. That creative change takes on many forms from simple things like adding a Stetson to the Desert room, to hosting a food drive, or creating an entire art show fundraiser that supports local social programs. One of current projects at The Morris is the Swan Soiree. They took thirty posters of swans from the closed down local hotel, The Fitzgerald, then they turned over the posters to community arts who completely reinvented them. The posters are now available to purchase through a silent auction, on-line and in the hotel. All proceeds from the auction will go to the Reno Sparks Gospel Mission.
This inviting atmosphere is also embodied in the individuals who run The Morris. Shinee is the marketing and PR person for the hotel. She grew up an only child but she created her own genuine family at The Morris Burner Hotel. Shinee is inspired by the new energy and how the hotel is constantly changing. As Shinee put it, The Morris is run by “a mini-crew of awesomeness.”
There are so many outreach projects using The Morris as their home base. Originally when Jungle Jim and his team came in an transformed the building, the large homeless population in the neighborhood revolted. They didn’t understand these weird burner people. Vision, the hotel manager, realized that a large part of the problem was The Morris was unintentionally ignoring this sub sect of the individuals who were literally right outside of their door. The Morris began giving out coats each Sunday and offering a hot meal every Monday-Thursday right from the back gate. Soon the homeless population started to really appreciate the hotel and now they even pick up trash around the neighborhood and say “hello” to Morris staff on the street. The environment has shifted from hostility to community.
During the Christmas holiday the Morris also adopted three low-income families and asked them to write down their wish list for Santa. Shinee was able to get their requested gifts, wrap them all nicely and put them under the tree. The Morris also supplied each family with Christmas dinner.
It’s no wonder why Jungle Jim, the founder of The Morris Burner Hotel, describes much of what The Morris does as public service. The energy permeates the place and 60-70% of guests are returning members because really once you’ve visited you fall in love with the place. One thing that almost all of The Morris leads said over and over again was “You come for a day and you stay for a week.” This is total truth. Many of the people you run into in the halls didn’t intend on staying so long but the buzz of the place is addictive. People extend their stay just so they can help build, volunteer and make it all happen. There is always someone painting, reorganizing, decorating, scheming, creating and drilling something.
Aside from the community outreach, constant making, and general rad burner vibe, The Morris also hosts many events each month. They have 2nd Saturday Stand-Up, Tuesday Talks with burner movers & shakers, Friday Open Mic Night, Monday’s At The Morris, special parties like Illuminarium (which features magicians and puppeteers) and their bar is open Friday-Monday. Members get in free to most events and its great to know that your membership fees are going back into the Burn community (they use membership money to allow various artist to have free lodging at the hotel while they create new artworks for the Reno area).
“One of the reasons we did this is so when people come to town they could find the community,” says Jungle Jim. The Morris Burner Hotel has definitely been 100% successful in this endeavor. Once you walk through their doors you’re immediately connected to the best parts of Reno.
Morris Burner Hotel is partially supported by membership contributions, so if you want to help this amazing project flourish, please sign up at www.morrisburnerhotel.com. You can also join their facebook group which has a lot of information about their events and projects.