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First Community Grant Program Success!

The first installment of the Chicago Community Grant Program was a major success in all respects. The program was far more successful in its first iteration than was supposed, and there is positive momentum looking forward with the project.

Two months before the dinner salon, announcements were made on the local lists and social media pages announcing the creation of the program. We received several e-mails from community members stating their interest in applying for the program, though many of these inquiries stated that the deadline’s proximity to the Lakes Of Fire event was a barrier. In the future we seek to keep the grant salons in both May & November. That, we believe, will not cause the same time constraints, and will help fill some of the slower months in the community calendar.

One month before the dinner salon, applications were due. We used a GoogleDoc form for applications, but also allowed applicants to submit a word document, though no one chose this option. We received 8 project applications — surprisingly none from those who had inquired earlier in the process, and no applications from ‘core’ community members. Most of our applicants had little knowledge of the ‘Burning Man Chicago’ community, which was exciting.

We made a call out for judges to review the applications. We attempted to acquire one judge from the SteeringMan committee, two judges from the local BwB-Chicago group, and one guest judge. Using this model we made call-outs for interest in judges and Philamonjaro, Devin Breen, Dan Simborg, and Maggie Sather all stepped forward.

This selection committee met to discuss the applications 10 days before the salon. Everyone had a chance to review the applications online before meeting. Our selection criteria included: missions/goals aligning with ours; project feasibility; utilization of the 10 Burning Man principles; impact the grant money would make on the project; interactivity/participatory nature of the project, engaging the community; and volunteer opportunities available. While all the projects had merit, some certainly met the criteria more than others. The four judges rather readily agreed upon the four projects that would be presented at the salon. In the future, it would be helpful for the selection committee to meet closer to the application deadline, to allow the candidates more time to prepare their presentations.

The four projects selected were diverse, and show the range of interest and topics that can be considered within a civic grant program. The chosen projects covered the topics of: Bikes, local food, the mentally challenged community, and homeless teens.

The night of the dinner salon was electric. More people than we ever expected showed up. A half-hour before the event had even started it was clear that the program had already outgrown ECO as its space. TransAmeoba has already been confirmed as the next location for the November grant cycle. Our counter at the door was for 82 people — though that does not account for everyone, and several community members with knowledge of the space were able to enter the back door. A majority of the audience would not be what is considered ‘core community members’. We charged an entry fee of $5 per head for entry into the salon. All presenters were given free entry as well as a plus one. Some projects brought in more people, which were let in for free; in the future we will better communicate the cost and how the free entry works.

The presentations were all slated for 10 minutes. Breedlove kept time, though, not having set up any sort of system to let the presenters know when their time was up, two of the projects went over. In the future, a system of communication between timer and presenter will be established, and keeping presentations to 10 minutes will be more strictly enforced. All presenters made use of the projector system, and did a wonderful job of presenting. In the future, we may give a few suggestions as to what to include within the presentation since not all presenters gave the same amount of information. There was 5 minutes for Questions & Answers after each presentation, and all of the questions were pleasantly articulate and to the point. Questions focused on where the money was being allocated, possibilities of other sources for resources and management questions.

The entire course of the evening was placed live on the Internet through Ustream. This was not an option that was popular, at most there was only ever 2 viewers- but we will continue this process to provide another means of involvement, and to also allow complete transparency of the entire event.

After the presentations everyone was invited upstairs to the garden. In the garden work room, each person was given a voting form. They were asked to rate their favorite projects from 1-4, and place their vote in the voting box. Everyone was allowed one vote. After voting, everyone was invited out onto the roof to get dinner. Food was lovingly prepared by Edible Alchemy, and the attendees were pleased to get a taste of such delicious locally grown food. Desserts were donated by Trader Joe’s and Pierre’s Bakery. Dinner was lovely, there was plenty of food, and everyone was able to enjoy the lightning storm that was still in the distance.

One hour after voting was opened we closed the voting box. The votes were counted using an instant-runoff system. First, everyone’s #1 votes were tallied. As neither of the four candidates received over 50% of #1 votes, the candidate with the least votes was eliminated. All ballots which indicated the eliminated candidate as their #1 vote now had their #2 vote count. The process continued, eliminating the lowest candidate until one candidate received a clear majority vote. This system was used so that everyone’s vote would count, there would be no spoiler effect, and the true favorite candidate would win.

The money collected at the door was also totaled. The grant provided by BURN was for $500, and the $5 entry fee was an attempt at crowd sourcing the rest of the funds. The reason crowdsourcing is an important part of the process is to give each participant a stake in the program, and hopefully encourage an extra level of participation. $271 was collected at the door, which means that 54 people paid. In the future we will keep a closer count on the door, as there was a possible extra $100 that could have been collected. At the end of the day a grant for $771 was given out.

After the votes were counted, it was clear that the winner was ‘One Voice, One Soul,’ the art for homeless teens initiative. As dinner was wrapping up, the storm clouds passed over, and quite conveniently, brought everyone inside and downstairs again. The winner was announced, merriment was had, Burners Without Borders offered the non-winning projects help in non-financial ways.

The winning project representative sat down with Monica Storch and Flip-it and the payment of monies was explained. The $271 was handed out in cash, and the rest of the money will be paid out by check, as receipts come in for the payments. The expectation of follow-ups and timelines were explained to the project leads.

The comments from participants were highly positive. We overheard many people exclaiming how excited they were to have participated, how interesting and diverse all the projects were, and how interesting it was to hear about these grassroots and youth-driven initiatives. One attendee stated that this was the most important event he had ever attended.

As the evening wrapped to a close, the participants were extremely helpful in cleaning up and tidying the space. The housemates were extremely pleased with the help, and were excited that an entirely new group of people were exposed to ECO. The energy in the house was excellent, and the evening closed nicely with a rain storm.

There is $500 left in the bank from the original allotment from BURN, which will allow this program to run in the same fashion in November.

Announcing the Chicago Community Grant Program!

Do you have a brilliant idea?  Are you passionate about building community and giving back?  Is being conscious of your environment important to you?

We’ve got some exciting news to announce out to the community.  The Bold Urban Renaissance Network (BURN) in collaboration with Burners Without Borders Chicago (BWB-CHI) is establishing a new granting program that is available now!

Hopefully you already know about our Art Grants program.  (If not click here.)

How the Chicago Community Grant Program differs is that it will support community, civic-minded and direct action oriented projects.  Ideally projects that tackle existing problems by connecting residents, creating collaborations, and utilizing the Burning Man Ten Principles.  This will engage grassroots projects being run in Chicago, by Chicagoans.

Micro-grants can be used for sustainable projects such as neighborhood cleanups, buying supplies to create a mural in the community, helping to fund a community kitchen, and much more!

To learn more and get started, check out the full write up.

Who is eligible to apply?
Projects must be based in Chicago.  Individuals, neighborhood groups, organizations, grass root projects located in Chicago may apply  This includes- but is not limited to- block clubs, art groups, service organizations, citizen parks and recreational organizations, nonprofits, and individuals.

How much can you ask for?
An applicant may request up to $1,000.  The program will be competitive and awards may be less than $1,000 depending on the project.

How does it work?
Interested participants will need to submit their project proposals by June 15th.  The submission form will be released to the public in two weeks.

All projects will be reviewed by the Micro-grant Committee – consisting of two members of Burners Without Borders, one member of Bold Urban Renaissance Network, NFP and one guest judge. Projects will be presented at a salon-style gathering.  Entrance to the salon will be $5, dinner will be provided.  During the salon, four projects will present their ideas to the group.  Applicants must be present to pitch their ideas.  After the presentations, dinner is served and the voting begins.  Each member at the dinner will be able to cast one vote.  The projects with the most votes will receive a portion of the available money.

The salon will be hosted in Pilsen on July 15th.  Mark your calendars now!

If you have any questions please contact

So excited to see this program to come to life!  Can’t wait to create with you!
-The Chicago Community Grant Committee-
Christopher Breedlove, Monica Storch, Maggie Sather


by Drew Huening

Awarded $500

From a distance, the structure is low slung and flat. On approach, Participant sees two symmetrically curved walls. The walls point toward each other, almost making an oval shape, but interrupted in the middle by a pass through that acts as entry/exit. Entering the structure, Participant realizes the walls’ interior surfaces is made of dozens of flat wall mirrors.

DAY MODE (Lakes of Fire)
With just a few steps, Participant sees reflections of themselves and compatriots. A few steps in any direction shifts the reflections, re-reflections, re-re-reflections, and so on. Participant and compatriots are confronted with a hall of mirrors that provides opportunity for open ended kaleidoscopic play. After 1 minute or 2, Participant realizes that there’s a pattern to the structure and its many reflections. At this point, Participant might see one of two flat platforms near center of each structure half. On each platform are painted foot marks, implying the position and direction Participant and a Compatriot should stand.

After a minute or two of experimentation, the full effect is achieved:

Participant stands on one platform, Compatriot on another. Participant is surrounded by reflections of Compatriot. Moreso, Participant can see ALL of Compatriot: some mirrors show Compatriot in profile from the left, others show Compatriot in profile from the right. Staring straight ahead, Participant can see Compatriot’s front, but also Compatriot’s back.

Compatriot has the visa versa experience, seeing all of Participant.

(Burning Man, possibly Lakes of Fire as well) Participant enters and detects mirrors, using cues from ambient light, head lamps, glow, etc. There is opportunity for kaleidoscopic play, but it is limited, for a few reasons.

  1. It’s dark
  2. Half of the structure is cordoned off
  3. In the other structure half, there is a glowing button on a waist-high pedestal, commanding attention.

On approach the waist-high pedestal, Participant sees illuminated footprints, implying the position and direction Participant should stand. All that’s left is to press the large red button…  WHOOSH! From the cordoned off half of the structure, a propane flame effect bursts. For a moment, 3 of Participant’s senses are activated and surrounded:

  1. Sight: reflected images of the flame effect surround Participant
  2. Sound: reflected sound of the flame effect surrounds Participant
  3. Touch: reflected radiant heat warms Participant from all angles

Human Avatar Project

by Christopher Breedlove with Tom LaPorte, Stu Smith, Jordan Chabalowski, and Alex Love

Awarded $328

Statement of Purpose:
The HAProject is an experiment in social identity, group dynamic and personality harvesting. The project seeks to capture the ‘Collective Unconscious of the Participant Experience’ by allowing as many participants faces, personalities, and answers be recorded into The Human Avatar Library (HAL) which is then played back in a feedback loop to the very same audience on the face of the Human Avatar.


The HAProject has a two different phases:

  1. Structure: The structure for HAP is a hexiyurt. (10ft radius). Inside of the yurt is a large imac computer which has custom software on it. The computer is build into an ‘art wall’ which provide environment for the participant, as well as shelter for the computer. Only the mouse is available to the participant. The software plays an animation which explains the project, and then signals a small camera on the inside of the yurt to turn on, the participant is able to record their face for entrance into HAL.
  2. These videos are edited, on-site, into small reels. These videos are uploaded into a video player, and then projected from a pico-projector onto the face of The Human Avatar. The Avatar’s face is an ever-changing picture of motion and personality, music comes from the shoulder mounted speakers. The Avtar wanders around the event, looking for the right place and moment for its sighting.

Touchy Dutchess

by The League of Troubled Souls (Kurt cKurt Feuer, Jason Steakhouse Pritchett, Tom Dr. Shoebocks McGee, and Larry Dr. Lar McMann)

Awarded $500

The Touchy Duchess towers above supplicants, haughtily beseeching them to give her pleasure. She is not amused when participants fail to skillfully manipulate her, and her tongue is as sharp as her metallic visage. Participants who properly coordinate their effort, however, are rewarded with a fearsome spray of fire from the top of her head.

The Dutchess will be fabricated from 4’ by 4’ steel sheets stacked in five modular sections for a total height of 20 feet, plus her tiara above the top section. The face, body, and other designs will be cut into the front sections of the steel after programming the dimensions into a CNC plasma cutter for a precise, intricate design. Interior pilot lights to ignite the blasts will also provide ambient lighting to illuminate the design.

Four control panels arrayed before the Dutchess allow participants to push a button and trigger a blast of fire from either a series of six small blasters on her sides or the main blaster at the top of her head. If one button is pushed, only one small blast is triggered. If two buttons are simultaneously pushed, three side blasts will be triggered, and three simultaneous hits will trigger all six side blasters. The order of the blasts will be programmed to vary for each button and each combination of simultaneous hits, prompting the participants to listen to the clues provided in the Dutchess’s rude commentary to coordinate their efforts. When participants succeed in simultaneously hitting all four buttons, the mother load of propane is released from four 20 lb. accumulator tanks at the base of the tower, causing an approximately 40 foot flame plume to erupt from the head of the Dutchess at an angle over the heads of the participants.