Santa Clara Creates Platform for Burner Art

By RealGirl

Burners were front and center at the recent Santa Clara, California Sculpture Exhibition, when the city’s Cultural Commission awarded first and second prize to two playa artists.

The Commission awarded first place and $500 to Chris Constantine for Pixo the Universe, and they awarded second place and $250 to Jeffrey Yip for Boundless Landscapes. The winning sculptures and 22 semi-finalists were displayed in Santa Clara City Hall and Santa Clara Central Park Library from April 9 to June 15.

The Mayor and Council are excited to see Burner art on display in our city and inspired to create a more permanent art platform, especially after hearing the inspirational address by Burning Man’s Communications Director Megan Miller at the U.S. Council of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

Pixo the Universe by Chris Constantine contains 512 full-color programmable LED lights

The Art of Building Cities

In January 2018, Megan talked to around 500 mayors, art directors and art advocates about what Burning Man had to offer communities. She drew attention to the fact that people are deeply invested in their cities when they help build them, and that Burners were taking their creative energy, rolling up their sleeves and remaking their hometowns into more vibrant, inclusive and resilient communities.

“Our job as leaders is to build a platform, to extend an invitation — to create conditions that encourage experimentation, citizen-driven solutions and high levels of participation,” she enjoined the attendees.

The Santa Clara Council now wants to take our tiny city’s budget and develop a permanent art platform for temporary art displays — especially if they are Burner art! This could serve as a foundation for Burner outreach to the public, and community building in Santa Clara and beyond.

The Council also has the opportunity to integrate the art platform with another community initiative by partnering with Reclaiming Our Downtown.

This grassroots organization is looking to rebuild the blocks of the historical downtown that were razed by urban development in the 1960s. It wants to create and activate public common areas, and the art platform could help revitalize the heart of the city and build a community identity.

Boundless Landscapes by Jeffrey Yip is a motion-graphic projection mapped onto a grid of 16 pyramids and includes headphones to listen to special sound effects.

Reviving a Platform

The City of Santa Clara is a relatively small-town neighbor (pop. 126,000) right next door to San Jose, and is one of the 14 cities that make up Silicon Valley. Santa Clara prides itself on a commitment to culture, with two museums, a university, a performing arts center and a beautiful library with its own permanent art collection.

The City’s Cultural Commission has been holding the Indoor Sculpture Exhibition since 2002, but in 2016 the city was consumed with hosting the Super Bowl at the new Levi Stadium, and the Sculpture Exhibition fell by the wayside.

And this is where I come in.

My name is Debi von Huene (a.k.a. RealGirl), the South Bay Burner Regional Contact since 2005. Having produced the South Bay Regional event SoulFire for 10 years, I wanted to evolve my Burner experience and focus my energy on civic responsibility.

I had heard about the non-elected appointments on the Santa Clara Cultural Commission, and in the fall of 2016 I interviewed with the City Council. I presented a visual resume with photographs of the Burning Man Arts honorarium projects I’d worked on, talked about my passion for interactive art, and stated that I wanted to bring this kind of art to my hometown.

I intended to revive the Sculpture Exhibition and to include Burning Man artists. I set the theme, “Out of the Darkness, Light,” and posted the call for artists in the Jackrabbit Speaks and the North/South/East Bay and Santa Cruz Burner newsletters and Facebook pages.

I also published the call for artists on more traditional outlets, such as the California Arts Council’s web page and the art departments of all colleges and universities in the nine Bay Area counties, along with direct emails to artists who had previously participated in the City’s Sculpture Exhibition.

Burner Bios

We received 46 entries, four of them from Burning Man artists. First-place winner Chris Constantine developed his interest in “light art” on playa but had not previously exhibited his art in a juried show.

Second-place taker Jeffrey has displayed his art for many years in the public realm, including Lights Out Pier 70 in San Francisco, East Bay Maker Faire, and the 3rd International Exhibition of New Media Art at the CICA Museum in Gimpo, South Korea.

You can see the semi finalists here.


Top photo: (L to R) Santa Clara Council member Teresa O’Neill, Council member and Vice-Mayor Kathy Watanabe, South Bay Regional Contact Debi von Huene (RealGirl), Council Member Debi Davis, first-place winner Chris Constantine, Council member Pat Kolstad, second-place winner Jeffrey Yip, Council member Patricia Mahan, Mayor Lisa Gillmor.