San José Celebrates Latest Burning Man Art in Playa to Paseo Partnership

On December 7, San José’s Office of Cultural Affairs hosted a celebration for the latest art installations in their Playa to Paseo partnership with Burning Man Project. These included “XO” and “HaHa” by Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg, which will be on display until February in front of San José’s City Hall and the San José State University Hammer Theatre Plaza.

“XO” by Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg at San José City Hall (Photo by David Hill)

To celebrate the installation of these works, DJs warmed up the crowd while the South Bay Burners rocked out in full festive garb, handed out holiday-themed hologram glasses and talked to people about how to get involved in their community. Local food vendors served hot drinks and healthy food through the city-backed economic development program, Veggielution. The burlesque clown troupe, Fou Fou Ha! also rounded out the night with performances, dancing, and their signature shenanigans.

The event also attracted a great cross-section of people participating in the city’s monthly First Friday public art walk.

Director of Cultural Affairs Kerry Adams-Hapner thanked Laura Kimpton for providing fun and inspiring works to round out the project’s first year of installations, and Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke of the project’s strong community support.

“It’s been fascinating just to watch how members of the community become so engaged and attached,” Mayor Liccardo told News Up Now.

The three-year partnership with the City of San José invites the San José artist community to imagine ways that temporary art can invigorate public spaces across San José’s 180-square-mile landscape. In our first year, four different artist installations were completed, with a range of community engagement opportunities planned for each one.

The Project so Far

“Sonic Runway” by Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant (Photo by Adrien Le Biavant)

“Sonic Runway” by Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant was the first installation, which launched the Playa to Paseo Project in a big way. The city reported an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, including requests to make the piece a permanent fixture at City Hall.

Installed in front of San José’s City Hall from November 2017 to March 2018, the light-art installation visualized the speed of sound by converting audio signals into patterns of light that pulsed through a tunnel of LED-lined gates.

The city also hosted numerous community events, inviting participants to interact with the piece in different ways. Taiko drumming, an Opera vocal performance, a fashion show and clothing sale, and holiday caroling were just a few of the activities on the roster.

“Ursa Mater” by Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson (Photo by Adrien Le Biavant)

We followed up with two works in and near the urban park area known as Plaza de Cesar Chavez. Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson’s “Ursa Mater”, a 14-foot sculpture of a mother bear and her cubs made from over 200,000 pennies, was placed at the Paseo de San Antonio from March to May 2018.

Dana Albany’s “Tara Mechani”, a 15-foot sculpture of the female Buddha diety made of bicycle, clock and machine parts was on display from April to August 2018. The city supported musical events, yoga and dance sessions, and impromptu gatherings were also held as word spread about the works in the area.

Learnings and Next Steps

“Tara Mechani” by Dana Albany (Photo by Adrien Le Biavant)

This first phase of the project was an opportunity for our teams to learn the ins and outs of working within a new partnership framework involving many different government agencies and stakeholders. It also gave us more insight into how the community might respond and engage with work in a city.

As we look forward to a second phase of more installations and programming, we will focus on developing deeper engagement opportunities while continuing to deliver spectacular art and experiences in San José. We’ll be sharing more in the new year as the project evolves.

Top photo: Fou Fou Ha! and Laura Kimpton play in front of “Haha” (Photo by Dave Lepori)

About the author: Joe Meschede

Joe Meschede

As Burning Man's Civic Arts Coordinator, Joe develops tools, engagement opportunities, and artist interfaces that extend Burning Man culture and practice from playa to public spaces. Joe's first year on playa was 2010. Since then he has been a part of numerous Theme Camps, performance groups, and other exercises in desert weirdness.