Burning Man Project’s Board of Directors is gaining four (!) exciting new members and saying a heartfelt “thank you” to another member who has moved on. Our board represents a wide array of talent, expertise and diverse perspectives, as well as a deep passion for the mission and vision of Burning Man Project. They are long-time Burners who run camps, volunteer, cherish this community, and are committed to the 10 Principles and the culture of Burning Man. Please join us in welcoming the following new members, in alphabetical order:
Fab 5 Freddy
Hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, born Fred Brathwaite, emerged in the late 1970s as a New York City graffiti artist who was one of the first to exhibit his paintings internationally. Along with friends and contemporaries Futura 2000, Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab was a key player in New York’s 1980s downtown cultural scene and was instrumental in elevating graffiti into a disruptive movement that would eventually give birth to street art.
Born in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Fab entered pop culture courtesy of a name-check on New Wave group Blondie’s ‘80s pop hit, “Rapture.” In addition to his visual art, he co-produced, starred in and composed the music for the cult classic film, “Wild Style,” and went on to direct music videos for numerous hip-hop stars like Snoop, Nas, Queen Latifah and others.
From the late ‘80s into the mid-‘90s, he was the original host of “YO! MTV Raps,” the groundbreaking TV show that took hip-hop culture global. Today, he continues to make visual art and produce and direct projects for film and television. His most recent film is a feature length documentary he produced and directed for Netflix titled, “Grass is Greener.” The film examines the history of cannabis, music and criminal justice in America.
“This Burning Man experiment, which has been able to capture and maintain the essence of things born in the change and upheavals of the counterculture movements of the 1960s and ‘70s, has become an experience tantamount to the cultural revolution that happened then,” said Fab. “The power in modern people completely leaving their everyday comfortable existence for an extreme, almost tribal-like environment that then produces transformational change in their lives and outlook is a much needed positive force as thousands more worldwide get the message and clamor to participate. Doing it all in a remote, dusty space where there’s no advertising, sponsorships or exchange of currency, just the voices and creative output of its participants guided by the 10 Principles in this age, at this time, is remarkable and so much fun!”
Hear more from Fab, including how the underground art and hip-hop scenes first met, at the DLD Conference in 2015:
Farhad is an entrepreneur, currently working on The Good Party, a nonprofit, open source mobile app and platform with a plan to disrupt the corruption of both major U.S. political parties with a good alternative that isn’t beholden to money and doesn’t waste a single vote. Previously, Farhad was co-founder and CEO of Flipagram, a popular short-form music-video app that was acquired by ByteDance/TikTok in 2017. Prior to that, Farhad co-founded Shopzilla, one of the largest shopping search engines in the world; and, even earlier, BizRate.com, a top 50 worldwide site that pioneered online customer ratings at the dawn of e-commerce.
Farhad’s experience with Burning Man dates back to 2005, when he thought he was going to a rave in the desert, only to find himself truly at Home in the magical dust of the playa. He has since contributed art to the community, volunteered at Arctica, greeted at the gate, served coffee at center camp, and done dishes at Fly Ranch. Throughout, he has been lead organizer at camp YOUniversal, introducing hundreds of Burners each year to Persian hospitality, culture and cuisine. Farhad got married to fellow board member Nushin Sabet at Burning Man in 2009 and is happy to report that all three of their kids — Noor, Alaan, and Sama — became Burners as soon as they could walk.
“I believe in the 10 Principles of Burning Man, and in Burners as the optimistic, playful community of free-loving creators who can help the world transcend past the sad, soulless machinery of unsustainable consumer culture,” he said.
Beyond work, Farhad is a TED Catalyst/Patron and is co-founder and Vice Chairman of Farhang Foundation, an Iranian arts and cultural nonprofit which gifted the Freedom Sculpture to the city of Los Angeles on Independence Day 2017.
Matthew “Chef” Kwatinetz
Matthew “Chef” Kwatinetz has dedicated his career to building communities and works of art that inspire. He supports artists, entrepreneurs and citizens in obtaining appropriate ownership in their own work and in the communities they create and live in.
From 2014 to 2019, he was the Executive Vice President of NYC’s Economic Development Corporation, where he managed one of the largest portfolios of double bottom line real estate and infrastructure assets in the world. In that role, he oversaw the largest expansion of passenger ferry service in U.S. history and executed on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to deliver 500 affordable artist work-spaces in NYC, the largest such program in the country.
Prior to NYC, Chef worked for Mayor Deke Copenhavor in Augusta, GA, where he reinvigorated long-stalled projects in cultural workspace, affordable and workforce housing, and commercial development. He is the co-author of “Thriving in Place,” a report commissioned by the City of Austin, the National Endowment for the Arts and Artplace America, on the role of culture in economic development.
Chef is also a theater producer and most recently produced the off-Broadway hit “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.” From 2002-2008, he lived in Seattle, where he ran the cultural incubator Capitol Hill Arts Center (home to the legendary Burner bar Lower Level). He’s proudly produced multiple seasons of theater, music and spoken word, and Seattle Mayor Nickels named him a “Seattle City Artist.”
In the dust, Chef is the, well, how-shall-we-say, CHEF of Sacred Cow. From serving the Temple Kitchen in 2015 to “Feed the Artist” programs and multiple course sunset dinner cruises on their art car, Sacred Cow has been serving up food and sassy service in unexpected ways for the last 10 years in Black Rock City.
“There’s one network in the world that is strong and diverse enough to weigh in on the battle that is going on right now between globalism, populism, and localism. That’s us. It’s crazy, but it is true,” explained Chef. “I believe that Burning Man is the organization most poised to propel the world into a new consciousness. There’s never been a movement like us before.”
Nushin sees herself most authentically as a creative being and nurturing mother to three little Burners. She is also an artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Nushin is co-founder and creative director of Anar Center, a Persian language and cultural center in Los Angeles, where she creates workshops for kids and adults seeking to learn about Iranian culture.
As a hands-on philanthropist, Nushin volunteers in a variety of organizations that educate, serve and empower underprivileged women and children. She’s also a big advocate of natural home-birth and has contributed to several media projects on the subject.
In a prior life, Nushin founded Mortganizer, a startup that helped thousands of mortgage professionals become more organized and efficient at their job. She bootstrapped Mortganizer into a profitable business, before deciding to give it up to follow her heart, returning back to school in her thirties to earn a degree in Fine Art.
Burning Man played a pivotal role in Nushin’s creative rebirth. Her first visit to the playa in 2007 left her transformed, connecting her to her inner child and to a shared communal creative experience that made her feel fully alive. She realized that, for her, bliss is infusing connection, community and creativity into her daily life.
“I believe that authentic and deep connections, rich communities and tribes are at risk and this is what we need in order to thrive and create,” Nushin said. “We are social animals and now we’ve become social-media animals. Living in a digital age, isolation, screens and meaningless connections are the new norm. Human connection is imperative to keep us alive. Burning Man is an example of a harmonious world where people are connecting deeply to themselves and those around them. It’s what humanity needs now, more than ever.”
Thank you, Chip
Lastly, we would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Chip Conley for his tremendous service to our board and his vibrant contributions to our community. Serving since 2011, Chip was a founding board member of Burning Man Project and provided invaluable insight, guidance, and leadership through a truly transformative time in the organization’s history. As a leader in business, Chip helped Burning Man Project and its founders and executive team evolve and professionalize, and as a lover of philosophy and culture, Chip honored and celebrated the 10 Principles. Burning Man Project would not be where it is now without Chip. We wish him well in all of his endeavors, and we know that we will be forever connected by this profound experience that is Burning Man.
For a full list of all the current members of the board, head on over here.
Top photo by John Curley