Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Burners Without Borders: disaster clean-up with heart and soul

Shortly after Halloween the people of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey set to the task of cleaning up the mess left by Superstorm Sandy.  So many areas along the waterfronts were utter disaster areas.  New Jersey saw some of the worst damage between Monmouth and Ocean counties.  Two towns provided images that became iconic.  In Seaside Heights it was the roller coaster that had been part of the popular boardwalk amusement park and in Union Beach it was the "Princess cottage" of which only half the house stood after the storm subsided. 

There was so much to do and getting it done was a nightmare of logistics, money and time.  Buildings needed to be inspected and demolished if condemned.  Water, sand and sludge had to be removed for buildings deemed safe enough to reinhabit.  Insurance adjusters were pushed to their limits and politicians began the fight for government assistance. 

Enter a group based in California called Burners Withouth Borders.  Burners Without Borders was born at the annual Burning Man festival in 2005 as Hurricane Katrina's arrival coincided with the fest.  Staff and attendees decided to "pass that hat" at the gate to fund some kind of relief effort.  They also took collections of extra construction materials from "burners" which would be taken to the Gulf Coast and recycled into new structures. All this was loaded onto trucks along with sleeping bags, tents and other staples and they headed out.  Many of these people had been part of the Temple construction crew so they were well versed in fast, safe construction and demolition.  The group referred to themselves as Temple's Temple for 6-10 months.  When they saw the success of the Katrina recovery and their ability to organize and perform necessary tasks in disaster areas they started the foundation officially.  The name Burners Without Borders stemmed from a commitment to provide disaster assistance away from The Playa in the U.S. and internationally.  

As the organization has evolved, rather than assign missions, the Board of Directors accepts suggestions from its membership and then determines the level of need.  From there teams are formed that include everyone from administrative staff to heavy equipment operators.  BWB has also added community development to its repertoire, funding and assisting with projects that provide outreach to the homeless, offer programs for youth and clean up neighborhoods.  There is an annual grant program to circulate money collected over the year throughout the country.  BWB has also sparked local chapters with Las Vegas, Detroit and Seattle's being very active both in fundraising and assistance.

But back on the homefront.  I had a chance to talk with Brenda Zimmerman of BWB.  Although not a founding member,she has spent time on the Haiti recovery team.  When NJ Sandy recovery was brought to the table, she knew she wanted to be part of the team as she has immediate family in the area.  In fact she has spent some of her limited off-time with her father just outside of New Brunswick.   Heavy equipment operator, Richard is the director for the New Jersey project.  He is a founding member of BWB and worked demolition for Katrina and subsequent Gulf Coast hurricane clean-ups. Another key member of the NJ team is Tom, also an original BWBer.  He remains in CA providing external support, including media coverage. Richard traveled to New Jersey to do the damage assessment which would also help with determining who and how many members they would need.  Brenda does volunteer coordination and a wide variety of administrative tasks.

Probably the most unique trait of BWB and the one appreciated by homeowners is that, unlike contracting companies, Burners Without Boarders bring real compassion with them.  They spend time with the property owners and listen to their stories, many Brenda says the crew will carry with them forever.  From the "whale house" and making sure that the decoration was carefully taken from the house before it was razed to allowing a teenager the chance to show her anger at Sandy by filling a box with rocks which she used to break a few windows before their home was leveled, the BWB crew treat the project as a true labor of love.

This compassion along with the deep spirituality of those who are part of the Burning Man family came together in the demolition of the Princess Cottage.  The home owned by the Zois family had been photographed many times after the storm and those pictures were published around the world.  Few are the people who have not seen the images of the "half a house".  BWB knew that they had to do something special to lay the home to rest.  They chose to bring it down on The Solstice, the first day of pagan Yule celebrations and this year, the day that marked the beginning of the New Age.  In Brenda's words, the demolition was "epic".  When I learned of the event I immediately thought of my friend Kelly Condon who lives in Union Beach and is a great photographer.  She contacted BWB through Facebook and coordinated with Brenda to do a photoshoot of the demolition.  

Some of the moments Kelly captured included Mike of BWB presenting the homeowner with the front door.  As moving as the gesture appears it turned out there was another story that went with it.  Brenda explained that the local "watering hole" Jake A Bob's had also been a victim of Sandy's wrath.  However, like many stoic Northeasterners, the owner is determined to reopen the restaurant, just a little farther inland.  She has spread the word asking residents who either have to replace a door or a home whose door(s) can be recovered to donate them to the new restaurant where they will be converted into tables.  

Burners Without Borders is an experience that goes full-circle.  Brenda said when they arrived after being given a tour of the town by a woman who had lost just about everything, they were dropped off at the townhouse that had been donated to them for a month.  Their tour-guide told them she had left them some things and thanked them for being their.  Despite her own losses this woman had made sure that the team had dish soap, paper towels and toilet paper.  They come home from a long day on site and find bags filled with snacks, a bottle of wine, a gift card for a local restaurant.  The community appreciates not only the millions of dollars they are saving them but just their presence in the midst of the devastation.  A 94 year old resident named Harriet asked for a photo with Richard and called him an angel.  She told him she'd love to take him for a spin on the dancefloor.  This is what the human experience should be.

And BWB is nowhere near done.  Towns such as Middletown, Keanesburg, Keyport and Leonardo still have restrictions on outsiders getting into them to assess damage and start the clean-up.  The group hopes to be able to continue their work in those areas and anywhere else they are needed to get the New York Metro area back on its feet.  You can contribute to the effort by visiting  If you live in the area or are planning on traveling there in the near future check their blog to see where they are and connect with the team to get a job assignment.  

by Ashley Peskoe for
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ

by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
Add caption
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ
by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ

by Kelly Condon, Union Beach NJ

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bill and Hans Haveron father-son show at Kirk Hopper Fine Art

If you are going to be in Dallas in March this is a "must see" show.  There will be more on this over the next few weeks here on the Tribes Of Art including exclusive interviews with both artists.

Kirk Hopper Fine Art

Is proud to announce a new exhibition:
Bill and Hans Haveron: Raven's Riddle
Opening Reception
Saturday, March 2nd
From 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm at Kirk Hopper Fine Art
Located at 3008 Commerce St. in the Deep Ellum area
Exhibition will be on view through April 13th, 2013
Artists will be in attendance
Bill and Hans Haveron: Raven's Riddle
Kirk Hopper Fine Art is pleased to announce that it will be the showcase for the first Father/Son exhibit for renowned Texas artist, Bill Haveron and his son, Los Angeles artist, Hans Haveron.  This exhibit represents the fruition of a lifelong dream for both Father and Son. The interplay and overlap of their careers is a source of conciliation, healing and redemption, resulting in a deeper understanding of the role and purpose of art in their lives.
The show is entitled Raven’s Riddle – a reference to the family name which was originally spelled Havran in the original Czech, meaning “the Raven,” but anglicized to Haveron upon immigration to Texas. The title is also a nod to the common threads of interest pursuant to problem solving and mischief making, a theme prevalent in both of their works.
The show will feature the familiar surrealistic and symbolic styles in which both men characteristically work. Dense with imagery and fecund with meaning, their works exhibit an interplay of diverse literary devices: metaphor, allusion, simile and analogy, amongst others.  Typically, the works represent a path of self-discovery and a spiritual evolutionary process –the struggle between the forces of good and evil ever present.
These philosophical riddles are transcribed upon large drawings, paintings and a few examples of painted assemblage from Daddy Bill.
This exciting show represents the deep bond achieved between the two men, using art to overcome every vicissitude of life and the quotidian challenges facing the proverbial “everyman”.
Kirk Hopper Fine Art | 3008 Commerce Street | Dallas, TX 75226 |  214-760-9230
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Kirk Hopper Fine Art was founded in 2011 and focuses on art in a variety of media primarily produced by Texas artists. The gallery is committed to supporting art of excellent quality both in the U.S. and throughout the world. Kirk Hopper Fine Art actively works to collaborate with educational institutions in an effort to broaden exposure and understanding of the arts.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

STREET ART UTOPIA » We declare the world as our canvas106 of the most beloved Street Art Photos - Year 2012 » STREET ART UTOPIA

STREET ART UTOPIA » We declare the world as our canvas106 of the most beloved Street Art Photos - Year 2012 » STREET ART UTOPIA:

I really love this photo blog.  It makes me feel a lot of things whenever I experience street art.

The first thing I feel with great outdoor painting is...why do I rarely see it in the wild in the U.S.?  I've seen a few gorgeous murals; one in Baltimore and another in Philadelphia. But as I ride Metro North to Manhattan, I see a lot of tagging but not great street art.  Nothing like in these 106 photos.

The next thing I feel is envy.  I'm not a painter or a sketch artist and never will be.  First? I can't make anything look like what I would want it to with a brush, spray can or pencil.  Yes, I can create digital and collage art but that only requires manipulating materials and images that already exist.  Second? Inspiration.  Go through these photos.  I've never looked at a crack in a wall or a sidewalk, a bit of rust on a railroad overpass or dilapidated building and seen the images hiding there that needed someone with a spray can or a paintbrush or a big piece of chalk to make it visible to the rest of the world.  My inspirations tend to come from people.  Most of my collages are gifts or representations of moments that will go into a scrapbook and tell the story better of the people in the photos on that page. Even when I paint with words, like now, my muses are people's hearts and their souls.  I could write about a landscape element but it would be very different than what many of these images say.  These artists actually transform the building, sidewalk or staircase into something new.

The other thing I've learned about street artists is that they usually have a message. I'm not saying I don't love classic art.  But there are so many soulless portraits hanging in museums.  One can tell the artist was doing it to pay the rent.  But then there are Degas' ballerinas or Claude Monet's landscapes.  These are paintings from the heart.  I now know three street artists who have moved off the street and into studios yet the heart is still on the wall, the board or the canvas.  The paintings make you feel.  There is a message whether peaceful, angry or philosophical.

So spend some time at Street Art Utopia and feel.  Remember: "The Earth without art is just 'eh."

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