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Sacramento group to build massive effigy ‘Arboria’ for Burning Man

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It’s a concept that, at face value, seems completely crazy – as in, talking-to-the-air, get-the-butterfly-net insane. But that’s only to those who haven’t been to Burning Man.

It’s the question of why on Earth would one spend thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours on an ambitious and marvelous project, only to turn around and set it on fire…on purpose!

“There’s something incredibly beautiful about creating something and releasing it back into the universe,” said Heather Takemori. Fellow Burner Mark David Swim agreed, adding that, “it’s an artistic expression of creation and destruction being symbolic of life and death.”

Such is the spirit behind the now world-famous “Man,” a titanic human-shaped structure constructed and subsequently set ablaze and reduced to ash during each year’s installment of the Burning Man festival. Although the Man itself has traditionally been the only “official” annual burn at Black Rock Desert, a group from Sacramento is creating one of 35 structures that will join him.

Headed by local non-profit arts group Sacramento Valley Spark, Takemori and her team are the creative force behind “Arboria,” a twisting arboraceous structure that, along with the other 34, will encircle The Man at this year’s official Burning Man burn. Sac Valley Spark was invited by Burning Man to submit a proposal and eventually approved for C.O.R.E., which stands for "Circle of Regional Effigies."

Full information about Arboria and the Sacramento C.O.R.E project is below. You can also visit the group’s website for more information and to donate to the project, which still needs financial support to come to fruition.

After this year’s much ballyhooed fiasco and public relations nightmare over a botched ticket lottery system for Burning Man, projects like Arboria represent a return to focus on the type of unique and grandiose artistic expression that the event is truly all about.

Having worked extensively with Sac Valley Spark on previous events, Takemori, who has been to nine previous Burning Man festivals, was handed the keys to the project earlier this year.

“Last year there were 21 different structures, and this year they’ve approved 35 – there are structures coming from the Bay Area and Reno, but this is the first time Sacramento has had one,” said Takemori, project manager of Sacramento C.O.R.E.

Several regionally-themed ideas hit the cutting room floor – including a 20-foot tomato to represent a “Sacoftomatoes” pun, an enlarged microscopic view of allergens and a giant seed pod to represent this year’s Burning Man theme of fertility – before the group settled on Arboria, a massive ode to the “City of Trees.”

Arboria will be forged as an 8,000 cubic foot (20’ long by 20’ wide by 20’ tall) structure, with an elaborate tapestry of foliage decorations and cutouts, and two spiral staircases leading to a shaded canopy area that will be able to hold approximately 20 people.

Over 100 volunteers are currently involved in the planning, design and eventual creation of Arboria, headed by a core team that includes Takemori, co-project manager Swim, regional coordinator Joyce Maund, construction leads Ian Nutila and Dave Wailing, creative lead Candy Dallosta, “Contessa of cleanup” Mary Holt, and fire safety lead Jed Kirshner.

As transportation of a completed structure this size would be next to impossible, materials will be freighted out to Black Rock, Nevada, where Arboria will actually be constructed on-site. Gates for the festival officially open on August 27th, but the C.O.R.E. team will arrive on the 21st for a build that is expected to take four days.

Sounds like a fun four days in the desert, no?

“I’ve already planned myself a mini-vacation to get poolside in Reno for a couple of days between the build and gates-open,” Takemori joked.

Through a series of fundraisers, Sacramento C.O.R.E. has already raised close to $1,300 to fund the project, but the group is still seeking donations of money and materials it needs to finish the project and make Arboria a reality. Monetary donations can be made online here, or mailed to Sacramento CORE, 5495 Carlson Drive, Ste. B, Sacramento, CA 95819. If you would like to donate materials or would like more information, email Heather Takemori here.

Materials wish-list for Arboria:

2×3 = 18
2×4 (8ft) = 56
2×4 (10ft) = 24
2×4 (12ft) = 16
2×6 (8ft) = 3
2×6 (10ft) = 33
Plywood 4×8 sheets (1 1/8 inches) = 9
Plywood 4×8 sheets (15/32 inches) = 3
Plywood 4×8 sheets (3/8 inches) = 3

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