2012: Continuing to Grow and Evolve

In 2012 the New York City event and exhibitions were poised for change, as Governors Island began construction on the first phase of its new park master plan in spring 2012. This meant that the FIGMENT minigolf course and sculpture garden, as well as the City of Dreams Pavilion, had to be relocated from Liggett Terrace to another part of the island.
FIGMENT's program in 2012 included four returning events (Jackson, Boston, New York, and Detroit) and two new events in Washington, DC, and Pittsburgh, for a total of six events, with 50% growth from the year before.

FIGMENT Jackson was held for its second year in a new location, the Midtown Arts District, on April 28-29, 2012. The event was anchored by the North Midtown Arts Center, and was again co-produced by Whitney Grant and Melvin Priester.

FIGMENT Boston was originally scheduled to hold its third annual event on June 2-3, but heavy rains led our hosts, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservatory, to request that we reschedule the event so as not to risk damaging the grounds. FIGMENT Boston was rescheduled for July 28-29, and became the first FIGMENT event to be rescheduled due to inclement weather. Most of the participating artists were able to accommodate the change, and the FIGMENT team felt that the new dates worked better for the Boston calendar, and decided to again hold the event in late July in the future. One interesting innovation of FIGMENT Boston 2012 was a special grant program created by the Burning Man Regional Event Firefly, held over July 4 weekend in Vermont. Firefly gave three $1000 grants to artists, with the requirement that the granted arts project had to be shown at Firefly, at FIGMENT Boston, and at the Somerville Open Studios art event in the Boston area.

Due to construction on the new park on Governors Island, the island was only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays in 2012, and FIGMENT NYC was forced to cut the duration of the event from a three-day event to a two-day event. Even so, the event, held on June 9-10, 2012, set a new attendance record of 24,382 participants, the largest attendance for a FIGMENT event to date. Due to the construction, the FIGMENT summer-long programs moved from Liggett Terrace to the South End of the Parade Ground, with Benjamin Jones' Treehouse installed around a large, singular tree there. This location made the summer-long program much more prominent on the island, and rarely was the island open during the summer when the area was not packed with people. The summer-long program in 2012 consisted of the treehouse, the interactive sculpture garden, and the minigolf course, on the theme of "Arcade." Due to some of the challenges the pavilion program faced in 2010 and 2011, the pavilion team decided to extend the schedule for the design competition, jury process, and fabrication to a full 18 months, so began in 2012 to select the pavilion for 2013. One key innovation of FIGMENT NYC 2012 was the "Producers Brunch," in which producers and core team members from other FIGMENT cities were invited to FIGMENT NYC to experience the event and have a Sunday morning facilitated conversation with FIGMENT team members from other cities. FIGMENT NYC received one of its most flattering quotes from the press to date, when BBC Travel wrote, "If FIGMENT were a country, it would be happiest in the world--and I would apply for citizenship immediately." Shortly after the FIGMENT NYC event, Producer Debra Keneally announced that should would be stepping down from the Producer role to focus on the FIGMENT Admin Team, and the search for a new producer began.

FIGMENT Detroit returned to Belle Isle for its second year, and brought joy to approximately 500 participants. Danielle Kaltz had decided before the event that this would be her last year as producer, and she stepped down without an identified successor, putting the future of FIGMENT Detroit into question. FIGMENT Detroit was the first FIGMENT event that David Koren did not attend, due the wedding of close friends in Vermont. Debra Keneally and Carlijn Urlings represented the FIGMENT Board and Admin Team at the 2012 Detroit event.

While planning a business trip to Washington, DC, in early 2012, David Koren wrote to his friend Mark Borden, who had been a former Burning Man Regional Contact for DC, and asked Mark if he might like to get a few people together for a conversation about starting a FIGMENT in DC. Mark filled his living room with more than 30 people for the evening presentation. By the end of the evening, Patty Simonton had volunteered, with the strong support of the attendees, to produce FIGMENT DC. The first FIGMENT DC event took place on September 29, 2012, at The Yards park on the Anacostia River. The event drew over 3,000 participants, who engaged with over 80 participatory and interactive projects.

On another business trip, this time to Pittsburgh in December 2011, David gave a FIGMENT presentation to a group assembled in Doug Staas' living room by Pittsburgh Burning Man Regional Contact Clifford ("Kip") Reese, and another old friend of David's, Tom Tarka. Kip became the FIGMENT Pittsburgh producer, and began to organize a close-knit group of friends into a FIGMENT core team. FIGMENT's first event in Pittsburgh took place on October 6-7, 2012, in Allegheny Common. Approximately 1,000 participants came out to engage with approximately 30 art projects. Despite being unknown to the local community, the Pittsburgh team did a great job procuring grants from the City of Pittsburgh and local arts foundations.

As the 2012 FIGMENT season drew to a close, it became clear that, in order to continue to grow, FIGMENT really needed to focus on creating shared organizational infrastructure, so that events in all cities could leverage shared support and resources. A plan was put in place, and funding was secured from the Tecovas Foundation and individual donors to create shared infrastructure. This infrastructure included a new online FIGMENT "How To" manual for teams in all FIGMENT cities (begun by board member Julie Ziff Sint); a new legal framework for local events created by FIGMENT pro bono attorney Joseph Voss with Clark Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan; new updated branding guidelines by branding consulting firm MSLK led by FIGMENT Brand Creative Director Sasha Koren; a new cities program, led by FIGMENT's newly appointed Director of New Cities Fil Maresca; and, most dramatically, a new Artist Management System, built on top of the Salesforce Platform by Vielyn Consulting. In addition, it became clear that the emerging Global Admin Team, which was leading this infrastructure development process and guiding FIGMENT forward in a "senior staff" capacity, needed to fully separate from the FIGMENT NYC Core Team (previously, individual members had served on both teams) and so FIGMENT became more serious about the guideline that no one should have two jobs within FIGMENT. Debra Keneally, who had just stepped down from the FIGMENT NYC Producer role to focus fully on her role as Global Admin Director, led the charge on separating the Admin Team and giving them a sense of purpose.

On October 1, 2012, FIGMENT took a huge step forward, and became a "professional" organization, when it hired Emma Tuccillo as its first employee, in the role of Global Administrator. Emma's role was designed to back up our volunteer teams in all locations by having a central resource whose job it is to keep FIGMENT on track from an administrative perspective. As Emma's role evolved, she became the administrator for the new Artist Management System in Salesforce, and had key parts to play to help FIGMENT be more effective in fundraising, communications, volunteer management, internal communications, and many more. Initially, Emma worked remotely, and then was moved into co-working space at WeWork near Bryant Park as of September 1, 2013. Six years after its first event, FIGMENT actually started to feel like a "startup"!

In late 2012, David received an email from Miriam Fathalla from Geelong, Australia, asking about doing a FIGMENT event there. Though David was initially skeptical, Miriam was very committed to the idea, and was able to secure a grant from the city of Geelong for over $5,000 AUS, as well as a partnership with local community services agency Diversitat to serve as our local auspice agency. It seemed like FIGMENT Geelong was a go. David and Miriam were able to meet for the first time in Union Station in Washington, DC, to get to know each other. It was a challenge to collaborate over such a long distance, so many time zones away. Miriam was back in the US in January 2013, and was able to come to a FIGMENT NYC Happy Hour to meet some of the Global Admin Team and the FIGMENT NYC Core Team. FIGMENT Geelong took place on March 23-24, 2013, in Johnstone Park, Geelong, and became FIGMENT's first event outside the United States. David Koren traveled to Geelong for the event, and spent time in Both Sydney and Melbourne on the way to explore and try to plant seeds for FIGMENT's eventual expansion. The FIGMENT Geelong event was very supported by the local city government, who not only supported the event financially, but also created an art project poking fun at municipal bureaucracy and initiating a new cultural strategy development process for the city. City workers surveyed event participants using a survey form jointly developed by the city and FIGMENT. The Mayor of Geelong, Keith Fagg, was in attendance at the event. The event featured approximately 35 projects and was attended by over 1,500 participants. One key innovation of FIGMENT Geelong was the addition of a "Decentralized Dance Party" (or DDP) staged by Radio Rehab from Melbourne. As night fell, approximately 100 event participants danced from Johnstone Park through the streets of Geelong carrying boomboxes, all playing the same music broadcast by a roving DJ with a low power FM transmitter and using an IPad to control the music selection. This brought an interesting aspect of "culture jamming" to FIGMENT... FIGMENT comes to you. The dancing participants encountered many members of the public while dancing through the streets of Geelong: people queueing at night clubs, bemused driver, people headed home from a day out, people eating dinner in posh restaurants. It was amazing to see the public response to this display of freedom and joy. Following the FIGMENT Geelong event, David and Miriam put plans in place to incorporate FIGMENT in Australia to aid in fundraising for the following year, and in the eventual expansion of FIGMENT to other cities in Australia.

In April 2012, David met with Nicole Hickman and Brady Mahaney at the annual Burning Man Leadership Summit in San Francisco, and started a conversation about FIGMENT in their hometown of San Diego, California. On Sunday, April 7, 2013, FIGMENT San Diego became FIGMENT's first event on the West Coast, with a one-day event in Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. This event marked the first FIGMENT event to use the new FIGMENT Artist Portal Application, and the first FIGMENT event for which Fil Maresca served as the primary liaison between the local team and the FIGMENT Global Admin Team. The event was very well attended, with over 1,500 participants, and filled with art, with over 50 projects. It was very important to the local team to create an event that could reach out and embrace San Diego's large Hispanic population, which is why Chicano Park was selected. This park is viewed as a treasured place of resistance by the local community, and in recent years that has been an amazing mural program created there. It was very important for the FIGMENT team to communicate to artists and team members that no one could be allowed to impact these murals in any way, and the team went to great lengths to communicate this. However, the public can't always be easily controlled, and one member of the public saw and official muralist painting on a wall, and then used spray paint to cover over some gang signs that he had seen on another wall. The FIGMENT team tried to address the misunderstanding by speaking with the participant and members of the local community, to make it clear that we do not endorse or support this behavior, and that we are aligned with the community and the park in treasuring this sacred space.