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 Awards and activities

Awards and Recognition Granted to Members of the Institute.


2009: Round-1 winner, WI Governor's Business Plan Contest
2008: Honorarium art grant to develop "Talking Voting Booth" for Burning Man
2008: Round-1 winner, Governor's Business Plan Contest.
2007: Honorarium art grant to develop "Corn Woman" for Burning Man
2009: Round-1 winner, Governor's Business Plan Contest.
2005: Honorarium art grant to develop "Voices in my Head" for Burning Man
2005 to Present: Sponsors of the Riverwest Mardi-Gras Arts Parade
2002: BurningSnow Center for Experimental Arts Opens  to Public 
2000 to Present: Operates Snowflake Village at Burning Man Project
1998 to Present: Official Press at Burning Man
1996 to Present: IFT's "Brain Box Television" Runs on Milwaukee Cable TV

2003: IFT Wins Prestigious Grant from Black Rock Arts Foundation [More...]
2001: Official Press at Cannes, Brussels, Glasgow [More...]
2000: Letter of Commendation from WI Governor Tommy G. Thompson [More...]
Brain Box Wins Top National Award for Int'l Programming [More...]
1999: Brain Box Second Place in USA--Entertainment [More...]
1999: Official Press at Spring Festival of Design, Barcelona [More...]
1998: Letter of Commendation from U.S. Senator Russell Feingold [More...]
1998: Brain Box Wins Unprecedented Five Philo Awards [More...]


Article: Milwaukee's Week of Burning Man, June 2006
MKE Magazine's "In The Know" section featured a profile of Director Eric Griswold and information about  "Milwaukee's Week of Burning Man," running from Sunday June 18th to Sunday June 25th, which included Burning Man's Film Festival in a Box, lessons in poi spinning at UWM, a hands-on class in soundscaping, and introductory lecture about Burning Man at the BurningSNOW Center, a family picnic in Lake Park, and a two day finale replicating many aspects of Burning Man including theme camps, a gift economy, decommodification, all-volunteer bands and performances, plus a legal firespinning procession and effigy burn conducted in downtown Milwaukee



Institute for Thought Begins Process of Applying for Foundation Grants, March 2006
The Institute for Thought began the process of applying for foundation grants to radically expand the scope of our activities.


Sponsored Riverwest Mardi Gras Parade, February 2006
For the second year, we co-sponsored the Riverwest Mardi Gras Parade, drawing out the creative community on a march stopping at five venues, and featuring artists, technologists, giant puppets, exotic costumes, three bands, and live fire performance. 


Indoor Fire Performance by UWM Poi Club, November 2005
The Poi Club at UWM was approved by UW Department of Risk Management to perform an indoor demonstration of fire poi at the International Bazaar, held at the Zelazo Center on the UWM campus.



Largest Snowflake Village Ever, August 2005
Snowflake Village at Burning Man reached a population of over 200 this year, including theme camps from Milwaukee, Detroit, Toronto, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and New York. Several well-known authors, such as Daniel Pinchbeck, flew in from the coasts to lecture at the sixty-foot lecture dome constructed by Chicago's MAPS camp. 


Computerized Artwork Commissioned by Burning Man, LLC.
The IFT was commissioned to create a computerized artwork to be placed directly under the Burning Man itself, in a special maze-like structure called the Funhouse. The piece, titled 'Voices In My Head" was  realized by a team of collaborators, and featured 22 computer-controlled bas-relief faces that appear blank until animated by rear-projections, and begin speaking phrases from the internal dialogue. The faces sense and respond to the presence of viewers by means of infrared rangefinders and adjust their rate of speaking, until all are talking at once. Approximately $1500 was advanced to cover the cost of parts for this massive artwork, which covers two panels 8 feet by 2.5 feet.   


Poi Club at UWM Created, May 2005
Chartered the Poi Club at UW Milwaukee, a registered student organization, helping to bring the art of poi to the Milwaukee area.



Brain Box Television Back on Air, February 2005
National award-winning Brain Box TV is back on the air in 2005, after a three-year hiatus due to lack of funds. Brain Box brings viewers  unique information from around the world. Brain Box appears every Friday at 10:00 p.m. and every Saturday at 11:00 p.m. on cable channel 96 in Milwaukee.


Sponsored Riverwest Mardi Gras Parade, February 2005
Co-sponsored the Riverwest Mardi Gras Parade. A parade through our artistic district, complete with fire and costumes. Article and photos published in the Shepherd Express, Milwaukee’s biggest alternative newspaper.


Article on Firespinning in MKE Magazine, December 2004
Article in MKE Magazine: "Lead lemming: Burn and learn, Spinning flames with poi-fection takes practice.”


Article: Photographer Wins Award, September 2004
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photographer Gary Porter won a national award for his photography and story about the Burning Man festival.  Gary was our "embedded reporter" in 2003 and we advised him on everything he needed to be Radically Self-Sufficient and survive a week in the desert.


Article: My First Time At Burning Man Festival, June 2004
"Like many people my first glimpse of Burning Man came from the now-famous 1996 article in Wired magazine. It seemed almost too good to be true– a counterculture utopia, a do-it-yourself city in the desert where thousands of visionaries came together to create an experiment in temporary community. A place with no money, no laws, and no spectators...."

An article by Eric Griswold in the Riverwest Currents Magazine



Locust Street Festival, June 2004
Set up a booth at the Locust Street Festival, the longest running free neighborhood festival in Milwaukee. We gave away literature for Burning Man, gave poi demonstrations, and sold knick-knacks to raise money for the Regional Contact Office.


Poi Classes Offered February, 2004
Public Poi classes begun to be held held weekly at Historic Turner Hall, Milwaukee.


Lecture to School of Architecture and Urban Planning -September 2003
Wisconsin Regional Contact Eric Griswold delivered a lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Architecture and Urban Planning as part of their visiting lecturer's program. The hour long lecture to about 200 people included videos and slides from Burning Man in addition to a demonstration of the Golden Electric Surfboard mini art-car.


Wheel of Fire -August 2003
The Wheel of Fire, an enormous participatory art event, was held again this year at the Burning Man Festival, in cooperation with Mutaytor's Heartbeat of the Man event. Details of the event can be found at www.clevian.com/wheel.htm


Article about BurningSNOW Center, August 2003
"The Institute for Thought will also host a lecture at UWM’s architecture and urban planning department this fall, and Griswold has worked with the sheriff’s department, fire department, and mayor to make it safe and legal to practice spinning poi (two kevlar balls at the end of chains dipped in flammable liquid and spun around, unsurprisingly popular at a festival that climaxes with the burning of a 40-foot statue of a man)."

From an article in Riverwest Currents Magazine



Article about Burning Man in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel - July 2003
The Journal-Sentinel sent reporter Gary Porter to Burning Man to visit Snowflake Village, the IFT's outpost for the Midwest's creative class. He wrote this very favorable article which filled the July 13th edition of the travel section.



Article about Fire Arts in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel - June 2003
An excellent article written by Crocker Stephenson can be found in the Thursday, June 5th edition of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and also online at  http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/jun03/145778.asp The article, entitled "A chance for the gloriously wacky to dance, play with fire," describes the Milwaukee fire Poi community.


Arts Grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation - June 2003
The Institute for Thought has won a prestigious grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation of San Francisco for further development of the BurningSNOW Center as a community arts center. The $2,000 award will be used to pay permits, insurance, and buy office supplies.


Mayor's Office Sponsors Fire Performance Series - Summer 2003
The BurningSNOW Fire Troupe conducted a number of public performances of fire poi in various locations in Downtown Milwaukee in the summer of 2003. Many of these performances were sponsored by the Mayor's  Busking Program which booked the troupe into venues such as Jazz in the Park at Cathedral Square, River Rhythms and River Flicks in Pere Marquette Park. 


Poi Legalized - May 2003

After months of  negotiation with government agencies, an agreement was reached allowing poi to be performed outdoors by the BurningSNOW Fire Troupe in Milwaukee City and County Parks under certain limited conditions. The conditions include environmental fuel containment, crowd control, proper training and safety procedures conforming to the International Fire Code. 


Locust Street Days Fundraiser - April 2003
The BurningSNOW Center sponsored a pavilion booth at the well-known Locust Street Days arts festival in Riverwest Milwaukee. Books and materials were available for people who wanted to learn more about Burning Man. The booth sold donated clothing and cups, lighters and candles with the BurningSNOW logo. Poi demonstrations were given in conjunction with a local drumming group.


Lecture to R.Evolution Cafe -March 2003
A series of introductory lectures about Burning Man was begun at the R.Evolution Cafe, corner of Bremen and Clarke Street, Riverwest, Milwaukee. The lecture combined  video projections, slide show, photo albums and narrative followed by a question and answer session.


Article: Milwaukee Group Makes Impact at Festival, September 2002
"There might seem little connection between such a decidedly “left-coast” event [like Burning Man] and stolid Midwestern Milwaukee. But a local group has been gaining influence at the festival, and has created a related arts organization here in the city.  It is called the BurningSnow center for the ExperiMENTAL arts, devoted to bringing a distinct Midwestern voice to this important event."



Article: Points of Interest About BurningSNOW Center, September 2002
“There were people from Milwaukee there before us, but we were the first to really get organized. We wanted to give something back. So in 2000 we organized the first-ever theme village from the Midwest, and every year it just gets bigger and better. Call it Urban planning in a temporary city..."



Brain Box at Onopa Brewpub - October 2002
Brain Box Television was part of the first ever Riverwest Pot-Luck Jamboree held on October 10th, 2002 at the Onopa Brewpub, 735 E. Center Street, Milwaukee. The theme : "Anti-Corporate Corruption Day!" Interesting, strange, bizarre truths for real human beings. Brain Box appeared among a variety of bands and a speech by the Wisconsin Green Party. Brain Box showed a number of thought-provoking video skits concerning the important issues of our time.


Tiny Invisibility Circus - July 2002
The BurningSNOW Center for the Experimental Arts was pleased to host the Tiny Invisibility Circus of New Orleans for an evening performance of magical hijinks. The back lot of the BurningSNOW Center was filled with curious onlookers and children from all around the neighborhood. The two talented performers (with a few local helpers) staged a puppet show, a trapeze act, some fire performance and a parade with a puppet baby elephant.


March 2002--burningSNOW center announces first in a series of fundraisers.

Milwaukee, WI-March 16, 2002--burningSNOW center announces the first in a series of fundraisers: 

Equinox Rox
Fundraiser for the new
burningSNOW center
For the experiMENTAL Arts
2578 N. Weil Street - Saturday, March 16, 2002
9 pee em

New bass-scoop platform with DJ’s z/e/f, Jazzy Mahatma and others

The ULTRAVIOLET TOWER which, when decorated by all the camps in Snowflake Village, will become part of the glowing, snow-capped SNOWFLAKE MOUNTAIN in the center of our village at the Burning Man Festival

Donation 5.00 with costume
10.00 without costume

we concern a certain position miss, from one’s possessions in the skunk

March 2002--burningSNOW center begins series of weekly orientation meetings.

Milwaukee WI - Mar.10th, 2002, 7 to11pm --
PLACE: burningSNOW Center for the Experimental Arts, 2578 North Weil Street Milwaukee. 

A meeting for anyone interested in the Burning Man Festival experience. The Coordinator for Wisconsin will be on hand to answer any questions. Big screen video brings the event to life. Pictures, information, the Survival guide. Meet the Milwaukee Burning Man community as we figure out who will go this year, how to get there, what will we bring.

BURNING MAN is an advanced melting pot of art, technology and culture that takes place each fall around Labor day. 20,000 people gather in the Nevada desert in a temporary art-city devoted to self expression and incredible innovation. It is fair to say that you will encounter more stunning and inspiring ideas in one day than in an average year.

See neon horses walk the desert, pass unscathed through a tube of flame, hear Satan's Calliope, half pulse-jet, half pipe organ, enter seething florescent jungles, get a date at Speed Dating, visit Thunderdome, like in the movie but for real...
Waterboy tours the desert in a man-shaped envelope of water... a thirty foot silverfish with drivers... Emerald City, like the Wizard of Oz, but life size...then you enter the Mind Shaft...multiply this 1000X.  And this is just the first day...Everyone is a participant. It's all free. Screw Paris. Go to Burning Man Festival. At least once. At least find out about it

For information on how to join the local contingent to Burning Man, visit www.clevian.com/snowflake.htm

April 2001--Brain Box Television Covers Cannes

  Glasgow, Scotland - Apr.12 2001-- Brain Box Television today winds down its 2001 tour of Europe. We started in Brussels, at the 19th Annual Belgium International Festival of Fantasy Films (BIFFF) where we interviewed Festival co-founder Freddy about the festival's history, and the impact of the fantasy genre on popular culture.

The next week was spent in Barcelona, preparing a video for the Mayor of Milwaukee about the successful uses of urban planning in preparing a world-class city.

We proceeded on to the MipTV conference in Cannes. This is the largest gathering of television professionals in the world (99 countries, 4000+ exhibitors) and here we gathered information about the future of "television," its convergence with broadband computer access, and the future prospects of live interactive programming for the world market.
The opening reception was lush and sumptuous: the gardens of the Palais Martinez were extended down to the seaside for an exclusive, invitation-only fete, with fountains of champagne, foie gras and every other conceivable absurd luxury. 
Over the course of the conference we had a chance to meet and interview such notables as Mick Fleetwood, Patricia Velasquez, Victoria Silvstead and others, about the emergence of an integrated Europe, the difference in European and American social customs, and a variety of other topics.

We proceeded to Glasgow for the Computers in Art and Design (CADE) conference. We learned about advances in the computer-art interface such as haptic interfaces that allow one to sculpt a virtual object in full 3-D, with force feedback exactly simulating the texture of the virtual material.  

Brain Box will continue to bring coverage of events around the world.

October 2000--Brain Box Television Broadens Appeal to the Stage

Milwaukee, WI – Oct. 20, 2001--Veteran actors Eric Schon, Russian Wulfgar, and poet Desmond Bone completed a series of performances adapting the award-winning Brain Box Television to the live stage.

The works were performed as an opening act for four performances of the Milwaukee Rock Opera Company’s rendition of Pink Floyd’s "The Wall", at the Miramar theater in Milwaukee.

"We are glad to broaden our appeal to the live stage" said writer and producer Schon.

The sketches showed humorous twists on otherwise serious topics. One proposed a tax on bullets, one parodied the pro-life position with a description of a "pre-built" house, one speculated on a future where men can become pregnant.

"We like to broaden people's awareness," said Schon.

July, 2000-- Letter of Commendation from WI Governor Tommy Thompson

The IFT's Brain Box Television received a letter of commendation from Wisconsin Governor Thompson, saying in part: "Your dedication to public broadcasting has proved to be a worthy investment..."
July, 2000---Brain Box Television Wins Top National Award

TUCSON, AZ - July 13, 2000 – Recent events suggest Milwaukee may be emerging as a center for film and video. First there was American Movie, about the life of local film maker Mark Borchardt. Now, a Milwaukee Access television troupe has received the top prize in North America for their work in International programming.

Brain Box Television received the Hometown USA award in a ceremony July 13th at the historic Palace of Music and Art in Tucson, AZ. Previously Brain Box has been a national finalist 5 times and a local winner 8 times in it’s 4 years of existence, and

The prize was granted by the Alliance for Community Media, the largest and oldest group representing the over 300,000 Access television producers in North America.

Brain Box began in 1996 as a means to combines political comedy, local performers, and documentary from around the world. It shows every Tuesday at Ten on Milwaukee Access Television.

July, 1999-- Brain Box Television has received the coveted National Second Place "Judges Choice" award, Entertainment category, in the Hometown USA Video Festival.  The annual festival is sponsored by the Alliance for Community Media, a nationwide organization encompassing all PEG (public, educational, and government) video producers--over 30,000 in all.  Brain Box received the award and plaque, on behalf of the people of Milwaukee, on July 8th 1999, from Alliance's national conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

MATA is one of the largest access facilities in North America with over 300 active producers. In 1999 MATA recieved the "overall excellence" award from the Alliance for Community Media, designating it the top access television facility in the nation in 1999.

Brain Box has previously won three Philo awards in 1996, and one in 1997, and has been a finalist in the Hometown USA competition three times in 1997 and once in 1998.

Barcelona, Spain - April 1999--Brain Box winds down its spring tour of Europe, returning to Milwaukee  with exclusive footage.

In April we flew into Paris, filming at the French Museum of Natural History, and the City of Sciences, the world's largest science museum complex. We also recorded the Champs de Elyssees at night, and visited the scene of the original uprising of the French Revolution, where modern democracy was born.

We proceeded to Venice during the height of the Kosovo war, as NATO warplanes flew constantly overhead. Italy was in the midst of a heated referendum, deciding whether to leave the NATO alliance. And Brain Box was there, bringing you back all the true information we could find.

We traveled down the Italian and French Rivieras, documenting the sensual Mediterranean lifestyle, staying in huge fortresses and little villas converted into youth hostels. We brought you travel tips on how to get around cheaply and safely in Europe.

Then it was on to Barcelona--city of Picasso, Dali, the sculptor Joan Miro, the architect Gaudi. We arrived during "Primavera Disseny", the world-renown Spring Festival of Design. We obtained special permission from the Autonomous Government of the Catalan Region to film the design exhibits there. We secured an interview with Senor Alex Blanche, Assistant Director of the Elissava Design College of Barcelona--an advanced institution that rivals the best design schools of Milan. 

BURNING MAN---In August we drove 2000 miles to cover the Burning Man Festival, an event involving 20,000 artists who gather every year in the middle of the Nevada desert to build an experimental art-city, live in it for a week, then take it down.  We were registered as official press along with CNN, BBC, NPR, and the few other media outlets who could pass the stringent registration requirements. We saw free speech and free expression taken to it's utmost, with stages, musicians, performances, plays, and art installations that defy description. Huge pyramids, periscopes, living fish made of metal, sculptures entirely of flames and sparks, poetry, Mad-Max cars, unbelievable costumes. Our Milwaukee contingent brought laser-beam eyes, talking heads on sticks, an electric surfboard to cross the desert. For next year we are organizing the SNOWFLAKE CONFEDERACY, a group of all Midwetern artists at the Burning Man.

We interviewed Larry Harvey, social visionary and founder of the Burning Man over 14 years ago. He revealed details of the festival's origins that have never before been documented.


October, 1998-- Brain Box Receives Letter of Commendation from US Senator Russ Feingold

The IFT's Brain Box Television received a letter of commendation from US Senator Russell Feingold, saying in part: "The discussion of thoughts and opinions is essential to a strong democracy and community. By producing these programs, you have made a significant contribution...."
October 1998: Brain Box Wins Unprecedented FIVE Philo Awards

 Milwaukee WI - October 1998-- Brain Box received an unprecedented five Philo T. Farnsworth awards from the Milwaukee Access Telecommunications Authority (MATA), for excellence in community programming: 
1.  Best Entertainment Program for Brain Box Episode 30: Barcelona
2.  Best Entertainment Series for Brain Box, the series
3.  Best Documentary Program for Episode 32: People of the Burning Man Parts 1 and 2
4.  Viewer's Choice Award for best documentary program
5.  Best Program of the year.