The Bear Returns

Concept Illustration of Ursa Mater for Burning Man 2017

Concept Illustration of Ursa Mater for Burning Man 2017

URSA MATER Proposal for Burning Man 2017

Ursa Mater is a 12 foot tall grizzly bear sow sculpture posed in a sitting position. She will take up a footprint almost as wide as she is tall. Nestled into her front and back legs are her two cubs. The tallest is 6 foot tall, while the other with its head bent is 5 foot tall. The mother's gaze will be directed toward those who approach her and one of the cubs will also share that gaze as the other cub looks down, perhaps about to rest. 

The installation will be made of a steel skeleton with a body of styrofoam as the carving medium.  We will use cement stucco as a coating to take on the over 200,000 pennies that give the impression of fur. New pennies will be used for the fur of the cubs

For Burning Man 2016, Mr and Mrs Ferguson Art created Ursa Major, a 14 foot tall grizzly sow reaching for the sky. We were pleased to see how well received she was by the citizens of Black Rock City. They told us they enjoyed the discovery upon close inspection, that the bear's fur was made of pennies and that the tactile experience made them want to draw their hands over her again and again. Pennies unlike other metals, with their round shape combined with a tight placement pattern felt soft to the touch, Also when rubbed, the pennies could made a pinging sound somewhat like a toy piano. 

This encore to the playa in 2017 is another chapter of our grizzly bear's character. She has now produced two cubs and folds them into her against the cold or a perceived threat.  A reinforcing statement of this newly minted pair is that they are made of newly minted pennies, contrasting with their mother who is made of various shades of aged pennies. 

Ursa Mater is not a climbable installation. She is made for on the ground discovery, touching, hugging and photo opportunities.  Our sculpture in 2016 was a gathering place for events during the week and she was a beacon for those trying to find the Man Burn on Saturday night.  Ursa Mater will be as well lit at night by four light boxes as used previously for Ursa Major,  though this year those posts will be adorned and have info panels attached to their tops crediting those who gave to and worked on the project.


A statement of a mother's love and protection is both endearing and powerful.  We hope this makes Ursa Mater a refuge for those seeking a moment of peace, a hug or meeting others of like need.

She is also a reminder that a mother can be vulnerable as well. Foras much as a participant might find refuge in this installation, we hope they can also become aware and informed about bears and advocate in helping to prevent the disappearance of the endangered grizzly bears who inspired this art.  

Most of Ursa Major's fur was made up from donations of pennies from over 100 friends and family. We understand that their gifts were to help us create the art and give a satisfaction that they contributed to the experience at Burning Man. Thanks though to the sale of Ursa Major, we were able to parlay the donations of these pennies toward doing good things for the grizzly bear. Through a partnering program called the American Friends of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, $2,000 Canadian dollars has been donated for use in grizzly bear studies and buying land for bear corridors in British Columbia. This program was highly recommended to us by a Burner who is a Canadian Park ranger who has witnessed the work of the Nature Conservancy. 

For Ursa Mater, regardless of pennies donated or if there is a subsequent sale, we will be donating to the Nature Conservancy in gratitude for bears