Theresa Duncan Hired as Burning Man’s Director of Philanthropic Engagement

2014San Francisco, Calif. — Burning Man is pleased to announce that Theresa Duncan will be joining the nonprofit organization’s leadership team as the Director of Philanthropic Engagement.

In this role, Theresa will lead the development and execution of a fundraising strategy which honors Burning Man’s culture of gifting while supporting its global mission. Theresa will manage the fundraising team and related programs, including annual, major gift and capital campaign initiatives.

Theresa is an expert in fundraising development for environmental and philanthropic causes. She comes to us by way of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, where she worked for 13 years, moving up through the organization to become Vice President of Development. Theresa led her team at the Aquarium in securing $12 million in gifts annually and defining the strategy for the Aquarium’s largest capital campaign to date. A pragmatic optimist and lifelong advocate for social justice, the environment, and the arts, Theresa earned her Masters of Business Administration and her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from California State University, Long Beach.

In 2014 and 2015, Theresa camped with Camp Monkey Business, known for their soft rock happy hours, an effervescent “bananaphone” setlist, and unpredictable monkey shenanigans. “The spirit of giving throughout the Burning Man community is abundant and imaginative,” says Theresa. “I am inspired by the possibilities that exist with such a philanthropically engaged community especially as the Burning Man culture extends off-playa to communities across the globe.”

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Photo courtesy of Matt Scott.

“As calls for Burning Man’s engagement in the world have outpaced our organization’s capacity, we have had to look seriously at our capacity to respond in different ways including philanthropically,” said Burning Man’s Chief Engagement Officer Marian Goodell. “Philanthropy and giving are inherent to Burning Man and we intend to build a department that supports our culture of giving in a wide variety of creative ways.”

This is a key time for the Burning Man organization to develop a flourishing fundraising operation that provides more support for projects in all of our focus areas, including arts, civic engagement, the global network of regional events and community leaders, and the annual event in Black Rock City. We’re excited to support Theresa and her team as they shape and execute a fundraising strategy that honors Burning Man values while bringing in the resources we need to make an impact on a global scale.

Get Playa Photos that Last 100+ Years at the Wet Plate Project

What did you bring home from Burning Man? Definitely a sheen of dust and hopefully new perspectives and friends and unforgettable memories. But how about a piece of metal with your image on it that will last for hundreds of years? If you were lucky enough to run into Brian Sullivan’s roving darkroom on the playa, then you definitely went home with a memento like no other.


For four years, Sullivan and his small crew have been gifting one-of-a-kind wet plate photographs to the people of Black Rock City. For those who encountered his project out on the playa, the 165-year-old technology felt just as miraculous as taking pictures on our phones. The old-fashioned technique transported us to the dawn of photography, in a place with as much artistic potential as that exciting era. (more…)

Kim Cook Hired as Burning Man’s Director of Art & Civic Engagement

Kim Cook Portrait-1

San Francisco, Calif. — Burning Man is excited to announce the hire of Kim Cook, the organization’s new Director of Art & Civic Engagement, who will join us at our San Francisco headquarters beginning December 7.

The Director of Art & Civic Engagement is a new role, created to align and increase the impact of the organization’s year-round arts and civics initiatives like Burners Without Borders and Burning Man Arts, including on-playa and off-playa arts programming. Kim and her team will work with artists and community leaders to increase opportunities for funding, collaboration and learning.

Kim Cook has extensive nonprofit experience in executing innovative projects that celebrate the intersection between arts, culture, and civic life. Most recently she served as President and CEO of the Arts Council of New Orleans, where she blended art, design, and technology to address civic challenges. A cross-sector, multi-disciplinary activist by nature, Kim has been the the Artistic Director of Theater Artaud in San Francisco, Executive Director of the Oakland Youth Chorus, and Associate Director for the Nonprofit Finance Fund, where she managed arts and culture initiatives across the country. Kim has a BA in the Performing Arts and MA in Arts and Consciousness.

Raised in Berkeley, Kim has long recognized and appreciated the role Burning Man has played in creating new social and cultural models, and in supporting and celebrating personal creativity. She made her first trek to Black Rock City in 2015. In her words, “Burning Man creates an environment that heightens awareness through action, that fosters moving beyond mental constructs and into lived experiences in ways that change people. Changing people and their practice can change the world.”

We look forward to working with Kim as she applies her valuable skills and experience to support our widening community of Burning Man artists and civic leaders. Please join us in welcoming Kim Cook.

Burning Man Takes a Look Inside

IMGL3864You can’t get to a particular spot along the coast in Big Sur in any of the usual and normal ways.

You can’t, for example, just head down Route 1 listening to the stern yet comforting voice of the GPS guiding you confidently, determinedly, to your destination. Because you will be told that you have arrived when you are right in the middle of one of the many bridges that span the coastal highway, and if you take the suggested right turn, you will plummet to the sea.

And you can’t just open a map on your phone and find out exactly where you are because … silly you … there hasn’t been cell service for miles. Many miles.

So you continue on for a bit, hoping for the best, hoping for a sign, hoping to be able to find a place to turn around, if it comes to that. But how many more miles should we go? We were due at a certain time, and that time has arrived, and we don’t know if we’ve missed the entrance to where we were supposed to be, or whether we simply haven’t come to it yet and should just keep going.

Eventually we decide to do things the old-fashioned way. We make a U-turn and return to the entrance of the state park we whizzed by earlier and ask: “Have we passed Esalen yet?”



We’re conflicted even just saying the word.

We know a bit about the Esalen Institute, more by anecdote than formal inquiry. We know it as a center of the Human Potential Movement, we know that it might be the high church of the religion of no religion, and we know that writers and thinkers and questers of all natures have come here on spiritual journeys. And while we would never question the motivations behind a spiritual journey, we’ve also speculated, as a schoolboy might, about the nature of those activities, both psychological and otherwise.

If you have to be someplace, this isn't the worst place to be
If you have to be someplace, this isn’t the worst place to be

And oh yes of course, we’ve heard that Esalen is spectacularly beautiful, soothing to the soul and body, a place of power and inspiration.

What we don’t know in this moment, though, is how the locals view the place, and the local now standing before us is a big-hatted park ranger who is already a little annoyed with us because we hadn’t come to a full stop at the guard station quickly enough for his liking. So we’re off on the wrong foot and now we’re asking about that Esalen place, and we’re not sure at all at how this query will be received.

“No, you haven’t passed it yet,” the ranger says maybe a little too loudly but thankfully non-judgmentally. “It’s about 20 minutes down the road. There’s a sign.”


Megan Miller is the director of communications for Burning Man. She is bright and engaging, and she tells us that she first came to Esalen at the age of three with her mom, who was making a trek from their home in Alaska to Mexico. Esalen was a stop along the way. It was supposed to be a brief visit, but it wound up lasting longer. Megan is standing in front of about 50 people in a large tent that is about 15 feet from the edge of a cliff that dives to the sea. It is dark, and you can’t see, but you can hear the surf pounding the rocks below. (more…)

A New Team for Preserving Burning Man’s Volunteer-Driven Culture

The Community Services team (photo by John Curley)
The Community Services team (photo by John Curley)

Burning Man is launching a new all-volunteer team designed to preserve and support Burning Man’s essence as a volunteer-driven organization and to teach those values and practices. I sat down with Burning Man co-founder Harley DuBois to learn more about Burning Man’s volunteer spirit and how this new group will carry it forward.

JM: What is the new team, and why is now the time to create it?

Harley DuBois: We’re in the third phase of volunteerism at Burning Man. We’ve written a manual that distills what we learned in the first phase, as we built the event and its culture. The second phase was about succession planning for the founders, bringing in new blood, not being ossified. But now, becoming a nonprofit changed the landscape. With our expanded, global scope and mission to create positive cultural change beyond the playa, we’ve grown so much that we need to recommit to who we are, and who we are is volunteers. Every one of us was a volunteer at the beginning, but the organization is evolving quickly. We have to infuse the spirit of volunteerism into everything we’re doing. It has to remain part of our DNA, or we’re going to lose our identity.

Volunteerism was never hardwired into the organization itself, because the spirit of it was so innate to the founders that we all had our own ways of doing it. Now that we’re reorganizing, we can hardwire in volunteerism. This new team is our first effort to do that. (more…)

Be a Part of the Artumnal Gathering

Dinner guests at the Artumnal Gathering, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Leori Gill)
Dinner guests at the Artumnal Gathering, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Leori Gill)

The Artumnal Gathering in San Francisco, California, is our annual gala celebration and the primary fundraiser for Burning Man’s worldwide public art projects. This success of this spectacular event entirely depends on the generosity of our community. The event features hundreds of artists and volunteers who donate their precious time and expertise.

This year’s event is sold out, which is great news! It means we’re well on our way to our goal of greatly increasing funding for our Global Art Grants and Civic Arts programs in 2016. If a ticket was not accessible to you, you can still offer a valuable contribution and enjoy the event. Volunteer!

Volunteers receive free entry to the Main Event (9:45 pm-Late.) Below are the current volunteer shift needs for the Artumnal Gathering. If interested, please email the Artumnal Gathering Volunteer Coordinator, Moxie, at

o  Event Load In / Set Up – includes heavy lifting   ___ 6am – Noon   ___ 7am – 1pm

o  Décor Load In / Set Up   ___7am-1pm  ___8am-2pm   ___ 10am-4pm

o  Gallery Load In / Set Up ___8am – 2pm   ___10am – 4pm

o  Catering Set Up ___9am-1:30pm  ___1pm-5:30pm

o  Catering Plate Clearing (during dinner portion of event) ___6pm-10pm

o  Banquet Clearing/Room Change (dedicated team of 10)  ___8:30pm-11pm

o  Auction Support  ___5pm-9pm ___11pm-2am

o  Gallery Support ___4pm-8pm  ___8pm-12am   ___11pm-2am

o  Check In / Door Support  ___4pm- 8pm  ___8pm-12am   ___11pm-2am

o  Coat Check    ___9pm-12:30am   ___12am-3:30am

o  Gallery Strike ___1am-5:30am

o  Strike Team – Post Event  ___2am-7am

o  Event Load Out – includes heavy lifting  ___2am-8am

Thanks and see you at the Artumnal Gathering!

2016 Global Art Grants Cycle is now Live!

Burning Man Arts proudly announces the opening of our 2016 grant cycle for our Global Art Grants program. We are accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOIs). Please refer to our grant criteria for a description of eligible proposals, and for an online example of the LOIs form and questions. LOIs are due December 1, 2015, and full proposals will be due in February, 2016. Grantees will be announced in Spring, 2016 (exact dates TBA).

2015 Global Art Grantee, Art Shanty Town / On-Ice, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of the artists.)
2015 Global Art Grantee, Art Shanty Town / On-Ice, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of the artists.)

We are pleased to debut a new online system (which will also be used by the Black Rock City Honoraria program) that will track all art project proposals, for both on and off-playa projects. This system allows us to move data easily between art programs, facilitating our support of the full scope of each art project’s lifecycle. More good news: this system will be free of charge to applicants (our previous provider charged each applicant a small fee). More information about this process is forthcoming.

About the Opportunity

2012 Global Art Grantees, Symphony in D Minor, Philadelphia, PA. (photo courtesy of the artists.)
2012 Global Art Grantees, Symphony in D Minor, Philadelphia, PA. (photo courtesy of the artists.)

The Global Art Grants program funds highly interactive, community-driven works of art that prioritize community involvement in their development, execution, and display. It does not fund art for the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City (the Black Rock City Honoraria program does). We fund art that is accessible to the public, civic in scope, and prompts the viewer to act. We like art that can be experienced in more ways than visually — art that is touched, heard or experienced as well as viewed. We prioritize funding art that involves the audience in its conception, creation, and presentation and that addresses an existing need of the community. The program offers small grants (between $500 and $10,000, most often around $5,000) to artists, collectives, and organizations. If this sounds like your project, consider applying for a grant. More information is available on the criteria and instructions page.

Global Art Grants History

2010 Global Art Grantees, RUTA, A Santa Fe Bus Opera, Sante Fe, NM. (photo courtesy of the artists.)
2010 Global Art Grantees, RUTA, A Santa Fe Bus Opera, Sante Fe, NM. (photo courtesy of the artists.)

The Burning Man Arts Global Art Grants program began when the founders of Burning Man created the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) in 2001 to support and promote the worldwide proliferation of art similar to that which they had seen develop in Black Rock City. They felt compelled to champion similarly forward-thinking public art projects with communities that stood to benefit. Since the first grants were awarded in 2002, the program has funded 126 public art projects in 27 countries. This program has grown from granting $11,000 in awards in 2002 to $100,000 in awards in 2015, giving to approximately 10–20 projects each year.

Grantee Projects

2009 Global Art Grantees, Cardboardia, Moscow, Russia, and other locations. (photo courtesy of the artists.)
2009 Global Art Grantees, Cardboardia, Moscow, Russia, and other locations. (photo courtesy of the artists.)

Our Grantees represent diversity, both in their chosen media and in their strategies of bringing art into their communities. Each project responds to a community’s interests, needs, current issues, concerns, and environment in an innovative and unique way. Read more about our wonderful past grantees. While we are always excited to hear about new approaches to interactive art, we encourage those who are interested in applying for a grant to peruse this archive to get a sense of the characteristics shared by the projects that we typically fund.

We eagerly await this year’s crop of proposals and can’t wait to read about your project!

Welcome to the World of Burning Man Jewelry

When we think about the art of Burning Man, we think BIG, as in large-scale installations, which we enjoy for a week, then remember with the help of photographs and videos. There is another art form on the playa which doesn’t disappear post-event, but lives on, carried around the world by Burners who received gifts of jewelry. Twenty one years of playa jewelry is documented in a new book:

The Jewelry of Burning Man


Karen Christians, Author
Christine Kristen aka LadyBee, Editor, Curator, Historian
George Post, Photographer
Printed by Global Interprint, Santa Rosa

Facebook page, Jewelry of Burning Man


IMG_4084This glossy 9 X 12 hard cover volume, 192 pages, features 300 full color photographs exploring a collection of over 1000 works of Burning Man jewelry. Our book includes an introduction by Thomas Mann, well-known jeweler from New Orleans; a chapter on Karen’s camp, Oasis 47 and the jewelry classes she teaches there;  a chapter on materials and process; photos of LadyBee’s 20 year collection of playa jewelry; and a Maker section in which 52 makers tell us why they make and gift jewelry on the playa and show us their work. We knew our book would be an extensive document of this phenomenon, but it’s also a very good exploration of Gifting. After reading the makers’ stories one has a really good sense of our gift economy and why it’s so powerful.



I met Karen, the founder of the jewelry school Metalwerx in Boston, in 2009, when I saw the listing for her jewelry workshop at Oasis 47 in the What Where When guide. As a jeweler I was very interested in her offering, and I attended a class. Participants were given one of Sumner Silverman’s theme-based cast bronze pendants, and taught how to fill their sectioned backs with colored resin. After buffing them, we each left with a beautiful pendant. Karen’s friend Sumner, a self-taught wax carver and goldsmith, has been designing and carving these pendants since 2006, the first year these classes were offered. They are a lovely chronology of Burning Man themes; all are featured in our book. As of 2015, Karen and Sumner have taught hundreds of students and have gifted over 3000 pendants on the playa.

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A few years later, when Karen became aware of my extensive collection of playa jewelry, she approached me about creating a book, and our project began. George Post had published his own book of Burning Man photographs, Dancing with the Playa Messiah; as a professional craft photographer, he was Karen’s first choice to photograph the jewelry, and joined us in what would become a two-year adventure online and on both coasts.

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We worked with many jewelers already known to us, and also put out a call for jewelry on Karen’s website, discovering other makers that way. We spent many hours in George’s East Bay studio, photographing 20 years of playa jewelry. Karen flew in from Boston several times to work with us, and she created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for printing. George and I went to Boston for the public launch of the campaign, and we were treated to a weekend at Sumner Silverman’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. We’ve met many wonderful makers, whose stories are told in our book. I asked each maker why they make and gift jewelry on the playa and how this experience has affected them; their stories are moving and sometimes surprising.


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At Burning Man 2014, we organized a Maker Reception at my camp, the Mansonian Institute, which proved to be a very popular gathering for many of the makers in our book. Everyone got to show off their jewelry, much gifting took place, and many friendships were born. You can view Debbie Wolff’s photos of the event here. By popular demand, we held a second reception at Karen and Sumners’ camp, Oasis 47, in 2015. At the second reception we were able to present the makers with copies of our book, published in the spring. George Post’s photos: (on Facebook, on Dropbox)




Working on the book has been a rich experience, and we’re extremely pleased with the result. There’s a world of playa jewelry out there, and each year this world gets bigger. I collected more jewelry than ever this year, and we’re hoping to produce a second volume of our book in a few years.

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We are grateful to all of the makers in our community; thanks ever so much for your creativity and generosity. Please enjoy our book.

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