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.

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 2016: Da Vinci’s Workshop

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”  – Leonardo

Burning Man’s 2016 art theme is inspired by the Italian Renaissance of the middle fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, when an historic convergence of inspired artistry, technical innovation and enlightened patronage launched Europe out of medievalism and into modernity. Our story will focus on the republic of Florence, for it was here, in a city-state of about the same size and population as Black Rock City, that humanist ideals, a rediscovery of science, and funding from a newly moneyed class of entrepreneurs fueled a revolutionary cultural movement that redefined Western civilization. Five centuries later, we will attempt to recreate this potent social alchemy by combining Burning Man art, maker culture and creative philanthropy to make Black Rock City the epicenter of a new renaissance.

Turning Man illustration by Andrew Johnstone
Theme and text by Larry Harvey and Stuart Mangrum. Illustration by Andrew Johnstone.

The parallels between these two precocious cities are remarkable. Of all the cities of the Renaissance, Florence is perhaps most notable for a new kind of social mobility; not only was it governed democratically, it was also possible for artists to rise through the ranks of society by apprenticing in workshops led by master craftsmen who belonged to guilds. Botticelli was the son of a tanner, and any persevering artist might ascend from humble origins to gain the status of a culture hero, one whose work might be commissioned by the wealthy Wool Guild or be paid for by princes or popes. In the name of art, class barriers were cast aside.

Florentines were famous for their love of beauty – not only for the value they attached to public art, but for their love of costume, pageantry, and an idealized admiration of the human body as a measure of all things. Florentine artist Leonardo da Vinci sketched what is perhaps the definitive icon of this era. Inspired by his study of the Roman architect Vitruvius, he mapped the ratios of the human body to produce the image of a man, his limbs outstretched to span a universal circle. This year’s Man will emulate the symbol of Vitruvian Man. As nearby bell towers toll the hours, we will invite participants to operate an elaborate system of human-powered gears and pulleys that will slowly rotate Burning Man a full 360 degrees on the vertical plane, as if it formed the axle and spokes of an enormous spinning wheel.

The creation of a giant Turning Man is especially appropriate, since many famous Florentine artists were also civil engineers. Filippo Brunelleschi, originally enrolled in a guild and trained as a goldsmith, went on to design and construct the city’s cathedral – an unprecedented structure; it became a wonder of the world. Tasked with raising and assembling four million bricks in order to complete its egg-shaped dome, he invented dozens of diverse machines. Likewise, the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci are replete with engineering sketches – including the prototype of a helicopter. This fusion of art, science and technology also characterizes Black Rock City. In 2016, the Burning Man will be surrounded by a public square, a piazza lined with workshops, each representing a guild. Our guilds, unlike the traditional guilds of Florence, will be self-invented and devoted to the interactive manufacture of whatever participating artists and inventors can imagine. We will again invite our regional communities to join in this effort, and will reach out to members of the maker movement to help create this interactive environment.

Florentine guild ensignia
The Medici Lion flanked by insignia of the Merchant, Wool, Silk and Stonemason guilds

The signature of Florence was its civic pride. As much as this was marked by popular participation, it was also manifested through philanthropy. Lorenzo de Medici was a leader of Florence’s first family. A poet, a banker and a politician, he was famous for befriending artists and advancing their careers. This same pattern of philanthropy has long been a part of the little-known history of Black Rock City. Over many years, private donors, with a remarkable lack of fanfare, have quietly funded some of the most beloved artworks that have honored our city. We believe that what has long been private should be made more public.

In 2016 we will conduct a social experiment, inviting artists and patrons to settle around and activate a public plaza in the city. We will call on them to join together, pooling their resources to create a welcoming environment at the plaza’s center – a sheltered place where all our citizens may take their ease amid the amenities of high civilization. Thus we will establish common ground where participants can be united by their shared experience. To quote from Leonardo’s notebook, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

This essay is the first in a series of blog posts that will explore aspects of the 2016 theme. Details of our 2016 Honoraria Art Grant program will be announced soon on the Burning Man website.

Preliminary BRC Census Results from Burning Man 2015: Older, More Experienced, Less Californian Than We Thought

censuslogoThe BRC Census Lab conducts research on participants in Black Rock City and online after the event. We ask lots of questions about demographics and people’s experiences, because we want to accurately describe the community and the culture of Black Rock City.

Below are the preliminary results from the Random Sample, the short paper form filled out by randomly selected participants entering Black Rock City. This is just the beginning of the 2015 data that will be released by the Census Lab. But for us to produce more findings, we need you — YES, YOU — to participate in the Black Rock City Census online survey, which is live now at If you attended Burning Man 2015 and have not already completed this survey, please take the time to do so now! The survey will close October 15. The more people who complete it, the more accurate our data will be. If everyone participates then it will be a true Census of Black Rock City!

The preliminary results are based on 2,270 forms collected by Census volunteers from randomly selected vehicles along Gate Road and Burner Express buses entering Black Rock City between Sunday, August 24 and Tuesday, September 1. This is the first year we’ve been able to begin random sampling five days before the event officially started, which means this year’s data will include a larger number of early arrivers to Black Rock City. This may explain some of the differences observed in this year’s results. The final results of the Random Sample may differ slightly from these preliminary ones. (more…)

BREAKING: Shameless Marketers are Shameless

Image by (Creative Commons)
Image by (Creative Commons)

While we were on playa this year, a certain restaurant chain decided to launch an advertisement clearly designed to go viral specifically by leveraging the creative efforts of Black Rock City’s citizens — in order to hawk sandwich-shaped products.

As creative and funny as it was (we had a good laugh, we’ll admit), clever unfortunately doesn’t trump our commitment to protecting our community from commercial exploitation. We’ve been fielding anguished calls and emails from participants and horrified artists whose creations were used in the video without permission, a number of whom who have issued take-down requests of their own accord. We can laugh at ourselves. But we’re not laughing when a corporation exploits the artwork of others under the guise of poking fun at our event.

The shameless flouting of our Decommodification Principle to hawk sandwich coupons is equally unfortunate (and unnecessary to the purported “parody”). The Burning Man name, and the designs of the Man and Black Rock City, are core affinity symbols of our culture that we protect precisely so they won’t be used in ad campaigns. So as we always do in these situations, we sent a letter to the company to explain Decommodification and ask that they remove the Man and our other intellectual property from their advertising. We hope they’ll quickly comply, as most companies do when they realize how antithetical this sort of commercialism is to our culture. (We’re dismayed they haven’t taken any action yet — but of course they’re trying to collect every last page view.)

Thank you to those who brought this to our attention. Given the increasing number of people (and we use that term generously) who can’t resist the temptation to exploit our growing community by using symbols and imagery of the event to promote their products and services, we appreciate when you help us find them. If you encounter another instance that doesn’t smell quite right, let us know by emailing

So while we appreciate the creativity, we sure do wish it wasn’t attached to a commercial product.

Black Rock City 2015 Traffic Update

We are experiencing significant traffic delays due to slow vehicles on Highway 447. Estimated delays are up to 8 hours to reach Gerlach from Wadsworth. We recommend participants wait in Reno or elsewhere for several hours until the congestion is cleared.

For your own safety, if you’re stopped on Highway 447, please remain in your vehicle. And do not park on the shoulder of Interstate 80 — find an off ramp and park on a side road.

We will update this message with new information as soon as it becomes available.

You can also hear updates by tuning in to BMIR or by following @bmantraffic on Twitter.

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 2:00am]

At this time, the drive from Wadsworth to Gerlach is taking about 5 1/2 hours. Stay safe out there!

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 9:00am]

Travel times between Wadsworth and Gerlach dropped below 3 hours sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and we lifted recommended driving restrictions on Highway 447. C’mon out!

Top photo by Kara Newhouse (Creative Commons license)

Get the Info You Need as You Approach Black Rock City

Traffic at the Gate, 2010 (Photo by George Post)
Traffic at the Gate, 2010 (Photo by George Post)

Want to know what’s up as you approach Black Rock City? Yeah you do. We’ll begin top-of-the-hour (because that’s what fancy news outlets do) news reports with traffic and weather starting at midnight tonight. Because these are the things you want to know.

Pro tip: Download the iHeartRadio app and tune into BMIR before turning on to Highway 447 so you’ll have a sense of how long Gate wait time is.

When you turn on to Gate Road, switch to GARS 95.1 FM for all the info you need to prepare, plus hear our latest public service announcements (PSAs, in the parlance).

Once you’re in Black Rock City, tune into BMIR 94.5 FM radio.

And remember: the Black Rock City gate officially opens at 10 a.m. Sunday — don’t arrive before then if you don’t have an Early Arrival pass. Yes, really.

We look forward to seeing you on playa!

BMIR is Now Broadcasting from Black Rock City!

BMIR sticker by JKanizzle
BMIR sticker by JKanizzle

Missing your playa? Want to feel a little more connected? Tune in to Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR), now broadcasting live from Black Rock City. Here’s how:

  1. BMIR website.
    There’s a flash player that will launch automatically, but you can pause that and click the Listen Now link that will launch in the audio player of your choice. There is also a BMIR iPhone app and a BMIR Android player, just search the Apple App Store or Google Play (apps are free and collect no user data). These are all 128 kbps streams so if you are using one of our mobile apps and are not on Wi-Fi it will eat data.
  2. iHeart Radio app – available for all mobile platforms.
    You need to download the iHeart app for a NO commercials broadcast, with no account creation required. Just search for BMIR or Burning Man. This is 48 kbps so it’s less of a strain on your data plan. (Only available in the US.)
  3. iHeart Radio website (Flash).
    Also 48 kbps, and only available in the US. Once again there are NO commercials and no need to create an account. Just search for BMIR or Burning Man.
  4. Over the air at 94.5 FM when you get to the playa. Bring a radio for your camp!