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…)

VIDEO: Welcome Home — A Reflection on Burning Man

It’s easy to think of Burning Man as something that pushes against the tides of mainstream Western culture. But it’s not as simple as that. One look at the art in Black Rock City, with its brooding inversions of churches, temples, and other religious symbols, and you’ll see that Burning Man is deeply in conversation with the traditions and values of the West. Sometimes it’s heated, sure. But it can also be soulful, even transcendent. Just watch this sermon by Brian Baker, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, California, from right after he returned from his first Burn in 2015, and observe how powerful a mixture this can be:

Tales from the Playa: Live in Black Rock City

2:22 Amethyst Portal in 2011 (Photo by Mr. Science)
2:22 Amethyst Portal in 2011 (Photo by Mr. Science)

Announcing the first-ever Tales from the Playa: Live in Black Rock City! Come sit in a soothing installation way out on the edge of BRC to hear and share the dreamiest Burning Man stories.

What: Telling Burning Man stories in a far-out vibrating portal
Where: 11:55 Reformation Portal, 11:55 & way out there
When: Burning Man 2015: Monday at 9am and 9pm, Friday at 9am and 9pm

Playa stories aren’t just the what of what happens out there. They’re also the why. The unbelievable events and encounters that happen in BRC become the stories we bring home with us, and they’re the fuel that brings us back. Come share some!

Perhaps you’ve heard stories of the portal? That’s where we’re holding these storytelling sessions. Harlan Emil Gruber’s portals have been the sites of some of my earliest, my wildest, and my most meaningful playa experiences. So, indeed, have Kathy D’Onofrio’s hauntingly beautiful sculptural installations (here’s a great blog post Curt Mekemson wrote about one). So this year, we’re in for a treat, because these two artists are working together. We’ll tell our tales from the playa inside the portal’s humming amplifier, and we’ll have an otherworldly audience of alien beings paying rapt attention.

You’ve got four chances. Monday and Friday, 9 am and 9 pm. From the Man, aim just a tick to the left of the Temple and walk or bike straight out… way, way out, and you’ll find the encircling walls of the portal. Come on inside, and bring your Burning Man stories.

See you out there.

Tales from the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.

Replenish the Wood We Use at the Temple of Promise

For two years, Art for Trees has undertaken the admirable task of planting trees to replenish a portion of the wood we burn in Black Rock City’s Temple every year. After planting more than 5,100 trees so far, the project is back for the third time, so you can contribute to replenish the wood for the Temple of Promise.

bem3xhwaul9rowpxs0usAppropriately, this year’s Temple will have a stand of sculpted trees in its heart, initially with bare branches, which visitors will drape with messages they’ve written on cloths, creating a shady grove of weeping willows. This Temple is already a tribute to the all-important Burner principle of protecting the environment, so supporting Art for Trees’ efforts this year couldn’t be more fitting.

Check out the Art for Trees Indiegogo campaign and consider planting some trees in honor of the Temple of Promise.

And wouldn’t it be great to see this kind of project become widespread as a way to offset some of the environmental impact of our whole event? Let’s all try to come up with at least one more way to do that this year.

Video: 15 Years of National Conservation Lands

We’re so fortunate to be able to hold our event in the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. The U.S. Government designates some of the country’s most scenic, culturally rich, scientifically important and yet least known public lands as National Conservation Lands. We are proud to build Black Rock City in one of these areas, and we’re equally committed to respecting and protecting this special place.

2015 marks the 15th year of the NCL system, and our partners at the Bureau of Land Management made this video to celebrate:

From the BLM:

This year marks an important milestone for the BLM’s National Conservation Lands – America’s newest conservation system is 15 years old. Today, these National Conservation Lands include 874 federally recognized areas and more than 30 million acres of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert.

We invite you to celebrate with us, and VISIT, SHARE, and SUPPORT your National Conservation Lands throughout the year.

Will You Be a Part of This Year’s Temple?


The race to build the Temple of Promise is coming down to the wire, and it needs more funds to bring this ambitious project to life. The Temple is the spiritual core of Black Rock City, and by helping create it, you can touch the heart of everyone there. Please donate now. If you do, you’ll feel the pride of being part of one of our culture’s best stories.

This story has been told before, but a culture’s best stories should be told over and over again. Here’s one version:

There once were some artists who had lost a friend. Out of their pain came a beautiful idea that never existed before. The artists lived in a city in the desert that only existed for one week a year. The beautiful idea was a temple on the very edge of the city, where people could go if the city center got to be too much for them. So they built it. And the people came to the temple when the city got to be too much for them, and they smiled, and they cried, and they left prayers and messages and offerings, and at the end of the week, the temple burned up in a great fire as the rest of the city disappeared.

The next year, when the city came back into being, the temple was still there. It was a different temple, but it was the same Temple.

Fifteen years later, the Temple still appears in Black Rock City every year. But it doesn’t appear suddenly, by magic. It takes months and months of work. It takes hundreds of hands and thousands of dollars and tons and tons of materials. The people of the city have to come together, pool their resources, volunteer their time, and spread the word far and wide in order for the Temple to be there when everyone gets to Black Rock City.

Are you going to Black Rock City? Have you ever been? Do you want to go someday? Then the Temple needs your help.

temple1This year’s Temple crew has raised a bunch of their funds and put in tons of work. They still need more. After their first successful campaign, they’ve launched another crowd-funding campaign to show us how far they’ve come and enlist our help in carrying them the rest of the way. Soon, they’re going to ask again for more help with a precious, specific piece they’re building, and all who have ever fallen in love with a Temple will want to be a part of it.

Please donate to the new Temple of Promise Indiegogo campaign today, and stay tuned for more ways you can help.

Those who are interested in giving large, tax-deductible gifts to the Temple of Promise can do so on templeofpromise.org.

Everyhere Logistics: They Bring the Art to You

nightmarketBurners know how much art one can pack into a box truck, but Everyhere Logistics is about to raise the bar. This team, spread out all across the United States, is rolling out multiple convoys of box trucks full of pop-up art exhibitions to traverse the country, descending upon a different U.S. city each Saturday in August. In each city, the trucks will join up with a local Lost Horizon Night Market, an interactive art carnival experience that will welcome in the locals. The point is to demonstrate how portable and scalable even big, inspiring art experiences can be.

“There is a myth that viable art is only found on the coasts and in a select few big cities,” the trailer video says. “Help Everyhere Logistics shatter that myth.”

These people want to build a national network of such Night Markets, to make them a part of the fabric of city life, and nailing this crazy trucking part would enable the free flow of art and artists across this network. You can help them make that happen on Kickstarter for just a few more days.

Homeless Advocacy Art Bus Is Bringing New Life to Your Streets

Artists give street performance in Downtown Washington, DC
Artists give street performance in Downtown Washington, DC

Here’s the thing about art: It turns an ordinary perception into an encounter. In art mode, you aren’t just sensing objects anymore, you’re in a conversation with another creative being. This is how the Homeless Advocacy Art Bus wants to transform the all-too-common perception of homelessness.

This converted school bus will show up in your city and unload a party of performers and poets, some wearing masks, others showing their faces. They’ll open a pop-up gallery of sculptures, writings and drawings made of the stuff of city experiences. These artists are homeless, but they’re no longer invisible. You no longer want to just walk past them. Now you’ll stop, watch, listen and talk. Won’t you get on the bus?

The Homeless Advocacy Art Bus has no Burning Man affiliations whatsoever, but it’s exactly the kind of thing we want to see everywhere. They’re using art to snap people out of complacent states and getting them to confront the reality of homelessness, but doing it with color and story and creative force. The world needs much more of this.

The project is trying to raise $57,000 to get the bus on the road, starting in their home base of D.C. but eventually rolling out to cities across America. Please support their StartSomeGood campaign by June 30.