Art and Civic Engagement

Burning Man Project’s Art and Civic Engagement Department reflects Burning Man’s commitment to creative expression and community activation. The team exists to support the movement as it gains momentum worldwide. We get to explore the influences of Black Rock City as it pertains to art, active community engagement, and civic participation. As we build our own awareness of what is possible, we find ourselves able to extend from the experimental and temporary space of Black Rock City out into the world, where we do such things as develop secure shelters in refugee camps, stimulate interactive and collective art practice in cities, and provide celebrations that enhance social connectedness.

2016 gave us a huge opportunity to examine what we do through the lens of creating improvements to support for artists, extending our work through Burners Without Borders, and setting the building blocks in place that allow us to share our work through civic arts and community events. All of this is possible due to the hundreds of engaged Burning Man participants and community leaders worldwide who give their time, thought, and passion to this work and collaborate with those of us on the Arts and Civic Engagement team.

2016 Highlights

Nantes, France: A $15,000 grant from Burning Man Project helped Jon Sarriguarte and Kyrsten Mate’s Serpent Twins and Android Jones’ Samskara to participate by invitation in Maker Faire Nantes, at the world-renowned Les Machines de l’île Festival, a celebration of larger-than-life artworks and wild mechanical wonders, attended by thousands.

Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain: A Burner delegation of artists and staff accepted an artist exchange and co-learning project with Las Fallas, a traditional Mediterranean celebration of art, fire, and community dating back to the Middle Ages. The celebration features hundreds of burnable sculptures communally built by neighborhoods all across the historical city of Valencia. And similar to the role of fire in our desert home, residents of all ages and backgrounds are brought together by the common allure of fire. In September, representatives and artists from Las Fallas came to Black Rock City, further deepening the cultural connection between these two communities.

Global Arts Grants: Our Global Arts Grants support community-driven works of art across an array of creative disciplines. All over the world, this program funds works that are highly interactive, accessible to the public, and civic in scope, engagement, and creation. We support art that prompts the viewer to act. Since 2003, the Global Art Grants program has awarded over $650,000 to 144 projects in 21 countries and 29 different U.S. States. (approximately 20% of projects are international). In 2016, $78,250 was awarded to 17 global projects.

Burners Without Borders

In 2016, now well integrated into the Art and Civic Engagement department, Burners Without Borders (BWB) helped people around the world organize and take action to produce vital and creative civic projects.

Louisiana Flood Relief: Between August 11 and August 14, 2016, more than two feet of rain fell across Southern Louisiana, affecting more than 150,000 homes. BWB coordinated more than 70 volunteers in the region to assist with disaster relief and long-term recovery.

Mobile Maker Space: BWB created an innovative mobile maker space called the Mobile Resource Unit (MRU), a 20-foot refurbished shipping container filled with tools, advanced manufacturing equipment, and supplies for making prototypes and art. The MRU can be easily shipped to areas in need, such as disaster relief zones, impoverished neighborhoods, or refugee camps. With the right tools, technology, knowledge, and human power available, infrastructure and cultural connection can recover more quickly, paving the way for self-reinforcing development in areas where it is greatly needed.

Nepal: BWB participated in the world’s first Humanitarian Maker Faire in Kathmandu, a city in recovery from a devastating earthquake in 2015. BWB’s participation included building long-term tool and educational resources to the city by helping to build a maker space for our partner organization in Nepal, Communitere. Community support for Burners Without Borders helped to create a micro-grant that provided funds and labor to finish the flooring and doors of the space, which was presented at the Maker Faire.

Global Wave of Service: BWB issued a call at the Global Leadership Conference for this 2016 event, and 12 regional groups answered, leading to multiple civic service events including a graffiti cleanup in Austin, a street store in Detroit, a beach cleanup in Florida, and even a musical street jam in locations around usually-conservative Shanghai.