Education & Philosophical Center

Burning Man’s Educational programs continued to expand in 2016. In addition to supporting content and programming development for the Global Leadership Conference and regional summits (see Global Network), Education built a new volunteer leadership curriculum, began development of new acculturation and leadership trainings, and optimized several existing programs to increase their reach and impact.

2016 Highlights

Theme Camp Leadership Summit: Redesigned for 2016, this event brought together 125 in-person participants in San Francisco and another hundred online to share best practices and educational materials on the trials and triumphs of Theme Camp organization. The event’s presentations were captured on video and shared with the larger theme camp community and the public via Burning Man’s YouTube Channel.

Artist Symposium: As in 2015, the annual Desert Arts Preview event was preceded by a daylong Artist Network Symposium, bringing together over 100 new and experienced artists from across the Burning Man community for panel discussions, moderated talks, presentations, and an open session for networking and connecting. At day’s end the crowd swelled to 367 participants for the always-popular sneak-peak at 2016 Honoraria art at the Desert Arts Preview. These events, too, were captured for sharing with the broader community via our YouTube channel.

Public Speaking Engagements: Each year we are inundated with requests for speakers, interviews and presentations as the world seeks to understand and learn from our culture and the event that spawned it. In 2016 we received 149 such requests, including an invitation for our CEO Marian Goodell to join the Vatican for an onstage conversation at Web Summit 2016 in Portugal, Europe’s largest web conference. We were also honored with invitations to give presentations and participate in panels related to community-building, creative self-expression, working with local governments, visual arts, music, and more. Events included the Moscow Urban Forum, the Bureau voor Reuring in the Netherlands, Italy’s IF! Italians Festival and TEDx Roma, Maker Faire France, and dozens more international and domestic engagements.

Video Storytelling: Burning Man’s YouTube Channel, now with over 28,000 subscribers, continued to grow its collection of documentary content celebrating Burning Man’s history, ethos, educational events, and growing year-round culture. Through the power of the moving image, viewers can experience the story of Burning Man’s evolution in the world; it is here that we share reminders of the past, landmarks for the present, and inspiration for the future. In 2016 our volunteer Documentation Team added some exceptional videos, including the latest installment of our volunteering appreciation series, the LOVE project, focusing on BRC’s Lamplighters. The Profiles in Dust crew also produced a short documentary about the youngest members of the Burning Man community, called “Kids at Burning Man”.

Serving a Global Community: Burners are social learners, and thrive in face-to-face, peer-to-peer learning environments. And yet as the culture expands, the logistics of this become increasingly complex, and we face capacity challenges. Our investments in video and e-learning are meant to offset this imbalance and make Burning Man educational programs available to more people in more time zones.

Philosophical Center

The Philosophical Center is “the conscience and collective memory of Burning Man,” with a collaborative mission of cultural stewardship, scholarship, and community discourse. Informed by the Ten Principles but more fully revealed in our actions, it informs every aspect of our work in the world.

In October, we convened our first Philosophical Center event, “Sustainable Creative Communities: A Burning Man Symposium.” This three-day co-learning event, held at the Esalen Institute on the California coast, convened a deep discussion of art, money, placemaking, generosity, and the future of creative communities. More than 100 invitees participated, including leadership from business organizations, intentional communities and nonprofits, as well as futurist authors, impact investors, crypto-currency experts, creative placemakers, rebel entrepreneurs, and leaders and artists from the Burning Man community and beyond.

The Philosophical Center helped launch the 2016 event season with a blog series exploring themes around “Art, Money, and the Renaissance,” a year-long exploration of the Black Rock City event theme Da Vinci’s Workshop, created by Founder and Chief Philosophical Officer Larry Harvey and Education Director Stuart Mangrum. This weaving together of intellectual exploration and the art theme introduced a deepening level of discussion around the meaning of Burning Man, and the relevance of those philosophies to the everyday lives of our creative community.

The Philosophical Center also presented a plenary session at the 2016 Global Leadership Conference, bringing Larry Harvey, Stuart Mangrum, and resident scribe and philosopher Caveat Magister to the stage for a lively discussion of how this Renaissance theme might color our understanding of art, money, and community in Black Rock City and around the global community.