Bringing art to Black Rock City isn’t for the faint of heart. Managing the logistics required in constructing art in a desert far from a hardware store can be a daunting task. But the rewards most clearly outweigh the work for hundreds of artists each year. And it’s the art that truly defines Burning Man, in Black Rock City and beyond.
Each year Burning Man offers grant funds to help support art projects destined for Black Rock City. With more than $800,000 in cash and hundreds of thousands more in non-monetary support, Burning Man has arguably one of the most impactful art grant programs available.
In 2014 we helped fund approximately 60 projects, and gave assistance to more than double that number. It was a year filled with a healthy mix of experienced artists and artists new to their craft.
Traditionally the Man has been 40 feet tall — and when standing atop the Man Pavilion, the total height would top out at anywhere between 80 and 100 feet. This year we completely redesigned the Man structure, and it stood directly on the ground, rising to a whopping 105 feet tall. As intimidating as this may seem, participants were able to get closer to the Man this year than they had since 2000, when it last stood atop hay bales.
Surrounding the Man were several Bedouin-style tents, reminiscent of the tent marketplace an intrepid traveler may experience at a desert oasis. These tents, collectively called the Souk, housed 26 artist groups offering interactive and playful art experiences. The experiences, most of which were created by participants through their local Regional group, shared the spirit of the artist’s home region while entertaining participants with games of chance, drumming, tarot reading, Russian poetry, “pony” rides and more.
Art of Black Rock City
While Burning Man funds dozens of projects each year, there are hundreds more installations that are self-funded. More than 250 artists created projects to be displayed on the open playa in 2014. With art installations including an observatory where participants could look to the cosmos, a gigantic hammock to swing in, an ocean wave crafted from lumber, we saw an incredible diversity in the creative offering this year.
Burning Man’s Art Department — a small, dedicated team — works closely with each registered artist to identify potential safety hazards, suggest strategies for easier construction, and provide advice on safely designing flame effects and burning their art installations.