Black Rock City Temple Grant

The Temple of Transition by the International Art Megacrew (Photo by Scott London)

In Black Rock City, amid the joyous cacophony of sights and sounds, a lone building rises out of the deep playa in quiet contrast. Welcome to the Temple: a gathering spot for those seeking solace and respite during Burning Man. Part of the beauty of the Temple is that it is a sanctuary for all, no matter your religion, spiritual inclination, or lack thereof. It is where people come together on the playa to honor what is important to them and to their community.

History of the Temple

The first Temple on the playa was created in 2000 when David Best and Jack Haye brought the Temple of the Mind. When their friend and fellow builder Michael Hefflin tragically died in a motorcycle accident, the Temple of the Mind became a memorial to him. Fellow participants at the event quickly began leaving remembrances of their loved ones as well, and the first Burning Man Temple was born. In 2001 the Temple of Tears, another temple created by David and Jack, was brought to the playa, creating an annual tradition that has become a fundamental part of Burning Man ever since.

Meaning of the Temple to the Burning Man Community

The Temple is a community shared space that is an important part of Black Rock City. It is not a temple in recognition of any religion; it’s a neutral, non-denominational spiritual space where everyone can gather to share in the experience of remembering the past, honoring or cursing the present, and pondering the future to come. The Temple is not fixed around one concept, belief or theme. It is an inclusive safe space for all Burners. Some will gather in pairs or groups, others will sit alone in silence. And yet, in the Temple, no one is ever alone.

Building the Temple is not simply about building a large art project at Burning Man. It’s about community. It’s about finding that place inside us where we can take the time to be introspective, to grieve and to honor those who have been lost to us. It’s a safe space where Burners are invited to find and feel love, joy, sadness, anger, fear and any emotion that rises to the surface. The Temple is a place where we all allow each other to do what we need to do and to truly be ourselves.

When the Temple opens, it’s a clean slate. By the end of the event, every inch is covered with photos, inscriptions, art, small mementos and even the ashes of loved ones left by participants. The Temple is one of the most important places on the playa for Burners and many find catharsis there.

There is only one official ritual in the Temple, and that is to burn it. On Sunday night of the event, with thousands of participants as witnesses, the Temple is burned in silence.

Building the Temple

One of the most important aspects of building the Temple is to remember that while the design initially comes from the artist’s vision and the builders’ sweat and tears, once it is built it belongs to the community.

If you want to learn more about the history, significance and what it’s like to build the Temple we suggest you read the essay by John ‘Moze’ Mosbaugh called Building the Temple.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much money should I ask for?
A. We typically fund between $50,0000-$100,000 for the Temple, and our upper limit on funding is $100,000. We generally only fund a portion of the total project costs, typically ranging 50% of the total budget needed to build the Temple. It is important to think through your expenses and the application process includes access to a budgeting template that can serve as a guide (available below).

Q. What expenses are eligible for funding?
A. When considering what expenses you would like funded for your Temple, please refer to the BRC Temple Grant Budget Template (available as a Google spreadsheet). While we only grant funds for particular expense categories, all of your expenses can and should be considered a part of your total costs when calculating your budget and making your Temple plans and proposal. Eligible

  • Materials and supplies, including tools, consumables, hardware, fuel, and Leave No Trace supplies
  • Transportation of your art installation to and from the playa
  • Speciality services such as welding, laser cutting, etc.
  • Build space rental

Ineligible:

  • Burning Man tickets (these are provided)
  • Artist and crew flights/transportation
  • Crew food
  • Camp supplies
  • Artist fees
  • Ground anchors (we provide these, but you are required to provide hardware and cabling to secure your piece to the ground anchors for stability)
  • Post-event expenses such as storage
  • Legal expenses such as LLC formation or insurance


Q. Does Burning Man provide resources to the Temple team on-playa?
A. In addition to funding a portion of the total project costs, the Temple team receives up to $15,000 of on-playa resources such as decomposed granite, potable water, fuel (dyed diesel, clear diesel, gasoline, propane, firewood), light towers, scissor lifts and porta-potties at the build site. Burning Man will also provide the Temple crew with one radio to contact Art Support Services during build week. In addition, the Temple crew will receive a placed art support camp after they submit the art support camp registration. These resources are unique to the Temple as a municipal building and not transferable or typically available for regular Honoraria art projects.

Q. Does Burning Man provide heavy machinery I can use?
A. While we prefer that you are able to be as self-sufficient as possible, given the scale of the event and the Temple project our Art Support Services (ASS) team is available to assist with heavy equipment if needed. All requests for this support should be included in your proposal. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what equipment you might need; we work closely with artists to identify what equipment works best and what’s available.

Q. Would I need to buy insurance for the Temple project?
A. Burning Man does not require insurance. However, some artists have sought to obtain insurance to cover their work on playa. We do not yet have any information about what might be available for the upcoming event cycle and we will notify you if we become aware of relevant opportunities.

Q. How much time can I be on playa to build the Temple?
A. The Temple crew is allowed to build on-site for up to 15 days before the event begins.

Q. What Leave No Trace (LNT) activities am I responsible for at the Temple site?
A. Leaving No Trace is one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man. Our community respects the environment and we are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them. Because Leaving No Trace is an integral value in our community, you will need to identify an LNT Lead and submit an LNT plan with your proposal. Please read this page for general information on LNT at Black Rock City before writing your LNT plan.

Q. What design features does Burning Man look for in a Temple proposal?
A. While we do like for each Temple to have its own unique characteristics, there are a few things that we look for in a successful proposal:

  • Niches or smaller spaces for participants to place small offerings.
  • Protection from the elements at ground level so the wind doesn’t blow away offerings.
  • A central gathering place, possibly with smaller alcoves for more private reflection.
  • Multiple entrances/exits.
  • While not required, we do suggest including some kind of fence, enclosure or markings to keep bikes out, mutant vehicles at a distance, and to cue participants that they are entering a more reflective, quiet space than is found elsewhere in Black Rock City.
  • The Temple design should not be based on a particular religion, belief or theme as it’s meant to be inclusive for all Black Rock City citizens.


Q. What is it like to assemble a crew to build the Temple?
A. Building the Temple is a communal effort. Please anticipate that your Temple crew will not only be comprised of professional artists and builders, but also citizens of Black Rock City who may have very limited previous building experience. One of Burning Man’s 10 Principles is radical inclusion; we welcome and respect the stranger. It is important to honor this principle when assembling your crew.

Q. What previous experience do I need to be selected to build the Temple?
A. We expect that Temple leads will have previously built art installation(s) in Black Rock City, preferably something relatively large or complex.

Q. Would my team be responsible for guarding the Temple during the event?
A. No, you would not be responsible for guarding the Temple during the event. Temple Guardians will be there around the clock to protect the Temple and those who visit it.

Q. Would I be responsible for burning the Temple too?
A. No, our Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) will lead the burning of the Temple. FAST is a team of fire safety personnel and industry professionals whose mission is to provide experienced support for fire artists and to ensure the safe use of fire in Black Rock City.

Q. What is the process for applying for a Temple grant?
A. The online form to submit a Temple Proposal is now open and will close on November 28, 2017 at 5:00pm Pacific Time. You may submit a proposal via Burner Profiles.

Q. Where can I find a full list of the questions on the proposal, to understand what’s required in the application?
The 2018 Temple Proposal questions are available as a Google doc. When the proposal process opens, we will post a link on this page to the form. We suggest that you construct your answers first in a word processing document, and then copy and paste into our questionnaire form before submitting your proposal. Please note that we cannot accept any grant applications in PDF format; all proposals must be submitted via our online form.