Black Rock City Honoraria Program

RadiaLumia by FoldHaus Collective (Photo by Eleanor Preger)

The 2019 grant cycle is now closed. You are still welcome to bring art to Burning Man; registration opens in late February.

Every year Burning Man Arts issues a small number of grants for the purpose of partially funding specific art projects for installation at the Burning Man event in Black Rock City. We look for work that stands on its own as physical, sculptural installation, independent of performances or activities, although these may accompany the installation.
If you’re interested in applying for funding for an art installation bound for the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City, you must first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI).

It’s important to know that making artwork for Burning Man is very challenging, due to the difficulties inherent in creating anything in a harsh wilderness setting with unpredictable weather, high winds, and lots of playa dust. You’re definitely going to want to know what you’re getting into (and for this reason, we recommend that you attend Burning Man once before applying for funding). Read up on what it takes to attend, and make art for Burning Man here:

Being a Black Rock City Honoraria artist requires a significant time investment, including several mandatory meetings and the ability to adhere to firm deadlines. Please thoroughly read What to Expect before submitting a Letter of Intent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are your criteria for awarding grants?

A. Our criteria include:

  • Whether we like it.
  • Interactivity with participants and the environment. Interactive art is our particular obsession. Interactive work convenes society around itself. It generates roles. It provokes actions. It directs attention to the surrounding world. It transforms participants into active contributors to your creative process. It transcends the static conception of an art object that is contemplated by a detached audience. A truly interactive piece is completed by participants engaging with it.

Interaction may be achieved in a variety of ways. Sometimes, the mere act of encountering is sufficient, as in the case of work spread out within a special field of space that participants explore. Artwork may impart a gift or token. Likewise, works may be designed to receive something from people. Works may be activated by participants or by forces of nature, or they may function as social environments. Many times, when art is placed within the intensely interactive environment of Black Rock City, participants will invent unexpected forms of interaction, and you should be prepared for this.

There will always be a place and time within the sphere of art for the perfect object– something so astonishing in itself that the simple act of contemplation is reward enough– and this, in a way, defines the essential nature and value of art. However, with planning, we have found nearly any form of conventional art can be engendered with an interactive aspect.

  • The thoroughness of your proposal. We will not review or consider proposals that are not complete (e.g. they do not contain all the requested information). If you don’t include a detailed budget, or a construction schedule, or descriptive images, it is difficult for the grant committee to fully consider your project.
  • The impact of your art. We want as many participants to see and enjoy your art as possible. This does not mean we only fund large art–in fact we seek to fund a full range of creative expression–but we do select installations that can have a large impact.
  • Visual appeal. The installation needs to be an artwork in and of itself. While we value interactivity, we also value beauty and visual impact. If you are proposing to install an interesting, interactive concept or activity that will be housed within a larger structure, the structure itself must be visually appealing as well.
Q. What kind of art do you fund?

A. The following types of art are eligible for an honorarium art grant:

  • Interactive art
  • Art related to the theme, and art not related to the theme
  • Mobile art – sculptures that move and do not act as a mutant vehicle
Q. What does not get funded?

A. The following will not receive an honorarium art grant:

  • Performances, activities or workshops
  • DJs and amplified sound
  • Domes, tents, teepees, stages or other prefabricated commercial structures
  • Mutant vehicles
  • Theme camps
  • Anything illegal in the state of Nevada or prohibited by federal law. While Burning Man is a private event, we are still governed by the laws of the state of Nevada and the event takes place on federal land.
Q. How many grants are awarded?

A. Approximately 60 to 70 projects per year receive an honorarium. Note that Burning Man does not have an art endowment, so nearly all of the art you will witness at Burning Man is entirely paid for by participants themselves. Most proposals submitted to us will not receive funding.
Q. When may I apply for a grant?

A. You must first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) if you’d like to apply for funding for an art installation at BRC. The LOI process for 2019 opened on October 16, 2018 and will close on November 15, 2018 at 5pm. There is a timeline available here.

Q. When will I know if I’ve been awarded a grant?

A. If you have submitted an LOI and are invited to submit a full proposal and then submit the full proposal, we will notify you by February 21, 2019. If you are awarded an honorarium we’ll ask that you not share the news widely until we release a public announcement several days later.
Q. If I receive an honorarium, how much will I receive?

A. This varies with particular projects. However, grants normally pay for only a portion of production costs. Artists should be ready to seek out and show proof of other methods and sources of funding. As a matter of policy, we also prefer that you develop various kinds of non-monetary or in-kind resources to help support your project. We believe that such an effort on your part encourages collaboration and cooperation within our extended community.
Q. How much money should I ask for?

A. Our annual budget for art on playa is $1.3 million. We typically fund approximately 60 to 70 honoraria art projects. Grants over $20,000 are rare. Due to the number of proposals we receive we are not able to negotiate potential changes for each application.

The full proposal form includes a link to a Budget Template which will help you calculate and articulate all the possible costs of creating your project, as well as provide you with a clear understanding of which expenses are eligible for Honoraria funding.

We recommend that you request partial funding, since for the most part Burning Man does not fund 100% of the total budget. You’ll have an opportunity on the application to specify the amount. For example: tell us that your project will cost $40K and that you’re asking us for $20K, and that you’ll fundraise the balance. Another option is to provide budget tiers on the full grant application, for example, a small, medium and large version of your project at corresponding prices. Please be clear what each tier would include.

Q. What expenses are eligible for funding?

A. The Budget Template we provide explicitly lists which expense categories are eligible and ineligible. For quick reference, here are some general expense categories and their eligibility:

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
  • 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. Should I include the cost for tickets and fuel for my flame effects and generators in my proposal?

A. If awarded a grant, we will give you tickets for you and your crew to attend the event. We’ll work closely with you to identify how many are needed. There is no need for you to include ticket costs in your grant proposal. It’s very important that you include the estimated cost for fuel for any flame effects or generators used as a part of your installation. The estimated number of gallons for these items should be part of your proposed budget. Please use cost estimates for fuel that relate to rates normally experienced in the time of year that Burning Man occurs – for instance, the cost of gasoline typically increases in the month of August.

Note that there is not a power grid available for honoraria artists to use; you must supply your own power source.

Q. When and how will I receive money?

A. This will vary from project to project; a separate payment schedule is developed for each artist. You will be asked to sign a contract prior to receiving any funding. In general artists receive a first payment of 55% of the total award within 2 weeks of signing the contract, and a second payment of 30% of the award 30 days after the first payment. We withhold a performance deposit (typically 15%) from your grant until after the event to ensure that you comply with Leave No Trace and to serve as a credit account to cover the cost of any resources you may purchase on playa such as water or fuel. Note that the funds you receive for your honorarium are taxable and require a 1099 tax form that we will provide to you. 
Q. Who is responsible for keeping my installation safe?

A. Burning Man believes strongly in radical self-reliance; it’s one of our Ten Principles. Ensuring your artwork does not physically harm anyone is a key responsibility of the artist. Rangers are on playa to help participants, not guard art, so it’s important that the artist creates safeguards for maintaining their art.
Q. Would I need to buy insurance for my art installation?
 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. I’d love to have my art installation in my camp and get an honorarium for it. Is that possible?

A. No. We fund art that is placed on the open playa, so as many citizens of Black Rock City can enjoy it as possible.
Q. What other benefits or help can I receive from Burning Man?

A. Aside from the essential spiritual satisfaction gained from creating your work, as well as showing it and sharing it with tens of thousands of very enthusiastic people, Burning Man can also furnish you with other opportunities. We are willing to provide you with support materials if you wish to approach outside agencies or suppliers for assistance. Installations, funded or not, will be featured on our website and in our Black Rock City gate handout, the WhatWhereWhen guide.

Q. Should I take pictures of my artwork?

A. Yes! At the event, hundreds of photographers, amateur and professional, may also photograph your work. These appear in our Image Gallery and in the art listings on our website. Burning Man is also covered by an international array of media. Burning Man Arts and the staff at Media Mecca help connect these journalists with artists.
Q. Can I do art sales on playa?

A. Burning Man is a fertile meeting ground for artists and patrons of the arts. Although vending is strictly disallowed at the event, artists at Burning Man are free to encounter potential clients for their work in an environment free of agents, dealers or any of the other professional intermediaries who normally interpose themselves in the creative process. Burning Man is a radically unmediated environment and can yield unique opportunities.
Q. How does my art get placed on playa? How do I find my location?

A. We work closely with artists to identify where ideally their art installation should be placed on the open playa. We strive to support the artist’s goals and place their artwork where it best serves their artistic vision, while also taking into consideration the landscape and the full experience of participants. Once you arrive on playa, our volunteer staff will assist you in placing your art at its assigned location. 
Q. Does Burning Man provide heavy machinery I can use?

A. Although we prefer that you remain completely self-sufficient, our Art Support Services team can assist you 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. What is the process for applying for a grant?

A. The first step is to submit a Letter of Intent. For the 2019 grant cycle, the LOI opened on October 16, 2018 and submissions will be due by November 15 at 5pm Pacific time. LOI notifications will be sent on December 13 and selected applicants will have until January 15, 2019 at 5pm Pacific time to submit a full proposal. Late submissions, or submissions that have not gone through the LOI process, will not be considered. We will only review one version of a proposal, so make sure it’s your final version and that it includes all the required information. If you have more than one concept you’d like us to consider, you are welcome to submit more than one LOI, and then potentially submit more than one art grant proposal, if your LOIs are accepted into the grant process.
Q: Where can I find a full list of the questions on the LOI and full proposal, to understand what's required in the application?

A: Here is a preview of the 2019 LOI Questions in a Google doc. Please note that we cannot accept any grant applications in PDF format, you must submit first submit an LOI via Burner Profiles and if accepted then submit your grant application via the link you were sent in your LOI acceptance email.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, see our Letter of Intent submission guidelines.