[Written by Nathan Aaron Heller]
A documentary has recently been produced on Burning Man’s impact on the Reno area and what it may mean for communities near and far. Event Horizon – Burning Man, Burning Reno premiers this evening at 7pm at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. Check out the Event Horizon documentary trailer, and visit the Event Horizon Facebook page for further information and future showings.
Ever wonder how Burning Man is actually rubbing off on the outside world? Beyond the trash fence, how are our Ten Principles making their way across the globe? What does it mean to be a “Burner”? Can Burning Man actually revolutionize the way people live? How could one possibly measure Burning Man’s impact?
Located 100-125 miles to the south, Reno and its sibling cities and towns — making up a metropolis of 500,000 people — provide one source of clues to the answers.
Reno: More than a last-minute shopping stop
Most of you have been through the Reno area on your way to Burning Man. Perhaps you flew in. You probably got gas, water, and groceries there. Maybe you even stayed the night, got a hot shower, and played craps at one of the casinos.
In fact, because of you and your fellow 50,000+ Burners’ descending en masse from all corners of the globe with your dreams, art projects, and desert homes piled up high on your cars, an enormous amount of resources are bought and utilized in Reno during Burning Man, perhaps more than at any time of the year.
Burning Man Culture in Reno
It’s pretty much impossible these days to find anyone in Reno who has not heard of Burning Man. Understandable. But what you may not realize is that the Reno area has more Burners per capita than any other metropolitan area on the planet. Nearly every agency and business in the region has at least one, if not several, Burners on the payroll. There are Burners everywhere! And there are innumerable institutions, events, and happenings nowadays that bear the indelible imprint of our culture.
Over the years, Black Rock City, LLC itself has formed relationships with, and given back to, the various groups and organizations in the region that support the event, provide resources to Black Rock City citizens, and/or share Burning Man’s cultural principles. Moreover, its sibling organizations — Black Rock Solar, Black Rock Arts Foundation, Burners Without Borders, and Big Art For Small Towns — are helping to improve the local artistic, cultural, and economic landscape.
Reno’s Influence on Burning Man
On the other side of the bed, you can say that Black Rock City has been shaped and influenced by the region to the south of Black Rock Desert. Yes, Burning Man owes some of its growth and success to the geo-political and cultural freedom of Nevada.
As Larry Harvey put it in an interview last year: “We couldn’t have done this in California, probably, they would have regulated us to death. I say that as a Californian, I don’t want to be harsh on California. But out here, there’s a sentiment that’s very favorable to the robust exercise of liberty.”
And then there is the geography: the isolation, extreme desert temperatures, and pervasive alkaline dust—these experiences are entirely and immeasurably unique to Burning Man culture and would happen nowhere else but in the Black Rock Desert. Thousands of Reno-area Burners return year after year to experience that unique landscape and culture, bringing Burning Man virgins with them.
The Lasting Synergy
Burning Man’s impact is like a massive and spreading galaxy of stars emanating from Black Rock City. Reno and its siblings are nearest to the center, and they’re getting brighter all the time. If for some reason Black Rock City was to suddenly disappear, the economic impact to the region would certainly be devastating, but one would still see evidence of Burning Man’s enduring influence, shining brightly for years to come.
So next time you pass through Reno on your way to or from the event, getting supplies or (responsibly!) depositing your recyclables and trash, know that your glowing presence will probably rub off on someone. In fact, it’s quite possible that, on the other side of the counter, you could be talking with a fellow or future Burner. Make the best of it!