A Changing of the Guard

Well, this is the first week of work without Will Chase around serving up sass ’n’ wisdom cocktails. It still feels like Burning Man around here, but not the same organization it was when I started. And I don’t just mean when I started working for Will, I mean when I started going out to Black Rock City in the first place. My first “welcome home” greetings came in plain-text emails signed “-PQ (Associate Rabbit)”. The mind reels at how much has changed.

Will Chase was the first human contact I made at the Burning Man Project, or “the Org,” as I knew it then. When you first start going to Burning Man, the organization is invisible, just this giant faceless Man, and you’re like, “How did that get there?” If you’re the kind of Burner who can’t stop wondering that, you get more curious, you start digging through the dusty bookshelves in the library, then you pull on the fake book by accident, the trap door spins around, and there you are. You’re in on it.

Interacting with Will through the Byzantine conduit of the Internet was my trap door. It took me two years to work up the gumption to publish my journal from my first Burn, but when I did it, Will saw it, and he asked if I would write for what was known then as the Burning Blog. I was 22, and getting a Twitter DM from @burningman felt like getting a secret message from Princess Leia or something. Will is the person who created that magic, who developed that online Voice of Burning Man Itself and used it to reach out to people and let them become part of the story.

Now, after 13 years with the Project, he’s decided to move on to the next story. Those are big shoes to fill, as has been noted by many. I’ve been honored to be Will’s understudy since I started volunteering in 2010 and then joined the team as Managing Editor in 2014. The mantle of Jackrabbit Actual now falls to me, and I’ll be taking on Will’s workload editing and developing the websites and publications with the Tech Team, a transition we’ve been making gradually for some time now.

Will is going to keep doing his on-playa ambassadorial work with the External Relations Team, which is amazing, and we can all look forward to the stuff he’s going to write for the Journal now that he’s a free agent. But there’s much more work Will did for Burning Man — the culture, not just the organization — which was essential, irreplaceable, and almost ineffable. If you’ve been reading his words as long as I have (or longer), you know what I mean. The whole Comm Team is going to be stepping up to find ways to bridge that gap. But we’re going to need to quote heavily from the Book of Will Chase.

We’re going to miss you, Will. I mean, miss you in meetings and stuff. You’ll still show up for the fun parts, I’m sure.

Thank you, Will Chase. You are forever a part of what Burning Man means.

Photo by John Curley

Top photo by Brenna Geehan. That’s Will on the left and Communications Director Megan Miller on the right. Best bosses ever.

Book photo by John Curley.

About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.

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