We’ll get right to it — Black Rock City will be coming back in 2022. After a two-year hiatus and with persistent, pandemic-driven unknowns, the road may be a little more circuitous, but we’ll be damned if it’s not leading us Home. It’s time to resume our Waking Dreams and look to the future we’ll build together.
The Road Back to Black Rock City
Returning to Black Rock City in 2022 will involve each and every one of us. At Burning Man Project, we have been busy over the last two years investing in our people, reexamining our systems, and developing our infrastructure to ensure we’d be ready to rebuild. We took the spring and summer to do much-needed work on our properties in and around Gerlach so they can be more useful to our community and provide new spaces for creativity.
Enormous gratitude to the 20,000+ people who donated to Burning Man Project over the last year and a half to keep us afloat. To all of you who have held the torch of Burning Man culture when we haven’t been able to physically be together in Black Rock City, THANK YOU.
The entire citizenry that makes BRC emerge from the dust and brings the city to life is more important than ever. We have immense appreciation for everything you’ve done to keep this extraordinary experiment alive. We still need your support to get over the finish line and advance our work in the world.
Thanks to generous donors who in April 2021 funded the 2020 BRC Honoraria art grant program, Burning Man Project was able to give $1 million in art grants to 62 artists. The grants provided much-needed inspiration and support to artists around the world (including in Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Canada, Austria, Mexico, and 14 U.S. states) during a time when events and projects were being delayed or canceled.
This fall, we received 432 letters of intent for the 2022 Honoraria program, from artists in 26 countries. When we choose the projects for 2022, they will join the funded 2020/21 Honoraria projects in BRC. The 2022 Temple will be created by the Empyrean Temple Crew as an evolved version of the design they intended for BRC 2020. Our art grant program will also be looking beyond the traditional groups who apply for funding, in an effort to bring more diverse creators to BRC.
We could not be more excited to get back into planning mode. We won’t mince words here — the lift to go back to the desert in 2022 will be significant. But when the going gets tough, the Burning Man community gets going. If the last 20 months have taught us anything, it’s that Burners are resilient. We can do this!
Burn Week 2021: What We Learned
A big thank you to those of you who responded to our survey in September asking how you’ve been keeping the spirit of Burning Man alive and how you celebrated Burn Week 2021.
Some of you donned a VR headset and went exploring with your avatars in the Virtual Burn, while others celebrated in-person in your local communities, with camping trips, small-scale burns, fire ritual, and working on creative projects for the next iteration of BRC.
Thousands of you (over half of the survey respondents) made the pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert. Anecdotally, we heard from many people who were there during Burn Week that the experience felt broadly inclusive, and that most participants demonstrated a commitment to Leaving No Trace on the playa and minimizing environmental impact. The gathering showed the self-organizing chops, shared values, grit, and vigor of the Burning Man community. For those of us planning for Black Rock City 2022, it gave us pause to ask how we can not over-engineer the container that is Black Rock City and keep it as wild and edgy as possible.
Almost a quarter of the survey respondents who ventured to the playa during Burn Week felt it was a freeing experience (22%). The intimate nature and human scale of the gathering was a major draw, and more than 50% of our survey respondents reported that it met or exceeded your expectations. Sixty-eight percent told us that city infrastructure, art, and/or a central burn are crucial for bigger events.
We learned that for most of you, Burning Man culture is alive and evolving, and many are determined to gather and celebrate Burning Man culture no matter the circumstances. The 10 Principles were alive and well over Burn Week this year — almost everyone (95% of survey respondents) reported practicing them. Your responses also confirmed that Burners care deeply about the safety of our community.
As our city has evolved over the years, and as Burning Man culture has gained more attention, the need to protect decommodified spaces has grown even more pressing. The critical question of how to address convenience camps (also known as “turnkey” or “plug and play” camps) and the work of Cultural Direction Setting has highlighted “convenience culture” as a central community issue.
Outside Services Program Changes
The Outside Services (OSS) program for BRC was designed to support projects and camps by facilitating access to the city by large-scale service providers. Their services have included provision of heavy equipment, fuel, water, sanitation, generators, and delivered housing in the form of RVs and trailers. After taking a close look at usage data of the OSS program and findings from our Cultural Direction Setting community engagement project, it was clear that we needed to re-align the OSS program to its intended purpose and Burning Man’s Principles.
The last few iterations of BRC saw significant growth in delivered housing, which was often used as a backbone for convenience camps.
In an effort to course-correct, we are no longer allowing delivered housing units to be part of the OSS program.
That means no more pathways for pre-paid RV or trailer deliveries to participants within BRC. We’re also re-evaluating which equipment and services are appropriate for the program. Stay tuned for more details around how this shift away from delivered housing directly supports our sustainability goals, and opens up opportunities for experimenting with solar and other green technologies through the program.
Reimagining Center Camp
In the experiment that is Black Rock City, the Center Camp Café has been a beloved space where Burners from all walks of life meet friends old and new, stop and sit awhile, perform, interact with art, and grab a cuppa joe (or tea or lemonade!) at the coffee shop. Over the years, camps have developed infrastructure to become increasingly self-reliant, and it’s no longer unique to serve espresso. Coffee sales have dramatically decreased, use of the Center Camp coffee shop has declined, and the operation has become hard to justify from the standpoints of cost and environmental footprint. And, while it isn’t exactly in violation of the principle of Decommodification, it has always felt somewhat odd to be running a coffee concession in the center of our city.
The coffee shop operation uses a great deal of fuel to transport, power, refrigerate, and keep ice frozen. It generates around 25,000 gallons of graywater that require plumbing and trenching of the playa, and it produces waste — around 30,000 compostable cups and thousands of hard-to-recycle Tetra Pak containers of milk, for example. These impacts are significant and do not jibe with our commitment laid out in the 2030 Environmental Sustainability Roadmap.
In 2022, we’re trying something new: there will be no sales of coffee (or anything else!) at the Center Camp Café.
Center Camp will remain a vibrant hub of engagement and participation with performance and art. There will still be an acre of beautifully designed, shaded and welcoming space for members of the community to enjoy and activate. We’re excited for these upcoming changes, and hope you are too. You’ll hear about it here with information on what you can do to engage the space for 2022.
Note: This will not impact ice sales at Arctica.
Cultural Direction Setting and Placement Process Changes
In 2022 there will be important changes to Black Rock City’s placement process that are highlighted in this recent post from the Placement team. Updated Camp Placement Criteria, including a new criterion for “uniqueness,” will be applied in evaluating camps for placement. In addition, you can expect an earlier Placement timeline, a more comprehensive camp standing process, new strategies for camps that struggle to meet community standards, and transparent communications from the Placement team. Check out the post for more details about changes including a call for interest from current placed camps in good standing, and new deadlines for input and response from us designed to help you prioritize resource-sharing between camps.
BRC 2022 Ticketing Info
For many, the journey to Black Rock City starts with securing a ticket. This year we will be making adjustments to how tickets are distributed in order to better support community values around inclusivity, as outlined in the R.I.D.E. pledge; we’ll be supporting underrepresented forms of creative expression, including performance art; and we will be taking sustainability efforts into consideration. We’re planning to launch the FOMO sale in January. More information about registration and sale dates will be shared in the new year. You can expect subsequent sales roughly around their usual timeframes. Subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks to stay up to date.
Please stay tuned for Part 2 of the winter 2021 post in our “The Long Way Home” series. We’ll share important health and safety information, and updates about environmental sustainability and Radical Inclusion in BRC. As always, subscribe to the Burning Man Journal to stay in the know about all things BRC-planning related and more.
Cover image of the road to the Man in Black Rock City, 2019 (Photo by Vanessa Franking)