2022 AfterBurn: How We Built Waking Dreams

The AfterBurn is our annual look back at the past year in Burning Man history — our ups, downs, and get-back-up-agains. Burning Man Project, the official name of the nonprofit Burning Man organization, is operated and supported by thousands of people who take responsibility for making Burning Man happen in the Black Rock Desert and around the world. The AfterBurn Report highlights what Burning Man Project’s various departments do, why we do it, what changes occur year to year, our successes and failures, and our vision for the future. Browse past years’ AfterBurns here. (We also annually publish the Dispatch, a richly-illustrated folio that tells the story of our year — as an event, an organization, and a global culture.)

Burning Man 2022: How We Built Waking Dreams

Every fall, once we’re all home and de-dusted, we ask all Burning Man Project departments the same question: How was it for you? We then gather all the responses and publish them here as a learning tool, so event organizers and others outside Burning Man Project can learn from our experience and ever-evolving event cycle. The AfterBurn Report shares the story of our year-round operations from the hard-working teams who bring Black Rock City to life and support year-round Burning Man culture and community.

A Little Journey Back in Time

Recently we went back in time to peep past AfterBurns. Our very first Black Rock City AfterBurn Report was published in 2001; it’s short and sweet, covering the goings-on of just five departments (and an essay on the future).

Now Let’s Jump Ahead 21 Years

As Black Rock City and the Regional Network grew in magnitude and complexity, so did our year-round event cycle, operations and community work. Today, the AfterBurn Report spans more than 38 digital pages. 

We have so much to share — learnings, unlearnings, relearnings (and forgettings). In 2022 Burners went from sheltering in place and tentatively organizing small events, to raising Black Rock City (and creating 73 in-person Regional Events) — with bells on.

Was it easy? No. Was it an astounding feat of logistical and cultural prowess? Yes. We’re proud of every human who brought their whole self to the mighty endeavor of building Black Rock City.

And Build the City We Did

Chris ‘ChAos’ Neary, Associate Director of Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW) succinctly summed up 2022:

Adaptation is the name of the game when building BRC in an environment like the Black Rock Desert. This year really tested our ability to remain flexible and figure things out on the fly… We just put our heads together and got busy solving problems quickly as they arose. And the amazing members of our DPW crews stepped up over and over again to meet every challenge head on.

To all the teams that worked around the clock under difficult conditions to keep Black Rock City running — from Gate, Perimeter and Exodus (GP&E) to the Black Rock Rangers, DPW to Placement, and so many others.

Art, Diversity and Sustainability

And the playa came alive! More artists registered to bring their art to the Waking Dreams playa than ever before, including a record number of projects that represented diversity and emphasized sustainability. Black Rock City blossomed with 84 art installations supported by Honoraria grants, which include 48 from 2020 and 2021 as part of our Art No Matter What program. In total, Burning Man Project granted more than one million dollars to Honoraria artists and the Temple in 2022.

We leaned into our commitments to advancing Radical Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (R.I.D.E.) and sustainability in our dusty home. Throughout 2021 and 2022 we cultivated new relationships and made it possible for first-time Burners to come to Black Rock City. Honoraria-funded art projects, camp communities and playa events expressed the diversity of the city’s population. Meanwhile, throughout Black Rock City there were noticeably fewer fuel generators, thanks to a proliferation of solar technology and expertise.

Thriving Year-round Communities 

As part of their work supporting community resiliency projects around the world, Burners Without Borders (BWB) restarted their grant programs and hosted a productive Spring Summit at Fly Ranch. Around the world, Regional Events came back. Organizers showed up with innovative ideas that helped communities gather anew, and overcome fear and isolation from years apart. In Black Rock City, the Regionals team took to the dusty streets, encouraging participants to bring Burning Man into their lives year round.

Burning Man Hive thrived as a hub for Burners to build connections and learn from one another as they prepared for Waking Dreams. Now anyone in the global Burning Man community can follow the Core Curriculum in Hive, six courses with essential learnings for anyone wishing to level up in Burning Man culture.

It was a monumental year for our properties in Northern Nevada. Fly Ranch welcomed visitors to the land for campouts, nature walks, and Stewardship Days. Meanwhile, in Gerlach people came together to learn new job skills, work on community service projects, and envision a year-round center for Burning Man culture in Northern Nevada.

A Global Culture Connected by Storytellers

The Philosophical Center continued to share enlightening conversations on Burning Man Live, hitting 125,000 downloads by November 2022. The Communications team shared essential news and stories from the global Burning Man community via the Burning Man Journal. Every two weeks we reached more than 200,000 people via our newsletter, the Jackrabbit Speaks.  

We Couldn’t Do Any of This Without You

People look to Black Rock City and global Burning Man culture as a beacon of hope for creative freedom and transformative possibilities. Without your imagination, your relentless energy and community spirit, Burning Man would not be the inspiring creative force in the world that it is today.

Cover image graphic design of the 2022 theme “Waking Dreams” by Tanner Boeger

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

6 Comments on “2022 AfterBurn: How We Built Waking Dreams

  • Alvin Charles Galloway says:

    This was my third burn. One only thing that disappointed me was the atmosphere of Center Camp. When you took away the coffee,the crowd diminished in half! Every day I would stop by and the place was very bland. There was less art, less activities,and less fun. Bring the coffee back and the crowd will come back. Also, I am from S.C. and the ticket sales are discriminatory Towd West Coast burners. Don’t get me wrong, I love BRC and all the work it takes to pull it off each year!

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  • Travis Newcomb says:

    I’m surprised that gate isn’t calling out the 5-6 hour waits during build week. While its great to hear that ingress was good during the event, 5-6 hour waits during build week seem like a “significant operational issue.” I’m curious if there is agreement that this was a problem and if there are any plans to address it in 2023?

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    • Cranston Snore says:

      We’ve been complaining about that for at least 10 years. They don’t seem to care.

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    • Colonel says:

      The hottest year on record.
      The windiest event in a looking time.
      Have you ever volunteered to work Gate?
      You should. Come see what it’s actually like to work the lanes rather than complain from the sidelines & speculate.

      Sincerely, with all appropriate snark & love.


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  • Irving Forbush says:

    No mention of running out of ice when it was over 100 degrees? People were waiting in line for one rationed bag on Saturday. How about what a mess HEAT gas availability was? Barely a mention of covid ripping through staff at the end of the week? Gate’s boast that the longest wait times were 3 hours is laughable – I waited 5 during build week.

    Nothing changes if you aren’t honest about what happened.

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