Art for All! Art Tours, Art Speaks, and Other Ways to Learn About Art in Black Rock City

To participate in an Art Discovery experience, please stop by the ARTery at 6:30 and Esplanade, or keep reading to learn about Art Discovery Tours on foot, by bike, ASL and more. The ARTery’s hours are 9 am to 6 pm every day, and we would love to see you! For more information, please visit the Art Tours webpage

Listen to the 2023 Art Audio Tour here:

Guinness World Records lists the Louvre in Paris, France, as the world’s largest art museum at 3,875,000 square feet. You’re not allowed to touch the art at the Louvre, never mind climbing on it, and the odds of meeting and conversing with the artists represented there are zero. (Really. They’re all dead.) 

During the last six months, the Burning Man Art Department’s staff and volunteers have prepared to present the largest outdoor art gallery in the world. Black Rock City has well over 150 million square feet of playa dedicated to art and an open invitation to interact with that art (eat your heart out, Mona Lisa!). 

Whoa, look at all this amazing artwork on the playa! Where do I even start?

We’re so glad you asked! Obviously, you can go where your spirit leads, the DIY approach, and we highly recommend picking up a handy-dandy Art Map that provides locations of nearly 80 artworks and short descriptions of each piece. You can get your copy at the ARTery, located at 6:30 and Esplanade.

Consulting the Art Map at the ARTery, 2022 (Photo by Debbie Wolff)
ARTery Art Tour Map distribution point (Photo by Debbie Wolff)

What if I want to know MORE? How can I learn the behind-the-scenes stories? Such as the inspiration behind the art? The artist’s vision? What these gargantuan pieces are made of, and how? 

Friend, you have come to the right place! Our specially trained guides have detailed information about each Honorarium artwork. They are also trained to lead discussions about the art! Note: Honoraria artworks are the pieces that have received partial funding from Burning Man Project. 

What, where, and when can I take an art tour with guides trained by the Burning Man Art department?

There are options for all BRC citizens to pARTicipate! Plan your art visit here, then look below for information on Art Speaks, BRC’s popular artist speaker series!

Art Discovery Tour meeting point (Photo by Susan Becker)

Art Discovery Bicycle Tours – 2 hours

10:00 am Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

7:00 pm Sunset Tours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday

Bicycle tours cover one quarter of the inner playa and stop at a dozen or more art pieces to discuss the work in detail. 

🚲 👣 All bicycle tours start across the Esplanade from the ARTery, located at 6:30 and Esplanade. Look for the large pink and white sign. 

Art Discovery Walking Tours – 2 hours

5:30 pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday

🚲 👣 All walking tours start across the Esplanade from the ARTery, located at 6:30 and Esplanade. Look for the large pink and white sign. 

Art Discovery for Mobility-Challenged via Mutant Vehicle – 2 hours

10:00am – 12:00 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

Each tour covers half of the open playa. Come back another day to experience the other half of the playa! Everyone is welcome to participate, and those with mobility challenges get priority seating. These tours may include meet-ups with artists along the way.

All Mobility-Challenged tours leave from Mobility Camp located in the Center Camp Plaza and 1:45.

Art Discovery for Deaf & Hearing Impaired via Mutant Vehicle – 2 hours

10:00am – 12:00pm Wednesday & Thursday

New this year, these Mobility-challenged Art Discovery tours will feature ASL interpreters. Designed for participants who are deaf and/or mobility-impaired and their friends.

🚂👂🏼Deaf & Hearing Impaired tours leave from Mobility Camp located in the Center Camp Plaza and 1:45.

Bike tour volunteers (Photo by John Valentino)

If I want to hear directly from the artists while sitting down in a shady spot, do you have any recommendations?

You bet we do! It sounds like you’d enjoy…

Art Speaks

2:30pm – 4:00pm Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

Center Camp, Speakeasy Stage

Jack Champion, Mo Osunbor and Elisha Greenwell talk about work at Art Speaks, 2022 (Photo by John Valentino)
Art Speaks, 2022 (Photo by John Valentino)

This is your chance to hear about the inspiration, challenges, mechanics and processes of creating art for the playa from a diverse selection of artists and artist teams.

The goal of Art Speaks is to gather an exciting mix of artists from both Honoraria and registered projects for a conversation about creating art for the playa. Some artists come from distant countries, while others are a few hours’ drive from home; some are well-known in the art world, and some have never before made a piece of art, let alone one of this magnitude. 

In 2017, the ARTery hosted the inaugural edition of Art Speaks. That year, Burners got the chance to see and hear artists Jen Lewin, Peter Hazel, the Flaming Lotus Girls, Zachary Coffin, and Smithsonian Renwick Gallery Curator Nora Atkinson talk about their work and discuss with each other and the audience what it means to create art for Black Rock City. Each year since, the Art Department has invited a select group of artists to share their stories. Artists are Burning Man’s rock stars, but on the Art Speaks stage, each artist inevitably spends much of their time on the panel talking about the dozens of volunteers and hundreds of hours their teams put into the artwork.

This year, you’ll be able to hear from and interact with amazing artists at the Center Camp Speakeasy Stage from 2:30pm – 4:00pm, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Here’s the artist lineup for Art Speaks 2023:

Wednesday, 8/30 

  • Walker Babington from New Orleans, LA. Walker is an actor, stuntman, and a first-time Black Rock City artist bringing Burden of the Beast, a large-scale wooden bison with a polyhedric folk-arty “shack” built through its torso. 
  • Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti from Petaluma, CA, whose artwork Chapel of Babel is the long-awaited sequel to their 2015 artwork Totem of Confessions and the biggest burn of 2023. 
  • Mr & Mrs Ferguson from Alameda, CA. The couple is considered by many to be Black Rock City art royalty, and Lincoln Bear is their seventh consecutive Honoraria artwork. 

Thursday, 8/31 

  • KJ Boheme & Stefan Spins from New York, NY. Their artwork, Exquisite Animalus, is a colorful, revolving layer cake of illustrated animal charm and whimsy that asks viewers to reinterpret earth’s biodiversity. 
  • Mark Rivera, from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, declares Jbaro Soy… (translates to “I am from the countryside”) with a 20′-tall sculpture of a person from the Puerto Rican countryside. The figure is inspired by a song of protest that proclaims independence for colonized land. 
  • Alexia DeFluff, from Les Roches L’Eveque, France, will share her team’s Conversation with a Squad, a group of mechanical squid that interact with each other like a shiny constellation of social codes and colors. 

Friday, 9/1 

  • The makers of the Temple of the Heart, Ela Madej & Reed Finlay, from San Francisco & Ojai, CA, will present the 2023 Temple as a space for communal healing through flowers, lace, and feminine energy. 
  • Zulu Heru & the Burger Boyz, from Los Angeles and Petaluma, CA, created Farmer The Rigger, a safe space for all, especially people of color, and more representation for people of color on the playa. 
  • NiNo Alicea, from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, uses recycled pizza pans to create ATABEY’s Treasure, an 18′-tall fish that creates a space for the supreme goddess of the Taínos, also known as Earth Spirit and Divine Mother. 

Cover image of “Drishti” by Kirsten Berg, 2022 and “Homage au Dali” by Jack Champion, 2022 (Photo by Jamen Percy)

About the author: John Valentino

John Valentino

John Valentino lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is the Art Discovery Manager for the Burning Man Art Department. He first came to Burning Man 2012 as part of the New Orleans CORE project Baby Brulé. In 2013 he was the lead artist for the CORE project, Alter of the Wetlands, and led the New Orleans Pavilion in the 2014 Souk. In 2015 he was awarded an Honorarium for Krewe of the Dusty Playa, an artwork commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. John is a Professor of New Media and Animation in the Department of Art and Visual Design at Southeastern Louisiana University. Each year, between November and February, he designs and builds the royalty float for the New Orleans Mardi Gras parading organization Krewe du Vieux.

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