Better Routes to Black Rock

Better Routes to Black Rock

Photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck in Customs

The first rule of Burning Man is: you can’t describe Burning Man. Its kaleidoscope of subjective qualities and boundless mysteries make words fall short.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The first rule of Burning Man is actually Radical Inclusion, the notion that everyone is welcome at Burning Man. There are no prerequisites for participation.

There are, in fact, 10 Principles that guide the Burning Man ethos. In addition to Radical Inclusion, other principles include Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, Gifting, and Radical Self Expression.

From these powerfully simple concepts, and against the backdrop of harsh desert conditions, an unparalleled pilgrimage has emerged. This month over 60,000 Burners from around the world, including many from the heart of Silicon Valley, will caravan to Black Rock City for a peak experience of creativity, celebration, and healing.

If we’re in the early stages of a new renaissance, Burning Man is certainly one of the catalysts. The event is an exquisite experiment of conscious co-creation, characterized by blinkies, beats, and modern day Da Vinci’s dancing in the dust…

Burning Man culture has moved far beyond the playa. Transformational festivals and gatherings are blossoming around the world, spreading gift economies, expressions of liberation, ecological sustainability, and renewed interest in indigenous wisdom. Shared symbols and linguistic memes are forming. People are consciously stepping into a new story of what it means to be a human society, and it’s a story that embodies peace and interconnectedness.

As the movement builds, so too do the connections back into our “default world,” including the organizations creating these bridges. One such group is the Black Rock Arts Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes community through interactive art and civic participation, and has already awarded over $1 million in grants to artists in 2014. 

We were excited to learn of the recent moves by Black Rock Arts Foundation to combine with the Burning Man Project to strengthen the connection between playa art and fundraising opportunities. In their words:

“...the Black Rock Arts Foundation is thrilled to be in the fortunate position of being able to fiscally sponsor projects bound for this year's Burning Man event. When BRAF was founded, it was the art at Burning Man that set our standard for participatory, community-driven public art. With this high standard in mind, we established our grants and civic arts programs.
Now BRAF is able to directly lend our support to on-playa art activities. We offered Fiscal Sponsorship to all honorarium art projects that were not fully funded by their honoraria, and thirteen projects signed up. Burning Man participants can now make tax deductible donations to these projects though BRAF. We hope that this creates new fundraising opportunities for these worthy projects.”

The Black Rock Arts Foundation set up a crowd funding site to showcase qualifying projects and collect donations. Furthermore, they've formally combined with the Burning Man organization to streamline grant processes and scale their work:

“Black Rock Arts Foundation, which is now a subsidiary of the non-profit Burning Man Project, is joining forces with Black Rock City’s art department to create one program called Burning Man Arts. The mission of Burning Man Arts is to change the paradigm of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.”

We believe these actions are significant:

  • By fiscally sponsoring projects in a tax-exempt non profit vehicle, Burning Man Arts is connecting artists to a larger pool of potential resources. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans gave over $335 billion last year to charitable causes. Over $50 billion came from foundations, and as of 2012 there are over $45 billion in donor-advised fund assets. A lot of these resources, if not most, rely on organizations having an accredited 501(c)(3) non-profit status.

    The tax exemption is only part of the story; being 501(c)(3) approved is an important structural characteristic embedded within the philanthropic sector. The Namaste Foundation, for instance, is now able to donate money in support of these art projects.
  • Burning Man Arts is streamlining the process for artists to do more effective fundraising. The process of creating a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization is not trivial. It requires strict compliance with IRS guidelines, detailed paperwork, and ongoing overhead. For most artists and collaborators, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to go through this activity, especially for one-time projects. By centralizing most of the administrative and finance functions, Burning Man Arts enables artists to focus on their craft while still getting resources they need.
  • Collecting donations through crowd funding reflects the principles of transparency and direct community participation. People can contribute directly to art projects that speak to them. For example, the Temple is considered by many to be the “emotional centerpiece” of Burning Man, a profoundly sacred space for healing and reflection. This year’s Temple of Grace is one of the fiscally sponsored projects by Black Rock Arts Foundation, and now for the first time you can make a tax-deductible donation toward the Temple's creation.

The Burning Man organization’s decision to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the Black Rock Arts Foundation's fiscal sponsorship program are practical ways to scale gift economy. These models are replicable and can make a real difference in helping artists deliver their inspirational talents to the global community. 

The Namaste Foundation is proud to support these efforts with an Impact Gift to the Black Rock Arts Foundation. We believe that what’s being created here is important and contributes to a more beautiful world.

Support a Burning Man Arts project today

More links related to Black Rock Arts Foundation, Burning Man, and transformational festivals:

“The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind; and anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. If artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.” - Terence McKenna
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