How Burning Man Helped the Arts Community Collaborate and Evolve

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design
How Burning Man Helped the Arts Community Collaborate and Evolve
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I first attended Burning Man in the late ‘90s. In the early years of the festival, most projects were still being built during the event, so I was able to participate with a group of people building and burning art. Collaborative art was something I explored before, but discovering a whole culture and festival focused on it changed my art practice entirely. The process of making artwork together was beyond something I alone could envision. It took the group to complete the process. I was hooked.

Fast-Growing Network

As Burning Man grew in scale and complexity, so did the artwork. More groups formed and more spaces dedicated to supporting this work grew. California spaces like The Shipyard (Berkeley), The Box Shop (San Francisco), NIMBY (Oakland), American Steel Studios (Oakland), m0xy (Oakland), Obtainium Works (Vallejo), and The Generator in Reno, Nevada, evolved, usually taking over formerly industrial buildings to make a place for big art to be built. Groups also formed such as Flaming Lotus Girls, Therm, Neverwas Haul, Five-Ton Crane, Cyclicide, and Ardent Heavy Industries.

Over 250 volunteers helped create the Temple of Flux. From the designers to the chefs that feed the crew, all were integral to the success of the project. Photo by Marc Hertlein

Loving the Process

I came to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the collaborative group process when I began working with the Flaming Lotus Girls, a women-driven group started in 2000 that continues to welcome both women and men to build with them. I, along with my co-founders, believed so strongly in this inclusive, collaborative, and community-building process that we formed our nonprofit Flux Foundation in 2010 while we built the Temple for Burning Man. We have been building projects and community out of American Steel, following the idea that art can create community.

Photo by Jess Hobbs

Art making at Burning Man evolved as an inclusive group process and the artists and art groups surrounding it share this as a core tenant. Most projects created for Burning Man, or now projects “beyond the playa,” are built by large groups, and most invite people to join their build process. The best way to participate in a build is to look at the latest Honorarium projects on the Burning Man website to see which ones are in your area or an area you’d like to visit. Then look on the project site and reach out. You can also reach out or visit spaces like American Steel Studios, NIMBY, or The Generator.

Photo by Brendan Jones


Sometimes projects reach a volunteer capacity and don’t have space for more. Be respectful.

Be patient. Some parts of a project require expertise you might not have. What else do they need help with?

Remember, sometimes sweeping the floor or grinding a pile of parts is the most important thing that needs to be done.

Find a Group

San Francisco
The Box Shop SF

• Nimby, Oakland’s DIY Space

• American Steel Studios

• M0xy

• Obtainium Works

• The Generator

Anywhere else – Search for Burning Man Honoraria near you!

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Idea Generator, Maker, Social Sculptor

Collaboration is Jess's magic ingredient for success in work, community, art and life. This can be seen through her founding and directing work with Flux Foundation, All Power Labs and Flaming Lotus Girls.

From a lofty dream to concrete reality; Jess is well known for taking that ethereal idea and manifesting that substantial something. Whether taking on the challenge of design, founding an alternative energy company, or creating awe-inspiring-interactive sculptural experiences, she uses collaborative structure to create the bigger picture.

View more articles by Jess Hobbs