RIP Tom Kennedy

Craft & Design
RIP Tom Kennedy

photo by Barbara Fried


photo by M2


We have learned sad news through our friends at Laughing Squid. Tom Kennedy, an art car and Burning Man artist (whose work we’ve featured in MAKE and online), drowned in Ocean Beach, CA this weekend. His friend John Law writes:

We lost one of our very best. Tom Kennedy (1960-2009) drowned at Ocean Beach on Sunday, April 12th at 2PM. Tom was an artist, activist, teacher, prankster – a strong friend, bright spirit and true inspiration to each and every one of the thousands of people he touched through his powerful and loving art and his huge and giving heart. I first met Tom at Burning Man 94 when he came out from Texas with his amazing art car “Ripper the Friendly Shark”, forever raising the bar at that event for creativity and originality in personal expression. I was dumbfounded by the whimsical nature, bold concept and execution of the piece. But more importantly, I was floored by Tom’s unmitigated joy at just being there, alive and creating the world around him.

Very sad news. Somewhere in the aether, an angel is now tooling around in a snazzy new shark car.

Goodbye To Tom Kennedy: Art Car Artist, Activist, Teacher & Prankster

8 thoughts on “RIP Tom Kennedy

  1. Joe says:

    Sorry to hear this, I have admired his work for several years.
    I have lost too many friends myself, lately.

  2. RocketGuy says:

    Ocean beach is pretty treacherous, nasty rip currents and such. Sorry to hear that it’s claimed another.

    Only thing to do is bring out your inner artist in tribute. I’m gonna sculpt something this weekend, keep the flame burning for those who can’t.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      >keep the flame burning for those who can’t.

      I always do this when somebody I know dies. I try to think about their higher qualities, what they stood for, represented, what they taught me, and I try and do that thing or bring that quality forward in myself, as a celebration of them and how they affected my life.

  3. Olivier Bonin says:

    Tom made me discover the hidden side of Burning Man, and guided me through the making of the film “Dust & Illusions”, in which he is the narrator. Bringing criticism about Burning Man has not been an easy task, and I have more often found blind rejection rather than interest in it. Tom, with his sharp eye about our human condition, has kept pushing me to move forward and help finalized the film with the voice-over. I am very grateful for his generosity all along the way.

    May 2nd 2009. 7-9pm San Francisco, CA. Join director Olivier Bonin for a screening of the film. Followed by Q&A.:
    Delancey Street Foundation Theater
    600 Embarcadero Street
    San Francisco, CA 94107
    Get Tickets Now $12.5 Pre-sales. $15 Door.

    Invite your friends to this event on Facebook:

    A portion of the proceeds go the support the Delancey Street Foundation’s admirable mission, and the other portion will go to support Tom Kennedy’s memorial service on May 1st.

    About the film: Dust & Illusions looks at 30 years of history of Burning Man all the way back to the late 1970s deep into the origins of the event. Through 21 interviewees the film presents the philosophies that fueled the creation of the festival, and its evolution from a small gathering of friends to the largest “counter-cultural” event in North America. It offers a new perspective of the meaning of the event, and questions whether its organizers are more concerned about making sure the show is ready when the gate opens or they still truly engage in building a community and fostering art (Check their budget outline).

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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