I just finished watching Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell’s April 10 update on Burning Man 2021. This announcement – while rich with information – was not billed as a “go/no-go” report. I wanted to review the content for all of the Burning Man enthusiasts who read this site but also to let you know that if you sign on to burningman.org you’ll find a link to the entire video.
So, here goes (in the order presented by Marian):
- Should Burning Man occur this year, proof of vaccination will be required for anyone to enter the gate. There’s also consideration of an on-site testing program, but details have not been worked out at this point.
- No matter what, the BRC population will be reduced if a 2021 Burn occurs. The org has requested a BLM permit for 69,000 people, vs. 80,000 at the last Burn. Feedback from surveys among camp leaders has further reduced the expected population to 50-55,000 Burners.
- Additionally, there will be an international impact on attendance because some countries do not allow travel (or will not be allowed to travel to the U.S.) primarily because of the unavailability of vaccines.
- Burning Man is on solid ground financially because of the generosity of attendees and other contributors. At this point, the organization is not dependent on holding a 2021 Burning Man in order to survive. Even art funding is continuing. In fact, a group of donors has provided a $1 million grant that has allowed the org to fund art now, whether it ends up on Playa this year or next.
- Typical funding for art covers 70 on-Playa projects. Proposals have already been received for 59 projects, and the $1 million grant will expand that number. Art proposals have come in from countries including Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Spain and others plus 15 U.S. states. Proposals can be viewed online at burningman.org/2021art. In Marian’s words, “Art is going to happen” in 2021.
- While BRC remains “up in the air” for now, work at Fly Ranch continues apace. Burning Man’s LAGI – Land Art Generator Initiative –resulted in 10 prototype projects on sustainability proposed for Fly Ranch. One, from MIT Labs, has been selected for funding and will go forward, according to Marian. Learn more about it and about Fly Ranch at FlyRanch.org.
- Another sign that Burning Man is alive and well is The Hive Labs, an interactive project to expand Burning Man’s cultural impact around the world. While “membership” is currently capped, additional Burners may be able to join in the future. Check it out at hive.burningman.org.
- The Burning Man multiverse will take place this year whether or not BRC is built on the Playa. Last year’s virtual event attracted 165,000 attendees, including 100,000 on Burn Night alone.
- Tickets – Burning Man has begun working on DGS tickets (direct sale tickets for major theme camps and art cars) although this effort should not be interpreted as a decision on holding the Burn this year. On a more concrete level, the org is introducing “Invitation to the Future,” an opportunity to reserve tickets for the next two Burning Man events (whether that’s for 2021-2022 or later). The ticket price will be face value, but the cost of the reservation has been set at $2500.
- Finally, Marian promised updates over the next few weeks and a go/no-go decision on 2021 by the end of the month.
My take: While the meeting had all the positive vibes you might expect from an organization that has bucked the odds and survived the pandemic, I do not see any indication that there’s going to be a (non-virtual) Burn this year. The safety and health obstacles are too great, and I suspect (based on my conversation with an insider) that BLM will not be willing to approve it. The liabilities seem too high to justify the rewards. But it’s great to know that the organization is so vibrant during this difficult period, and is continuing to expand its culture into new realms.