Larry Harvey, Burning Man Founder and Philosopher, Dies After Massive Stroke
The key founder of the cultural festival had been unconscious in a San Francisco hospital for weeks.
By Calley Nelson
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May 2, 2019
Larry Harvey, a leading founder of Burning Man — an annual culture, music, and arts festival attracting some 75,000 people to the Nevada desert — has died. He was 70.
Although the cause of death was not immediately known, he suffered a stroke on April 4, 2019, and had been hospitalized ever since.
Stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off (an ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel bursts (a hemorrhagic stroke). In both instances, oxygen is unable to travel to the brain, causing damage that can result in cognitive impairment or death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 140,000 people in the United States are killed each year by stroke.
According to The Burning Man Journal, Harvey is survived by his son Tristan, his brother Stewart, his nephew Bryan, and the devoted Burning Man attendees who helped him build a more creative, cooperative, and generous world.
Burning Man participants, known as “burners,” are encouraged by the organization to leave comments, memories, and photos of Harvey on their website.
At the request of Harvey’s friends, the organization also created The Larry Harvey Art and Philosophy Fund to support art projects and philosophical endeavors.
Carving Out His Own Path
Harvey started Burning Man in San Francisco with his friend Jerry James on the 1986 summer solstice. They dragged an eight-foot-tall wooden effigy to Baker Beach, doused it in gasoline, and lit it on fire.
“At the moment it was lit, everybody on that beach, north and south, came running.” Harvey told attendants at the 1997 Burning Man.
To this day, tens of thousands of people gather annually in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to celebrate eccentricity, inclusivity, and radical expression.
No one is certain what inspired Harvey’s initial 1986 Burning Man.
“Was it to burn away the pain of a failed relationship? An act of pure spontaneous creation undertaken on a whim?” writes Stuart Mangrum for the Burning Man Journal. “He preferred that we understand [Burning Man] as a blank canvas unfettered by explanation.”
Burning Man 2019 will be held from August 26 to September 3, despite Harvey’s absence.
An obituary posted on the Burning Man blog reads: “A humanist at heart, Larry did not believe in any sort of existence after death. Now that he’s gone, let’s take the liberty of contradicting him, and keep his memory alive in our hearts, our thoughts, and our actions.
Video: Larry Harvey on how Burning Man Festival created art with a social purpose
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