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Creative Fire

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For more than 30 years, Burning Man has been an annual celebration of artistic self-expression, creativity and freedom, a free-form festival that culminates with the symbolic burning of a towering wooden effigy. 

While attending “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” at the Cincinnati Art Museum, some of my long-held notions about the nature of creativity were put to the test. 

Inspecting the list of Burning Man’s guiding tenets was my first indication that this was something different. Concepts such as radical inclusion, civic responsibility, communal effort and immediacy, among others, are the rules attendees live by. There was a distinct lack of traditional – and more solitary – creative processes. 

My “process” usually consists of sitting at my art table, scribbling concept illustrations or working out compositions on a computer. I hand these over for approval and move on to the next project. Suddenly, it felt so stale.

I wondered if my work would benefit from more collaboration and inclusion. It sure seems to be working for the talented participants of Burning Man.

I’ve since made a point to seek out the opinions of colleagues, to ask, “What would make this better?” or something as simple as, “Do you like these colors?”

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For me, collaboration doesn’t come naturally, but I’ve received useful input that has strengthened my designs. And no effigies were burned in the process.

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