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Burning Man founder Larry Harvey on why the festival has created ‘a new standard’ for public art

The founder of arts festival Burning Man Larry Harvey has claimed that the week-long event in the Nevada desert has created “a new standard for public art”.

Speaking at the Indaba Design Festival in Cape Town, for which The Drum is media partner, Harvey said that the various sources of funding for the large-scale art installations at the festival have almost led to a “re-invention” of 19th century arts patronage.

“We’ve made art interactive,” he said. “We create art that has a social purpose that connects people and that requires people to collaborate… It’s a new standard for public art at the very least.”

Burning Man, which has a $30m budget for 2015 will hand out $1.2m in grants to artists this year,. Harvey said ithat amount is “not even a third” of the money that’s put into the art at the festival. Another source of funding is crowdsourced over the internet, while a third source has “sort of re-invented 19th Century patronage of the arts,” continued Harvey.

“Where does the money come from? It’s from some people who are rich and said they wanted to give a gift to the entire city [of Burning Man].”

The event, which began with a small gathering of friends on a San Francisco beach, now draws in around 10,000 visitors. This year the theme is ‘Carnival of Mirrors’ and will take the form of an old-fashioned carnival.

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