Larry Harvey, co-founder of Burning Man, who had the original idea of building a giant wooden figure and burning it to the ground, has died at the age of 70. The cause of his death wasn’t immediately known, but he had suffered a stroke earlier in the month on April 4th.
He died Saturday morning at a San Francisco hospital with his family around him. Harvey built Burning Man, a festival that had 70,000 participants last year, in 1986 on a San Francisco beach. The event became the arts and culture festival it is today, and in the process, relocated to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
“We resolutely held out for a miracle,” wrote Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell in the Burning Man Journal. “If there was anyone tenacious, strong-willed and stubborn enough to come back from this challenge, it was Larry. Though we all hoped he would recover, he passed peacefully this morning at 8:24am in San Francisco, with members of his family at his side.”
Burning Man is a festival with its roots in anti-establishment culture and, in the present day, also known for its strong connection to Silicon Valley. The festival doesn’t allow money, but rather uses “gift culture” as a sort of bartering between attendees. The only items for sale, The New York Times reports, are coffee and ice. Before he passed, Harvey selected the theme for this year’s festival, “I, Robot.”
Harvey’s brother, Stewart Harvey, wrote a tribute to the Burning Man founder in the event’s journal.
After years of struggling to fashion Burning Man into something that spoke eloquently of both art and community, Larry, it seems, finally began to relax and trust the excellent team that had been drawn to him and the promise of the event’s future. For me there is no greater testament to my brother’s accomplishments than that in his later years he was able to draw family and friendships closer, and allow a joyful and unselfconscious warmth to once again define his smile.