The Creative Spark Behind Burning Man
In 2022, Kim Cook made her mark at Burning Man as the woman behind the iconic giant wooden structure, known as the Man. During the year, Kim, who is the director of creative initiatives at the Burning Man Project, is responsible for nurturing the Burning Man culture of radical self-expression worldwide. Before her latest position with the project, Kim spent four years as its director of art and civic engagement, leading teams and overseeing art and art-related infrastructure for the annual Nevada desert event. She also served for almost three years as president and CEO of the Arts Council of New Orleans, a role in which she produced the annual LUNA Fête art and technology festival.
Last summer, Kim Cook spearheaded the conceptualization and building of the Burning Man structure known as the Man, incorporating elements from contributing artists to create the colossal effigy and base predestined to burn the final night of the festival. Working with the year’s theme — “Waking Dreams” — Kim says she worked to “find the sublime, the subliminal, and the direct references that could uplift and amplify the theme through this structure, inviting, welcoming, and able to hold people in a variety of different ways.” The final product used tunnels, ramps, stairs, benches, deck and a tower to provide opportunities “for the community to gather and be together within the space.” In 2023, Kim oversaw construction of the Man again — this time, the concept was that of a hive, buzzing and humming in an “ambient, sonorous, cacophonous, an uncoordinated symphony of life, joy and beauty.” When unprecedented rainstorms turned Black Rock City into a muddy mess, Burning Man was temporarily paralyzed. But the Man still burned, albeit a few days late, and those who stuck it out were rewarded for their tenacity.