Temple story on Beyond Burning Man

Read the original story here: https://medium.com/beyond-burning-man/get-involved-c4d4ca4cfb8a

Get Involved! Colorado’s ‘Temple of Tranquility’ Evokes the Serene Power of Burning Man Regional Temples — Past, Present, and Future

TEMPLES PRESENT: What’s happening now?

What has the globe experienced in the time-space between 2020 and 2022, if not massive and profound loss? Our grief needs no introduction. From the most personal stories about disconnection and isolation to the largest social upheaval around race, equity, and inclusion, our shared sense of loss feels to me like a gobstopper of pain, with ever more layers of grief.

At the beginning of 2021, a few Burners in Colorado decided that we needed a Temple. We thought that this type of project might be a good catalyst to draw people out of our isolation. Then, in April of 2021, a shooter took the lives of 10 members of the Boulder community at a grocery store, including a police officer. Our hearts broke all over again. This tragedy kicked the Temple project into action. We needed an opportunity to share in a catharsis, a shedding of our collective grief and heartbreak.

Before I go on, please let me describe how I got here. I discovered Burning Man 10 years ago and was beyond overjoyed when I learned that “Burners are here too” and that I might participate in this creative and transformational paradigm at home. Since that moment, I have poured myself into this co-creation of experience. As a professional arts administrator with an education in social sciences, the Burner-sphere was living proof that collaborative, creative experiences foster resilient people and build community. To me, Burning Man was the dynamic center of my philosophical Venn diagram of art, individuals, and society. Of all the ways that I participate, the Temple has been one of the most transformative.

In 2017, I stood Sandman for the Man Burn on Saturday night, and again for The Temple Burn, 36 hours later. I sobbed as I watched my community grieve, and I was transformed by the power of sharing this emergent catharsis with thousands of strangers. Never have I felt more humbled and present to a monumental, co-created experience, or to my own personal healing. Later that year, I was lucky enough to participate at the Catharsis on the Mall burn in Washington DC, which spurred me to think more broadly of a burn as a cathartic moment as much as an act of protest. If this group could host an event on the National Mall, it was possible anywhere.

Then in 2018, while I was standing Sandman for the Clan burn at AfrikaBurn in South Africa, we learned that Burning Man founder Larry Harvey died. And I wept again. These were both tears of sorrow and deep gratitude for the life and fulfillment I had found in Burning Man and for my international adopted family. I am, fundamentally, a supporter of other people’s ideas, I am not a creator. For the Temple, I stand at the boundary between safe and unsafe and bear witness the outpouring of my fellow humans. I believe that the catch phrase, “Sandmen stop runners” could be amended to include, “Sandmen bear witness.” My art is as a bridge between worlds, as a creator of space and a joiner of hands. I have adopted the role as bridge and translator at home too, between Burner and default worlds. In 2021, I desperately wanted to help build a Temple for Boulder. This desire was catalyzed further on New Years Eve 2021, when a wildfire burned 600 homes to the ground in 15 hours. I wanted to bring the burn home.

A Sandman for “SKOP 4” at AfrikaBurn, 2018

And here we are back in 2022. I am proud of all that we have accomplished in this last year, for Boulder, by community members who live in and near Boulder. We have secured an architectural design for the structure by Boulder architect, Renzo Verbeck, who is simultaneously responsible for the Empyrean Temple at Black Rock City in 2022.

Named The Temple of Tranquility, the roof’s apex is adorned by 10 colored gems to honor the 10 people who were taken from us.

Temple of Tranquility concept by Renzo Verbeck

View a fly-through video of the concept here:

The structure is non-denominational and will be publicly available for free to our entire community with opportunities to leave momentos, write messages and take time for reflection. The space it encloses, the process by which it is built, activated and released are all opportunities for gathering, collaborating and healing. The Temple of Tranquility will be built in South Boulder at the lovely Harlow Platts Community Park, on one of the peninsulas in the pond in the fall of 2022.

Map of the Temple’s location in Boulder, Colorado

We have support from Boulder’s Mayor, City Manager, Police Department, members of City Council, the Arts and Culture Department, and other City departments, and have found the general response to the project to be positive. Our website offers some information about the project and will continue to grow as the project needs. Presently, we’re embarking on our fundraising efforts and have secured a $10,000 grant from the City of Boulder. This project embodies the bridge between my playa world at Black Rock City and my home turf in Colorado.

Unlike the release of the Temple at Black Rock City, through a cathartic transformation of the structure into energy through fire, the Temple of Tranquility will not be burned. We see this challenge as an opportunity for the community to overcome an obstacle by binding together. We are sensitive to the trauma that many in our community have suffered because of fires, state-wide. We also, almost entirely uniquely, have a decade of experience with “no ember producing fire” restrictions at our regional burn events. This deviation, albeit forced, from how Burning Man and other regional burns “do it” makes me very proud. We are actively interpreting what Burning Man showed us in a way that is authentic to us, we are bringing the burn home and making it our own. The Temple of Tranquility is the next chapter of that story.

TEMPLES PAST: A quick look back in time.

In 2006, “Phoenix”, the effigy for official Regional Event Apogaea in Colorado, was not burned due to a local burn ban and was stored for a year and then burned in 2007. Our community thought it was a fluke, that we had made it through a weird weather period. For the second year that Apogaea funded a Temple project, in 2012, “Luminaria,” a similar burn ban prevented the structure from burning. The community adapted tot the constant restriction on fire and shifted focus to creating cathartic experiences without it. Apogaea’s “Temple of Transubstantiation” incorporated water as a transformative element in 2013.

“Temple of Transubstantiation” by Matt Tynan, Doug Drummond, and Ryan Elmendorf (Photo by Valerie Santerli)
The 2016 “Temple of Resonance” activated bells for a cathartic experience and also went on to be a part of Denver Pride (Photo by Valerie Santerli)
“Temple of Resonance” by Paulo Wellman, Apogaea Temple, 2016 (Photo by Cliff Baise)
“The Temple of Resonance” by Paulo Wellman at Denver Pride, 2016 (Photo courtesy of the author)

Apogaea has also had propane-fueled effigies since 2017.

“Heart of Gold” by Ken King, Apogaea Effigy 2017
“Big C” by Shane Evans, Apogaea effigy, 2018 (Photo by Rand Fields)
“Draco’s Nest” by Scorched Steel, Apogaea effigy, 2019 (Photo by Andrew Wyatt)

These same restrictions have spurred our community to think broadly and to create some really incredible art projects using propane-fueled flame effects. Here are two wonderful examples:

“Church of Prometheus” by Nate Harris at Apogaea, 2015 (Photo by Andrew Wyatt)
“Perfect Heart” by Dave and Autumn Mechtly, has been exhibited at Denver Decompression 2018, 2021, Colorado Burnal Equinox 2019, 2022, Apogaea 2019, Burning Man 2019, 2020, and dozens of other public and private events.

TEMPLES FUTURE: What’s in store for Burning Man Regional Temples, and how you can help!

Now we look to the future as we bring Burning Man home and make it our own. We are eager to see people participate in this project, from the Burner community and from the local Colorado communities. As is our tradition, this is an all volunteer created project. How can you get involved in this co-created, publicly available project?

  1. Suggest ways that the Temple of Tranquility can be released that don’t include fire. Complete this tiny survey or fill in your own idea.
  2. Contribute your financial support to help us purchase the materials needed to construct the Temple and to program the space during its display. Check out our fiscal sponsor’s website for details on how to make a tax deductible donation.
  3. Participate as a volunteer coordinator to organize people who want to participate as Temple guardians, or offer workshops, ceremonies or healings at the space. Email us at hello@templeoftranquility.org if you are interested.
  4. Donate materials and/or your time to help build the Temple. Check out the Temple of Tranquility website for details.
  5. Offer your space for the community to build the Temple at your shop. Email us at hello@templeoftranquility.org to begin a conversation.

Social media presence will be available soon so you can follow, like, comment and support this project on whatever platform and in whichever way is most accessible for you.

Burners understand how our Temples have helped us all — our friends, family members, strangers, and the community as a whole — begin to heal from deep loss and trauma. We invite those in our extended Burner family to help create a place of healing for our Boulder community, and beyond. This project represents the most profound expression of Communal Effort and we hope it inspires you to help. If not us, who? If not now, when?

You can read more about Temples in the Burning Man tradition in these articles:

Ranger So Rachel, Black Rock City, 2017 (Photo courtesy of the author)

So Rachel Cain
 is an advisory committee member for the Temple of Tranquility and a Regional Contact to Burning Man for Denver, Colorado. While many pieces of the project are still in flux, the Temple of Tranquility hopes to come to fruition in spring 2023.

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