Larry Harvey, Co-Founder of Burning Man Festival, Dies at 70

“Our founder, friend, and original instigator, Larry Harvey has passed away,” wrote Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell

larry harvey burning man
Photo: Tony Deifell

Larry Harvey, co-founder of the annual Burning Man Festival outside Reno, Nevada, died Saturday at age 70, the organization announced on its website.

“Our founder, friend, and original instigator, Larry Harvey has passed away,” wrote Marian Goodell, Burning Man Project CEO. “Larry suffered a massive stroke at his home on the morning of April 4. We resolutely held out for a miracle. If there was anyone tenacious, strong-willed and stubborn enough to come back from this challenge, it was Larry.”

The annual week-long arts and music festival — named for a giant wooden man that is burned in effigy that is set ablaze on the festival’s penultimate night — draws tens of thousands of people, including celebrities.

Harvey, along with friend Jerry James, founded the annual event on a San Francisco beach in 1986.

The event quickly grew and moved to a remote location in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, about a two-hour drive north of Reno.

Harvey maintained an active role in the festival over the years, including devising each year’s theme. He also shaped the founding principles of the organization, which include a dedication to inclusion, “radical self-reliance,” decommodification and communal effort.

“Larry was never one for labels,” Goodell said in her statement “He didn’t fit a mold; he broke it with the way he lived his life. He was 100 percent authentic to his core. For all of us who knew or worked with him, he was a landscape gardener, a philosopher, a visionary, a wit, a writer, an inspiration, an instigator, a mentor, and at one point a taxi driver and a bike messenger.”

Harvey is survived by his son Tristan, his brother Stewart, his nephew Bryan, and “a global community of devoted Burning Man participants inspired by his vision to build a more creative, cooperative, and generous world,” according to a tribute to Larry written by his close friend of over 25 years, Stuart Mangrum.