Burning Man founder Larry Harvey is in critical condition at a Bay Area hospital after he suffered a massive stroke last week.
Harvey, who started Burning Man on a San Francisco beach in 1986, suffered the stroke on Wednesday. His prognosis is unknown, according to a statement today on the Burning Man Journal.
“Larry is receiving excellent round-the-clock medical care and constant companionship from his family and very close friends,” the statement said.
Harvey, 70, has remained heavily involved in Burning Man, a 68,000-person arts celebration held in the Black Rock Desert, about two hours north of Reno.
He is responsible for the creation of the annual theme and naming the streets in Black Rock City. He also contributes to the design of the event’s central effigy, burned on the penultimate night of the weeklong event each year.
“While this is a challenging time, we are encouraged by our community’s ability to come together when it matters most,” the statement said. “Some have asked how this may affect our organization and our operations going forward. Rest assured, Burning Man and Black Rock City 2018 will go on. If there’s one thing we know for sure, Larry wants us to burn the Man.”
Harvey wrote down the event’s 10 principles in a cafe in Mexico in 2004, he previously told the Reno Gazette Journal in 2016. The principles are purposed to encourage Burners to have a more fulfilling experience of the event; they include radical self-reliance, inclusion and self-expression.
Harvey, who does not know who his biological parents are but believes he was conceived in the back of a Chevy, was adopted by a pair of potato farmers who fled Nebraska during the Great Depression. They got out of there “when the stock market crashed and the earth blew away,” Harvey told the Reno Gazette Journal previously.
His adoptive parents settled on an artisanal farm just outside of Portland, Ore., in an area heavily populated by Japanese and Italian immigrants.
“They had to band together with other people to stay alive – that sounds like Burning Man because it was like Burning Man,” Harvey said of his parents.
Harvey has credited his practical parents — a carpenter with a fourth-grade education born in 1899 and a homemaker — with teaching him the values that would later become the 10 Principles for Burning Man. He also credits them with creating a void that Burning Man helped to fill.
“I observed all their practicalities and their values, but I had this visionary side where I could see things that no one else could see,” Harvey has said of his relationship with his family.
When he was young, he remembered asking his father if they could dig an eight-foot deep maze together in one of the fields. He thought it would be a great way to get all of the neighbors to talk to one other and interact since they didn’t usually, mostly given the language barriers. His father scoffed, believing that anyone who talked a mile a minute with all these pipe dreams like little Larry was “running their mouth,” Harvey previously told the Reno Gazette Journal.
By the time Larry was a teenager, however, he had a plan. At 17, he hitchhiked to San Francisco after a brief stint in the service, barely missing the “summer of love,” but still arriving in time to experience the freewheeling, organic atmosphere of the Bay Area. He moved into a flat in the Haight-Ashbury district, and he has lived within four blocks of it ever since.