Stuart Mangrum is Burning Man Project’s Education Director. This is the second in our ongoing series of profiles of the people who make Burning Man Project a success.
Stuart has been part of the Burning Man community since the early 1990s, when he founded the playa’s first daily newspaper, the Black Rock Gazette. A member of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, he was drawn to the idea of creating a pop-up city in the desert, unburdened by history or context. “When I first met Larry Harvey,” he recalls, “he posed an intriguing question: what are the absolutely essential elements of city life? We agreed very quickly that there were three: bathrooms, a good cup of coffee, and a newspaper.”
After that initial experience Stuart became a year-round volunteer, serving as Burning Man’s communications director from 1993 to 1996. In addition to publishing the Gazette, he helped establish Burning Man’s first radio station, first online communities, and first live webcast.
His professional career in the default world has been long and varied, including positions as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Air Force, a training manager for a global real estate company, and a vice president at one of Silicon Valley’s first interactive agencies. He has held executive positions at several technology start-ups, and ran a successful consulting business focusing on marketing and training programs. Then, in the summer of 2012, he got an unexpected call from his old colleague Larry Harvey.
“It was like Tom Sawyer all over again,” he laughs. “Another fence to be painted.” He worked with Harvey on the 2013 theme, “Cargo Cult,” and quickly found himself back in the thick of things. In addition to co-writing the theme manifesto and participating in the design of the Man base, he hired on as a consultant to help develop an education and training strategy for Burning Man Project. In July, he shifted to a full-time role.
“This is an exciting time to be part of the Burning Man world,” he says. “It’s like a start-up again. How do we deal with global growth? How do we teach the Ten Principles, and stay true to their spirit as we cross cultural and linguistic boundaries? How can we continue to serve as a catalyst for positive change in the world?”
When he’s not asking Big Questions, Stuart enjoys wilderness camping, cooking, brewing, and literature. He lives in San Francisco’s East Bay with his wife Paizley, another longtime burner.