Experiential Community was born of the the Black Rock French Quarter village, which itself was born of the Golden Cafe. Today, the Black Rock French Quarter continues as a village at Burning Man, containing many member camps. Some of the camps, such as the Black Rock Wine Cellar, predate the formation of the broader village. Some of the camps, such as the Cafe de la Fin du Monde, were formed simultaneously with the French Quarter village. Most of the camps, such as the Black Rock Bakery, have had many different leaders through their history, each bringing a different style to how the camp runs and what it represents. Some of the camps, such as the Lonesome Gator Gumbo Cookery and the Broken Angel Bathhouse, are on hiatus until a new team assembles to bring them back. To be a member of the village or any of these camps is to be a member of Experiential Community, but to be a member of Experiential Community you do not need to be a member of the village or any of the camps.
The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in Black Rock City, established in 1718 when the Black Rock Desert was first colonized by the French Queen River Company. Black Rock City was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carre ("Old Square" in French) as it was known then, but as the city is recreated at a different location each year, the relative location of the French Quarter to Center Camp and other landmarks sometimes moves. The French Quarter is situated on the highest ground in the Black Rock Desert, and is the only location on playa that is not underwater during the rainy season.
In the year 2018, the French Quarter is located at 3:30 and Elektro in Black Rock City. That is about a 5 minute walk to the Esplanade, and about a 12 minute walk to the Man.
Most of the French Quarter was built during the time of Spanish rule over Black Rock City, and this is reflected in its architecture. A catastrophe in the early days of the Burning Man festival destroyed most of the structures built in the French Colonial Temporary style, leaving the city's new Spanish overlords to rebuild the more modern Spanish Colonial Temporary structures that you see today. As immigrants poured into the Black Rock Desert in the 1800s to work on the railroads, Black Rock Asiatown was formed adjacent to the French Quarter. For this reason, one of the most prominent structures in the Black Rock French Quarter is the neon pagoda of the Appropriated Dragon, a dining hall bringing together the foods of many cultures.
The Black Rock French Quarter is a village at the Burning Man festival. The village is composed of various theme camps, each of which is devoted to a particular immersive experience, such as mixing cocktails, performing live music, baking breads and pastries, doing massage and bodywork, making and storing wine, crafting custom soaps, homebrewing beers, roasting coffee, cooking gumbo, or practicing meditation. The camps share these creative experiences with visitors, in an effort to transform visitors from consumers of gifts into participants in the creation of those gifts.
Camps within the Black Rock French Quarter aim to be between 10 to 30 members, to keep the teams intimate, and ensure that everyone feels personal responsibility for making their camp successful. Some camps eventually grow beyond this, and we do our best to split them into smaller camps, that work together to create larger structures or experiences. This process of splitting as a part of growth ensures that camps do not expand beyond their ability to find leaders to manage their growth, and that no group ever becomes so big that the members feel anonymous. In addition, members are encouraged to form new camps and groups within the village, to create new experiences, and try new ways of doing things, rather than expecting their leaders to plan out everything for them.
We have a page devoted to your most fundamental responsibilities that keep you from making an ass of yourself and reflecting badly on your villagemates, your ancestors, and your descendants. As a general rule, you are expected to help with setup, teardown, and cleanup, to the full extent of your capabilities, and to do an even share of whatever work your camp is involved in. So if you join the gumbo cookery, you will probably spend an evening cooking and serving gumbo or doing dishes. If you join the bathhouse, you will probably spend a day making custom scrubs and bath oils for visitors. If you join the cafe, you will probably spend a morning and evening roasting and serving coffee. You can contact each specific camp to understand what they do and what role you would play. In terms of time commitment, assume about a week in the months before Burning Man helping the village prepare, a day or so during the festival helping run their camp, a day at the end of the festival helping tear down, pack out, and clean up, and a few days after the festival helping get everything properly stored in the default world. Our community is aggressive in weeding out anyone who is not excited to contribute to our collective success.
Our members range in age from around 18 to around 80. We have a very high concentration of doers in our village, and people who take their work and fun seriously are always the best fit. We're very casual, with very little drama, but that's because everyone really does get their shit done and jump in to help a villagemate they see in need. We do not recruit members just to have enough bodies to staff a camp or enough money to fund it, and we do not accept groups without getting to know and accept every individual within that group.
Dues vary from camp to camp based on how expensive it is for that camp to operate - so bars that give away free cocktails, gumbo cookeries that serve up free seafood, and bathhouses that transport thousands of gallons of water tend to be more expensive than some of the other camps for instance. Dues are computed by estimating the costs of purchasing all the equipment and consumables, transporting everything hundreds or thousands of miles, providing whatever power is needed, dealing with all the trash and grey water that we produce and that is left by visitors in our space, and then dividing this total by the expected population of each camp. As a result, dues get higher when our population decreases or fuel prices increase, and dues get lower when our population increases or fuel prices decrease. In 2018, dues range from $225 per person for the camps with lower expenses, up to $400 per person for the camps with higher expenses. Within those dues, about $175 goes to the village, to pay for shared infrastructure like our landmark buildings, last ditch trash and MOOP handling, food and drinks for the hardest working members of our early arrival build crew and late leaving cleanup crew, and, when we are lucky, special projects like flickering street lights. Returning members with a track record of helping with the work have reduced village dues. Returning members with a reliable track record of staying through the final cleanup on Tuesday, pay no dues to the village.
If your goal in joining a theme camp is to pay for amenities for yourself, you have come to the wrong place. Our camps do not provide food, water, shade, housing, power, or just about anything else to our members. Our village DOES feature perhaps the most beautiful shower facility in the city, and a number of legendary chefs who sometimes offer meal plans, but all of these amenities are paid for on top of your camp dues, and you generally work for them as well. All of the amenities for our members are coordinated by our members, as a communal effort. Make no mistake, as a village we are not about what we can get for our money. We are about what we can give with our money. The dues and donations you contribute to our camps DO yield a TREMENDOUS bang for your buck - but that bang is not expressed in services that make your life easier on playa - it is expressed in the eyes of other Burners, virgins and veterans alike, experiencing the wonder of coffee and beignets, in the shade of our romantic buildings, while brass bands perform from the balconies, and drunken revelers dance in the streets.
To become a member of the Black Rock French Quarter village at Burning Man, you must first reach out to the camp you wish to join and apply to Experiential Community. Membership in Experiential Community is free, but you will have to pay village dues and camp dues to join us at Burning Man, fulfill your responsibilities to the village, and do your share of the labor in making it all happen, as defined by your camp and village leaders.