So, you want to start a Theme Camp? A tip of the hat to you on this venture! Many have done it, and know it to be a rewarding experience. But beware, my intrepid friends! There are perils and considerations to overcome. I humbly offer this simple guide to help you find your way to success.

What is a Theme Camp?

Well, they are ideas turned into reality. A person, or group of like-minded people usually come up with a simple idea (e.g. “Let’s teach people how to make pickles!”). They are so desirous to share this idea that they decide it should become a theme for their camp. Thus, the Playa Picklers are born!

You can read a lot about the rich history of Theme Camps and Burner culture at:

Element 11 holds to the same criteria as Burning Man, so please read through their information!


Once upon a time there was a band, you may have heard of them. The members of this band had grand ideas and bold plans. In order to accomplish their goals they created a system and found it so useful they adopted the name as their moniker.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

Yes, that story is a lie, but the lesson is not. While the ideas you have and plans you make may be bold, the goals and paths to accomplishment should be simple and achievable. You can build amazing things from basic foundations; theme camps are no different!

But is it Art?

Ah! Good question! Is digging for water an art? Is braiding beard hair art? Is explaining the mass transfer coefficient of ice and vodka art? (I don’t know about that last one, but it has vodka in it, therefore it is ART!)

Dear readers, if you have a passion for it, and it can be experienced and shared (preferably in a legally defensible manner), then it can likely be considered art, by someone, somewhere.

Getting Started

Honestly, this is a process. If it’s broken down into manageable pieces, things go smoothly and can be assigned, ordered, mandated or just tackled. As the infallible author of this article, I like to look at the process as an outline:

  1. Ideas
  2. Resources
    1. People
    2. What already exists
    3. What needs to be created
    4. Money
    5. Transportation
    6. Time
  3. Priorities
    1. What do you* want to do?
    2. What can you* do?
    3. What do you* need to do?
    4. There’s always next year!

Making and Executing The Plan

There’s a simple mantra to all of this. Do not plan too much, do not be too complex and do not include people you cannot depend on. Find trusted friends, make trusted friends. Ask for help and ideas. DELEGATE! And do not worry about the people and things you cannot control. Start small, grow with the iterations. Use those iterations to iron out the bugs. And remember, complexity breaks in harsh environments where technology is not always your soul-mate.

Make your budget early on. Double it, then double it again. You will not get rich making a theme camp and it is often a thankless task. The least enjoyable thing you want to do is make so much work for yourself that you do not get to enjoy the festivities when and if things go to hell.

Art Grants

Ahhh yes. Apply at your local festival for their money! But beware, there are a few details to keep in mind.

  1. What is the process? They have web pages and Facebook announcements for this. Please do your research and ask questions!
  2. A well planned application goes far! This shows a spirit of Radical Self-Reliance and your local Arts Committees respect that. Offer details, break them down in plan-form. Show line items!
  3. Total budget vs. Requested Grant. If your plan requires $5,000, ask for a reasonable amount after you have considered your fellow member’s contributions, total costs and how much you expect to raise at fundraisers. Request that amount (say, $2,000) and plan on a portion of that.
  4. If you receive an art grant, it is advisable, my friends, to elect a Treasurer and stick that hot cash into a bank account. Keep your receipts and prepare to be accountable. Contracts will be signed! If you do not deliver on your promises you will be expected to return the funds!

Be patient. Many apply for rain, but few will receive a drink.


This is a topic I shall not dwell upon, for it is one you will need to decide upon with input from your esteemed members. Should you have a “closed” camp? Should it be open and free? How much? How will your dues benefit the members and future iterations of your camp? There are many opinions and guidelines available. I strongly suggest reviewing this helpful post and video from the Interwebs.

The Game Is Afoot!

If your festival begins in July, hopefully you began planning in August of the prior year. Regular planning meetings will tell you who your most reliable members are and what plans are working out. Following this theoretical timeline, you will have all of your raw materials by April, along with many of your monies. Thusly, you should have a good two to three months to assemble and test your plans, structures and activities.

Now, in reality, some of this will not come together until 11:49 PM the night before your feet first kiss the blessed dirt of Playa proper. So, I suggest prayer to the Deity, rock or marmot of your choosing. If you have planned, the strain upon your faith will be slight. If you have not planned, you will probably go insane and I weep for your state-of-mind. Never fear, however, I will call upon a Green Dot for you.

Clean It Up!

This is not a joke.

You will leave the ground you camped upon in a better state than it was when you pounded your first foot of rebar! Even if you’re the only soul out there with a pointed stick and a sewn-up piece of underwear, you are expected to clean up after yourselves! Failing to do so can have consequences of karmic proportions. We’ve all seen the “Moop Map”! Don’t be one of Those People….

That said, dearest readers, I wish you success in your dreams of Theme Camp success! Blessed Be and all that. Cheerio!

With Love and Laughter

Queen Tut

P.S. You may now register your Theme Camp for Element 11 2015, “Under The Stars” by following the link below and submitting the appropriate form.