The Art of Mass Gatherings

A touring experiential symposium that uses festivals as classrooms to build community resilience and climate change preparedness.Hundreds of people in nine cities across the country have already participated in this innovative program, developed by Majestic Collaborations and featured by FEMA in its Arts & Experiential Learning Inspiration Book.

The Art of Mass Gatherings is an experiential learning event that uses festivals as classrooms to activate an arts-focused approach to community resilience and emergency preparedness. It brings together a variety of professionals involved in producing mass gatherings—including artists, event producers, and emergency professionals— and invites them to share knowledge and practices that increase the safety, accessibility, sustainability, and community engagement of large gatherings.

Resilience officers and analysts have been known to call resilience a latent feature of a community: until a disaster strikes, it's difficult to measure, assess, or improve.We know better.

If you’d like to see how your community will fare during a disaster in the future, go to its festivals today.

The Idea

Practicing Resilience

Local events exist at the crossroads of community, cultural tradition, and social transformation. Structurally, they also share a surprising amount in common with disaster response sites, from temporary structures to emergency planning and crowd management, accessibility needs, and the design of food, waste, and water systems.That makes festivals and other mass gatherings ideal classrooms and sandboxes for arts and culture workers, emergency professionals, and community members alike to meet one another, learn, and practice the art of resilience. That's exactly what we do at The Art of Mass Gatherings.

The Four Pillars

The foundation of all Art of Mass Gatherings is a four pillar framework for resilient gatherings: safety, sustainability, accessibility, and community engagement.

By sharing their knowledge and building skills in these areas, artists and event workers create more inclusive events, expand the safety and resilience of their entire communities, and increase their qualifications for a range of job opportunities both in and outside of the arts.Emergency professionals grow their community's trust and activate broader participation in preparedness efforts.Everyone involved keeps their skills fresh so that they are prepared to serve their communities whenever disaster does strike.Continue reading below or watch a 5-minute mini-documentary about the ideas driving this work.

"People who set up festivals are skilled at creating temporary cities with all of the necessary infrastructure such as water, waste, power, security, transportation, and structures."

Program Co-Founder Matthew Ché Kowal

In the next image, we'll take a look at three different mass gatherings. See if you can tell which photo is which.

  • Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline (photo © Reuters)

  • A wildfire evacuation camp in California, (photo © Reuters)

  • Campsites at the Lost Paradise music festival

Collaborative program design

Working with locally-based host committees, Majestic Collaborations customizes each symposium to meet the specific needs of the areas in which they are held. We have hosted past symposia in English, Spanish, and with live spoken and/or signed language interpretation. We structure our funding model so that the programs are free to participants.Topics at past events have included mental and physical first aid, power systems design for events and emergency response, stages and structures, alternative energy design, and cultural asset mapping. See more topics.Presenters include both local luminaries and special guest experts from around the nation. The event format encourages attendees to take turns as students and teachers, fostering learning and professional networking at the interesting intersection of event production and emergency management.

The Art of Mass Gatherings

What people are saying

So far we've brought The Art of Mass Gatherings to nine cities across the US, including a Spanish-first program in Puerto Rico, thanks to the support of Performing Arts Readiness and a workforce development grant from the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Hear what program sponsors and participants have to say.

"Training like this helps us work more effectively with partners across the state around issues of climate change, public health, accessibility, conservation, and community benefit. This ‘whole community’ approach will help build North Carolina’s capacity in mitigating and preparing for the effects of climate change."


"Hosting the Art of Mass Gatherings is a significant step towards strengthening our collective commitment to a safer, more prepared, and more responsible industry. With everyone doing their best to independently survive and thrive, building a consistent and supportive network requires a concentrated forum for knowledge sharing and an exchange of best practices. This timely and thorough gathering is exactly that!"


"Before this, I myself had never stopped to think how everything we have been discussing with regard to [accessibility in] emergency planning could relate to mass gathering events. It was like an aha moment: you have to make sure that you're taking into consideration the needs of everyone in order for your event to be truly successful and to be truly inclusive of people with disabilities, whom I'm sure would love to– and need to– participate in these events and feel they are part of the community."


The Art of Mass Gatherings

Past Events

Learn more about our past events, where you can also access online portals with session resources. We are currently accepting applications for festivals who would like to host an Art of Mass Gatherings.

The Art of Mass Gatherings

Get in Touch

Sign up to get newsletters. Or reach out to us directly using any of our contact details below.

Art of Mass Gatherings founders Matt Kowal and Molly North share the experiences and big ideas driving this work This 5-minute interview with the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response


Thank you

You're all set to start getting our latest news in arts resilience!


Convene a local host committee! This diverse group includes arts and cultural organizations, emergency service agencies, and local leaders who will shape the program and invite their networks to participate in the event.


Design the program. We work with the host committee to design an inclusive program featuring both local luminaries and national experts. Session topics draw from the Four Pillars of Resilient Gatherings but are tailored to local needs and interests.


Learn together. Through workshops, participatory asset mapping, site tours, and interactive demos, professionals across disciplines gain fluency in each other’s craft, all while experiencing the music, art, food, and atmosphere of their regional festivals.

Learning symposia

Vitae amet aliquam tellus mauris

Purus ut faucibus pulvinar elementum integer enim neque volutpat. Arcu felis bibendum ut tristique et egestas quis ipsum.

Event Assessments

Odio tempor egestas amet ultrices

Faucibus ornare suspendisse sed nisi lacus sed viverra. Amet tellus cras adipiscing enim orci nulla. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.