The Empathy Co-op launched a free, participatory art installation that people can experience in both downtown Reno and online through the Burning Man Multiverse. The project enables people to engage and connect to a deeper, intrinsic understanding of empathy, self-awareness and belonging within communities. 

The Empathy Co-op art experience, created by Sharon DeMattia and Thomas Kohler, consists of three interactive elements using curiosity, art and play as tools to foster empathy and human connection. The Empathy Co-op consists of:

  • Collaborative wall murals that inspire freedom and expression of the “wild self”
  • Guided art experiences in which anonymous self-portraits become an interactive empathy gallery
  • An illuminated art exhibition where participants are invited to contribute to life-sized humanoid sculptures that become collective storytellers around themes shaping our world.

At the art installation, people will be guided through three experiences to help them gain clarity around their desires, purpose and explore skills that contribute to a happy, meaningful life. The Empathy Co-Op is now open through Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m. and from Thursday to Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

The project will be open at three locations in the East Fourth Street Brewery District:

The art installation has been designed to create emotional closeness while still adhering to COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. People can also enjoy the online experience by going to and then navigating to the BRCvrplatform (free registration required).

The founders have been motivated by the research uncovering that chronic loneliness kills. COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have only exacerbated this crisis. In an article published by The Association for Psychological Science social isolation and loneliness could be a greater threat to public health than obesity. The University of Chicago recently published the COVID response tracking study that reveals a reduction in adult happiness of 50% along with a 100% increase in loneliness and a tripling of serious psychological distress. 

The evening program titled LOVE AID is an “old school” telethon variety show featuring music, performance artists, speakers and workshops. Visitors can attend LOVE AID live or enjoy it remotely via the live stream on Facebook

The LOVE AID event will be held outdoors in the Black Rabbit Meadery parking lot. Access is limited to 50 people. LOVE AID is produced by IDEATE, a San Francisco based organization and the Empathy Co-Op to benefit the Burning Man 501c3 nonprofit organization.

All programming is free of charge and open to the public. The three participatory art experiences will be offered during opening hours.

“We want to make it easy for visitors to activate and direct their energy towards solutions that serve the greater good while forming new relationships and working on something they are passionate about,” said co-creator Sharon DeMattia.

The Reno City Arts Commission, the Reno Downtown Alliance, and the Economic Redevelopment Agency of Western Nevada (EDAWN), Visit Reno Tahoe, and Artown Reno have endorsed the Empathy Co-Op.