Armed with a cookie in one hand (preferably from DUMBO’s One Girl Cookies) and a cup of fair trade Sumatran coffee in the other, art enthusiasts can witness choreographed processions of bubble bodies, 14-foot-tall inflatable sculptures of a human heart, and extravagant street murals while sauntering under the Manhattan Bridge this weekend.
This weekend, the DUMBO Arts Festival will celebrate its annual free exposition of art, dance, and music exhibitions throughout the Brooklyn neighborhood. As a place where hipsters gather and pizza lovers congregate, this festival is seeking to inspire audiences of all ages.
“Our audience is a full range from young to old, art novice to art pro,” organizer Lisa Kim, BC ’96, said. Kim is managing the synthesis of over 400 projects for the festival, which combines exceptional pieces from participants in DUMBO’s art community.
The pieces on display range from Leslie Lyon’s “Hurry Up, My Husband Wants To Spank Me!”, an improvisational exercise that welcomes contributions of poetic verse from its audience, to Galapagos Art Space’s “Floating Kabarette,” a trapeze performance. For many of the pieces on display, audience participation is key.
“We have many projects that invite participation—something as simple as borrowing a ‘picnic blanket’ for your use in the park, an augmented reality monster battle that’s only visible and activated by you on your smartphone, to a range of projects that require your input, either in gesture and motion or data to trigger the artwork,” Kim said.
All the pieces passed through a selection process as well as a procedure for allotting enough space for each piece in order to maintain its integrity. Each artist—whether they have been in the festival before or are new participants—must work with organizers to enhance their own installations. For organizers, the commitment to the neighborhood is what sets it apart from other art festivals in the city.
“DUMBO differs in its unique urban setting and its rich history of art and innovation that has been a part of this neighborhood since the turn of the last century,” Kim said. “We have an extraordinary waterfront park—amazing views of the Manhattan skyline and two bridges that the artists have to contend with as well as historic buildings, cobblestone streets, and the BQE.”
One example of these installations is Heather Hart’s “Bartertown.” Set in a familiar street fair scenario, the piece requires visitors to haggle in exchange for an item they want. However, instead of haggling with money, visitors must barter with either an item that they already own or a skill that they excel at.
“The point is to communicate and to re-invent an economy that is based on a value system we determine ourselves and that anyone can participate in, despite their financial position,” Hart said. “I encourage people to think creatively. Don’t only look in your backpack for a forgotten pen that someone might need, but think about what you are good at. Teach someone a language, write an IOU for services, give someone a hug.”
That is the inspiration that each artist is looking to reward his audience. With nearly 500 different performances, visitors might just find one that they can connect with—even if they were just strolling through the neighborhood.