The DUMBO Arts Festival was a multi-site celebration of the arts, bringing innovative and challenging artwork to a diverse audience and providing a career-making platform for artists from around the world.
Founded in 1997, the DUMBO Arts Festival was the single largest free art event in New York City until its closure following the 2014 festival. First known as the D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival, the three-day happening was initially established as a grassroots artists’ initiative to showcase the neighborhood as a springboard for new art and ideas. Taking advantage of the unique urban landscape and high density of artist studios, the first D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival included open studios, live painting, live music, fashion shows, dance performances, and film screenings.
Doug Fishbone Ten Thousand Bananas, 2002
Photo: Doug Fishbone
The organizers of the inaugural D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival—DUMBO residents Joy Glidden and Tyson Daugherty—went on to found the DUMBO Arts Center, the first non-profit arts organization in DUMBO and steward of the festival from 1998 through 2009.
With the DUMBO Arts Center’s announcement of the end of the festival in 2009, festival sponsor Two Trees Management Company stepped in and took over lead sponsorship and organization of the festival. In the following years, festival attendance grew to over 200,000 annually.
“… WE PLAN TO TAKE OVER THE STREETS, DEMONSTRATING THE STRENGTH OF ARTISTS IN NUMBERS, GIVING THE BREAD OF LIFE, THE NUTRIENTS WHICH SUSTAIN TRUE CULTURE: THOUGHT, PASSION, COMMITMENT, SENSUALITY AND LAUGHTER.”
- DARIUS JAMES, 1997
Kyle Goen Who's Chelsea Manning?, 2013
As participation and attendance grew, the festival expanded to include monumental scale projections, interactive technology and new media work. As word of the festival spread, artists from all over the world showed their work in DUMBO.
To celebrate the caliber and creativity of its participants, DUMBO Arts Festival rewarded excellence and innovation in the arts by awarding cash prizes for Best Project, Best Exhibition, and Best Open Studio, as well as a Grand Prize of a one-year rent-free studio and an Audience Choice Award. Winners were selected by a jury of art professionals, and the Audience Choice Award winner was selected by festivalgoers.
The final DUMBO Arts Festival was held September 27-29, 2014. What began as a spontaneous celebration of artists working in their studios developed into a highly anticipated annual event that was instrumental in establishing DUMBO as the strong arts community that it is today. The spirit of the festival lives on with the artists, galleries, and cultural groups that make DUMBO a destination for art year round.