Arts and Entertainment, DUMBO, Features

Creativity Meets Community at the Dumbo Arts Festival

October 1, 2012

The streets of Dumbo were commandeered this past weekend by everyone from fire-wielding welders to a five-year-old puppet master, thanks to the neighborhood’s grand annual tradition known as the Dumbo Arts Festival.

More than 500 artists and 100 programming partners participated in the 16th annual celebration, which once again successfully achieved its mission of shining the spotlight on Brooklyn’s cultural side. The entire neighborhood was transformed into a creative wonderland throughout the duration of the three-day festival, as studios, galleries, storefronts, park space, street corners, building lobbies, bridges and even shipping containers became canvases for artistic expression.

“I thought a lot of the photo pods were really interesting and compelling,” remarked first-time festival attendee Melinda Lin of the shipping containers on Main Street. The containers had been repurposed into tiny photo galleries showcasing images from Papa New Guinea and other areas of the world, as part of the foto/pods 2012 exhibition by United Photo Industries.

Lin, a Manhattan resident, was one of thousands who thronged the streets of Dumbo during the course of the festival, which was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We’ve gotten a lot of people who are Dumbo residents and then a lot of people who have traveled from different boroughs – and even different countries – to come to the festival,” noted Elise Gonzalez, who was selling merchandise for the Dumbo Improvement District at a booth under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Indeed, international visitors abounded, with tourists from Korea to Israel making their way to the neighborhood just to check out the Dumbo Arts Festival.

“I learned about the festival in Time Out and thought it sounded interesting,” said Yael Hurwitz, a tourist from Jerusalem, Israel, who had last visited New York City 20 years ago. “I think it was a really great event,” Hurwitz added, noting that she was especially impressed with the Entasis Dance performance in Main Street Park, which involved dancers positioned themselves around sculptures to become living extensions of the artwork.

Every conceivable artistic discipline seemed to be on display during the festival, which offered attendees an extraordinarily comprehensive view of the creative community in Brooklyn and beyond via indoor and outdoor art installations and exhibitions, large-scale projections on store facades and the anchorage of the Manhattan Bridge, and performances that encompassed music, dance, poetry, comedy and even the circus arts going on all throughout the neighborhood.

Festivalgoers also had numerous opportunities to get an up close look at the actual creative process, thanks to events like the Molten Iron Spectacular, which involved the heating and pouring of iron to create souvenir medallions that were then handed out to the crowd. It made for a dramatic spectacle on Plymouth Street, where flames were shooting out of a portable furnace that had been transported from Buffalo, New York for the event.

“We wanted to show the public a little bit about our process,” said sculptor Mike Dominick, who organized the event with fellow members of the Sculptors Guild. “People never get to see what goes on behind the curtain of the foundry and we take that away so you can actually see what happens,” explained Dominick, whose group had returned for the second year to conduct their iron pour at the Dumbo Arts Festival.

Other festival events encouraged attendees to delve into the creative process by trying it out for themselves via interactive exhibitions and art-making activities. At the Monster Drawing Rally hosted by the Dumbo Arts Center, for example, visitors of all ages drew and colored on massive sheets of paper tacked to the gallery walls. And tucked away in the gallery’s side room was a bubble drawing station run by Philadelphia-based artist Tim Eads, a first-time festival participant who taught visitors how to make colorful artwork using bubble solution tinted in a variety of bright hues.

“My work is really about trying to create these childhood fantasies, if you will, so I think of things that I used to love as a kid and just go crazy with that,” explained Eads, who described his art installations as “wacky machines.” One such installation, Traveler, drew a steady stream of curious onlookers to Eads’ bubble making station. Adorned with a feather skirt and comprised of a mannequin stand, fan, lamp parts and a motor, Traveler pumped out bubble after bubble that elicited squeals of glee from various visitors.

“It brings out the kid in everyone,” remarked festivalgoer Natalie Biggs of Flatbush, as she eagerly awaited an opportunity to create her own bubble drawing. Biggs, who had not previously attended the Dumbo Arts Festival, came away impressed with the celebration. “It was an enlightening experience that inspired wonderment and curiosity.”

The festival’s creative environment also sparked impromptu performances from artists who were not part of the official lineup, such as a charming puppet show on Main Street put on by five-year-old Ling Ling “Corn Snake” Ende of Bushwick with the help of Pablo del Hierro, a puppeteer visiting from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I asked him what should happen between these characters and he told me,” explained del Hierro, a member of the Puerto Rico-based traveling puppet company Poncili who was in town visiting Ende’s family. “Poncili is largely based on having child-directed shows.”

“We’ve been working together in the studio – all of us playing, creating things and making music,” added Adam Ende, Ling Ling’s father and the director of Brooklyn-based Jawbone Puppet Theater. “I came to this festival two years ago to visit and since the spring, I’ve been doing these street shows with my son, so I wanted to come and do them here.”

As the elder Ende packed up props and puppets, his son was reluctant to leave. “The show’s not over!” he called to the crowd. As your Brooklyn Bugle correspondents looked around at all the art and performances going on around us, we couldn’t have agreed more.

Photos 1- 35 by Tim Schreier
Photos by Lori Singlar
Click on image for larger version

Tale of the Tweets: DUMBO Arts Festival

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