On October 15-18, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership presented the annual Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival (DBAF), a celebration of Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural community and the artists, writers, and performers who inspire the borough’s creative spirit.
This year, we adapted to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis with a festival that included both virtual and in-person programming. Throughout the weekend, acclaimed arts organizations across the Brooklyn Cultural District shared exciting virtual performances, workshops, classes, talks, films, family programming, access to archives, and exhibitions, and we also curated in-person programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland and sites around Downtown Brooklyn.
Virtual highlights of DBAF included BRIC’s fifth annual Media Maker Weekend conference; ISSUE Project Room’s presentation of Drums; a performance by writer and performer Justin Allen with Savannah Harris exploring the performance practices of punk singers; a solo performance by renowned pianist, composer, and bandleader Matthew Shipp presented by Roulette; and Bang on a Can’s six-hour, nonconformist, noncommercial, boundary-smashing Live-Streamed Marathon.
On Saturday and Sunday, an in-person program of free pop-up performances, open rehearsals, and arts activations were presented outdoors at The Plaza at 300 Ashland and sites around Downtown Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Music School Student Jazz Ensemble started off the day with live improvisation of various jazz idioms.
Mark Morris Dance Group held a ‘Family Fun Zumba Meets Hispanic Heritage’ multigenerational dance class, incorporating Salsa, Merengue, Tango, Cumbia, Cha-cha, and Reggaeton in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the contributions of Latin culture to the world of dance.
Sunny Jain, frontman of party-starter band Red Baraat, ignited Downtown Brooklyn with his new 6-piece brass band Sunny Jain’s Addiction, with unannounced performances throughout the afternoon. The dance music, featuring the Indian Dhol drum, brought in the socially distanced crowds!
Artist and choreographer Kimberly Tate made a signature “Ancitecture” piece – a hybrid public art and performance work featuring colorful tape on the plaza and an improvised dance along its lines.
Saturday ended in the spirit of long-time Downtown Brooklyn neighbor Betty Carter with the Nasheet Waits trio. Son of legendary percussionist Frederick Waits and a renowned drummer in his own right, Waits led saxophonist Abraham Burton and bassist Rashaan Carter beautifully on the plaza.
On Sunday, we highlighted some of our Downtown Brooklyn Rehearsal Residency Initiative artists. In their open rehearsals, Jamal Jackson Dance Company (JJDC) continued to explore the connection between African and American cultures through movement, developing a new interpretation of Stravinsky’s 1913 score, ‘The Rite of Spring.’
ZCO/DANCEPROJECT, a physically integrated, Brooklyn-based dance company committed to showing audiences what dance can be and who can do it, also rehearsed.
A pickup of renowned Afrobeat musicians who have played with the likes of Antibalas and Fela! On Broadway rounded out the day with staggered sets of brass and rhythm.
The arts are alive and well in Downtown Brooklyn!