Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and DUMBO Improvement District (Dumbo) today announced twelve new public art and performance projects and five accessibility upgrades to cultural venues taking place throughout the greater Downtown Brooklyn area as part of the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund. The fund was one of the projects selected as part of New York State’s $10 million Downtown Brooklyn Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), which seeks to connect and transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities.
Showcasing a variety of art forms, ranging from murals and sculpture to processional puppetry and mobile drag performances, the series will enliven and connect the area’s public spaces, increase access to free cultural programming, and support the creative community at a critical moment in the city’s history. Under the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, proposals are eligible for grants of up to $50,000, and awards have been distributed with the intent of having the greatest possible impact. Selected through a competitive application process which attracted almost three hundred submissions, the majority of the works selected will be installed on City-owned sites, and NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Parks, and the Department of Cultural Affairs have worked closely with DBP and Dumbo to inform project and site selection.
The new lineup of art installations and performances features NYC-based cultural organizations and world-renowned artists seeking to respond to the current political and social climate. Rooted in the concept of encouraging community dialogue, the works examine issues around equity and social justice. Through community engagement and educational programming, the reach of these works will also extend beyond the onsite experience.
In addition to the twelve public art and performance works, five projects that enhance accessibility to cultural organizations throughout the Downtown Brooklyn area have also been awarded grants of up to $50,000 with the mission of increasing access to cultural programming for underserved communities. The full list of projects is below and will run throughout 2021 and 2022.
Funding of this new program was announced in 2019 as part of Governor Cuomo’s $10 million grant to Downtown Brooklyn. Other projects selected to receive funding under the NY State Downtown Brooklyn DRI grant include: Commodore Barry Park upgrades; safe crossings at the intersection of Tillary and Navy Streets; a new pedestrian crossing at St. Edwards Street and Flushing Ave; a more accessible entrance to the Brooklyn Navy Yard; a digital tech center at the Ingersoll Community Center; and transformation of Walt Whitman Library into a modern community hub.
“One of the best ways to revitalize our downtowns is through public art and creating unique cultural spaces,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “New York State is proud to support this effort to revive neighborhoods hit hard by this nightmarish pandemic, and improve quality of life for the greater Downtown Brooklyn area.”
Part of New York State’s approach to create vibrant neighborhoods and boost local economies, DRI investments are a crucial part of the State’s strategy to revitalize communities. DBP and Dumbo partnered with Borough President Eric L. Adams on the winning 2018 proposal, which grew out of the Brooklyn Strand project, an ambitious plan to knit together disparate and underused open spaces to create a greener and more cohesive Downtown Brooklyn. New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) is administering the award.
Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “These twelve new public art and performance projects happening throughout the greater Downtown Brooklyn area will further add to the vibrancy of the community. Public art plays a valuable role in the revitalization of downtowns across the state by enhancing the unique culture and history of each location. As we rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo Art Fund is providing critical support to the creative community and increasing access to the arts in our underserved communities. The Department of State is proud to work with local leadership and our agency partners to help invigorate Brooklyn through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.”
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “We know that building a vibrant community takes more than just bricks and mortar – and that’s what this aspect of Governor Cuomo’s DRI program is all about. Thanks to the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, this $600,000 grant will enable local artists to bring their vision directly to Downtown Brooklyn and help brighten the urban landscape. On behalf of the great team at HCR, we congratulate the creators of these new art and performance projects and look forward to seeing them inspire New Yorkers and attract new visitors to the neighborhood.”
“In periods of upheaval or rapid change, we turn to art to make sense of the world. During what has been an unimaginably difficult time for our borough and city, art that speaks to the current moment is necessary now more than ever. We have worked closely over the past decade with local stakeholders to secure funding from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to improve the livability and connectivity of the Downtown Brooklyn area, and are thrilled to see that work coming to fruition. I want thank our partners in this effort for giving our unique cultural organizations this much-needed boost,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“The Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund could not have come at a better time. Prior to COVID-19, the cultural sector in NYC was one of the largest industries in NYC, but is now scrambling to survive. These grants will get funding to our cultural institutions and artists while generating programming that is free to our community and improving access to cultural venues. I look forward to seeing how our public spaces are utilized by our cultural sector to engage audiences over the next year with use of these funds” said Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo.
“Public art is central to New York City’s green spaces, and we are happy to work with Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and DUMBO Improvement District in bringing these socially conscious and civically-minded projects to the area,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “Through the New York State DRI program, these powerful installations and performances will make Downtown Brooklyn’s parkland more dynamic, thought-provoking, and engaging.”
“Brooklyn is home to the city’s most vibrant and exciting artistic communities, and the high quality of proposals we received is a reflection of this,” said Regina Myer, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “This exciting selection of projects will enliven our public spaces and bring these artists to the forefront – giving voice to the issues facing New Yorkers and people around the world. Thanks to the New York State DRI program, we are able to support the cultural community at a time when it is most needed and bring a diverse range of cultural experiences to audiences who are now able to get outside and enjoy them!”
“The joint experience of public art is a gift we need right now. These projects are going to make us think, re-connect and celebrate our community in new ways. We are thrilled to be able to support and present them,” said Alexandria Sica, President, Dumbo Improvement District
The selection process was overseen by DBP and Dumbo, with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Parks, with additional input from a project review committee with members including: the office of Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo; the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; Brooklyn Arts Council; BRIC Arts; BAM; Smack Mellon; the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance; NYCHA Tenant Associations; and NYU Tisch.
Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund
Public Art and Performance Awardees
Mobile Drag Performance Unit, presented by FagSigns
Locations: Albee Square; St. Edwards Place; Dumbo Archway
Saturdays, June 12, 19, 22, 2021
The Mobile Drag Performance Unit is a series of pop-up curbside drag shows that celebrate the art of drag while creating enlivenment through community engagement and performance. Bringing something usually relegated to the interior of a bar or restricted by age requirements, this mobile unit aims at creating accessibility by turning the interior inside out, transplanting, accessorizing, glamming with neon, all set on wheels, a rolling stage of fun.
Drag is an art form that actualizes transformation in society. They are the paratroopers of the LGBTQ+ community, as frontline fighters for social equality, all while inspiring and bringing a smile to your face. At the height of the AIDS crisis, they provided hope and refuge to a community ravaged by a plague. It is captivating to see a new generation of performers step up, lift our spirits, and help us get through another dark time: the catastrophe that is COVID-19.
Murals for the Movement presented by Street Theory GalleryLocations: Dumbo Walls
July 2021 – June 2022, Dates TBD
Murals for the Movement is a public art initiative curated by Liza Quiñonez of Street Theory Gallery, aimed to activate the Downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo communities with large-scale, uplifting, and impactful murals that inspire a sense of connectivity and pride, while sparking conversations around racial and social justice. These murals will serve as an expanded collaboration among three nationally and internationally renowned, Brooklyn-based artists — Cey Adams, Sophia Dawson, and Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez — who, together, have over 30 years of experience in the public art, fine art, hip hop, and pop culture space. The three artists will work together to create murals that reflect their African American and Latinx heritages while expressing their personal experience within the current social climate.
Seeing Into Tomorrow, presented by The Poetry Society of AmericaDesigned by Stephen Doyle and Doyle Partners
July 2021 – May 2022, Dates TBD
The Poetry Society of America’s Seeing Into Tomorrow features short poems by Richard Wright transformed into large-scale murals, turning Brooklyn streetscapes into sites of inspired language, sparkling wonder, and new connections. Best known for his searing depictions of racial discrimination and violence in books such as Native Son and Black Boy, Wright spent the final 18 months of his life creating his own distinctive versions of haiku, the traditional Japanese verse form. This multi-site installation, designed by artist/designer Stephen Doyle and Doyle Partners, invites residents and visitors to travel through the neighborhoods in and around Downtown Brooklyn, crossing boundaries, making discoveries, and learning to “read” the city in new ways.
Rooted in his experience of suffering and injustice, Wright’s haiku are a defiant act of hope, a crossing into a different cultural tradition, and a vision for a different “tomorrow.” Seeing Into Tomorrow commemorates the achievements of a major Black writer (who lived on Carlton and Myrtle in the 1930s), while also inspiring new ways of seeing and experiencing the district.
Beacon, by Shervone Neckles, presented by Beam Center and Lewis Latimer House Museum
Location: Albee Square Plaza
July 2021 – May 2022, Dates TBD
Beacon is an interactive, 13’ tall steel and LED sculpture inspired by African American inventor Lewis H. Latimer’s 1880s patent drawings for the electric lamp and method for manufacturing carbon filament in incandescent bulbs. Beam Center artist, Shervone Neckles, and a collective of Fellows (ages 18-21) together built and will install Beacon. Project partner, Lewis Latimer House Museum, will develop an online educational component to accompany the public work. Beacon is designed as an intergenerational pedagogical tool bridging humanities and STEAM disciplines. It engages the public in local history and commemorates Latimer’s legacy as a Black inventor and his contributions to society and the electrical engineering field.
A Skate Play, presented by Eyes Up Here Productions
Location: Golconda Skate Park
Oct 4 – Oct 10 2021
A Skate Play engages neighborhood youth by showcasing an original skate theatre production that provides a playful, innovative platform for community and creative exploration. First performed in McCarren Skatepark in 2013, A Skate Play was translated into Arabic for Skateqilya Skatepark in Jayyous, Palestine in 2018. In the multidisciplinary production, skaters represent the flight of birds performing in tandem with actors, integrating skate choreography with theatrical dialogue and storytelling. In addition to the live production in Golconda Skate Park, the team provides community outreach programs for youth in the form of theatre workshops to explore storytelling and creative engagement in public space, and by offering the opportunity to freestyle with and learn from the team’s skate pros. The play involves 5 skaters, 5 actors and 2 musicians, plus a youth ensemble.
Witnessing, presented by Bradley McCallum and Conjunction Arts
Location: Cadman Plaza
July 2021 – December 2021
Witnessing responds to the ongoing problem of police violence in our communities and, in particular, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, as well as the countless others impacted by police violence. This project reimagines a project from two decades ago, Witness: Perspectives on Police Violence created by Bradley McCallum in collaboration with Jacqueline Tarry. Witness addressed racism and injustice among New York City police by repurposing the Red Emergency call boxes that were found on many street corners at the time. Conjunction Arts’ reimagination of this project calls attention to the fact that despite the significant amount of time between the two projects, there has been no significant reduction in the death rates of people of color by the police. Artist Bradley McCallum will collaborate with many of the original project partners including the Center for Constitutional Rights to create new installations that contextualize the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement and offer a renewed platform to honor recent victims and survivors.
Shine Shrine Intention Walk, presented by Brooklyn Brujeria
August – September 2021
Brooklyn Brujeria’s Shine Shrine Intention Walk will create a walkable route of activated public altars to celebrate the strength, beauty, and diversity of Brooklyn. Centered around abstract geometric visual interpretations of justice, freedom, power, and other energetic states, the Shine Shrines will be composed of micro murals and embellished flags. By imbuing points along the Downtown Brooklyn corridor with color, texture, ephemeral expression, the work hopes to lift the spirits of New Yorkers during this period of unprecedented mourning and loss.
Gilgamesh, presented by St. Ann’s Warehouse and Macnas
St. Ann’s Warehouse and Irish spectacle theater, Macnas, will bring a contemporary version of Gilgamesh to life in a giant puppet pageant connecting Downtown Brooklyn to the Waterfront. The procession will activate disparate and underused public spaces, engage arts and civic groups, hire local artists, apprentices, and technicians to work with Irish creators to join our neighborhoods in a singular joyous endeavor. Macnas will descend on Brooklyn with a visionary street theater performance of stunning leviathans, costumed creatures, and live music, drawing audiences into a magical immersive spectacle.
An ancient epic, Gilgamesh is a universal tale of love, power, and grief. In Macnas’ version, two Giants awaken – one on land and one at sea. They cross the urban landscape to engage in battle face to face, but instead they fall in love and their tribes unite. Performed in three days in various locations, Gilgamesh starts with the assemblage of a 30’ giant and ends in a royal procession of puppets, masked courtiers, animals, rooftop drummers, and serenading choirs.
Anchorage, Babel in Reverse, by Joseph Morris and Owen Trueblood
With 176 languages spoken in New York City public schools, New York is the most linguistically diverse place on the planet. In reality, there are over 800 languages spoken throughout the city. Anchorage, Babel in Reverse is a site-specific installation by artists Joseph Morris and Owen Trueblood in collaboration with the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA) that features the voices of hundreds of speakers of endangered languages spoken throughout the city of New York. Using electronic speakers, the artists will dedicate each speaker to a single audio recording of a language documented by the ELA. As people approach the installation, the sound is a whispering babel, with hundreds of recorded voices speaking hundreds of languages. However, as one nears the speakers, the babel fades, and individual voices and languages are heard. As participants moves through the installation, they are able to hear the voices of New Yorkers reciting stories, poems, and fables of languages we’re accustomed to hearing as well as the hundreds of voices that NYC is expected to lose in a generation or two.
Mind Forged Manacles/Manacles Forged Mind by Fred Wilson, produced by More Art
Various locations: Columbus Park
More Art, a NYC-based organization that supports collaborations between professional artists and communities to create public art and educational programs committed to social justice, will work with renowned artist Fred Wilson to create a temporary public art installation in Downtown Brooklyn. Wilson will create a large interactive sculpture composed of layers of decorative ironwork and fencing. Viewers will encounter the elaborate structure comprised of three elaborately framed boxes of various patterns, revealing statues and busts of African, Latinx, and Native American origin held within. The complex mesh of wrought iron fences and bars will at times evoke prison bars, and at other times gated communities. The piece asks viewers to consider perspective. Who is looking in? Who is looking out? Who is free? Who is trapped?
Wilson frequently uses vernacular or classical design as a vehicle to understanding emotions, racial issues, and societal traumas. The use of decorative gates and fences as metaphors is intended to evoke timely issues concerning the incarceration of Black men, the detainment of illegal immigrants, security, insecurity, policing, class conflict, and William Blake’s concept of “Mind Forg’d Manacles” — self-created barriers to personal and societal growth and freedom, built by fear, division, and perceptions of difference.
Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings, by Sherwin Banfield
Location: Clumber Corner
A sonic sculptural monument inspired by and dedicated to the art, life, and legacy of Brooklyn hip hop legend, Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. Its form and structure, majestic in presence and notorious in character, challenges the traditions of western public sculpture by representing his African American artistry, lineage, and evolution as the “King of New York.” The crowned bust is traditionally sculpted, sitting atop an angular steel frame and supported by panels that highlight Wallace’s achievements and contemporaries. This reflective, nine feet tall, mixed media, stainless steel and bronze structure invites the viewer to experience the larger-than-life artistry of B.I.G.’s contributions to and love of Brooklyn, Hip-Hop culture and community. Representing Brooklyn to the fullest, a shining example of perseverance and the inherent belief that the “Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings.”
Culture Window @ The Jewelbox, presented by The Actors Fund of America and Brooklyn Ballet
May 16, 23, 30, 2021
Culture Window launched the DTBK + Dumbo Art Fund programming, welcoming hundreds of spectators over three Friday evenings to Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn. More than one year after the closure of all performance venues in New York City, and as NYC began to emerge from lockdown, these vibrant and varied evenings brought together artists from across the borough to share their work with a live audience. With a strong commitment to honor and authentically represent the creative, multicultural community of Brooklyn, audiences experienced a different program each Friday night. Program highlights included Simone Dinnerstein, Brooklyn Ballet, The Knights, Girl Be Heard, and City Stompers.
Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund
Accessibility Project Awardees