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DUMBO Arts Festival Canceled After 18-Year Run

By Janet Upadhye | January 28, 2015 2:51pm
 Organizers decided to cancel the event that they say outgrew the neighborhood.
Organizers decided to cancel the event that they say outgrew the neighborhood.
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Facebook/DUMBO Arts Festival

DUMBO — The DUMBO Arts Festival has been canceled after an 18-year run in the neighborhood because it got too big and too corporate, organizers said.

The festival, which drew 220,000 visitors last year, flooded the small waterfront neighborhood and was backed by corporate sponsors like AT&T and Tito's Vodka.

The companies helped pay for the arts programming but also started a wave of commercialization that made organizers uncomfortable, director Lisa Kim said.

The two factors forced organizers to reevaluate the event — which included multi-story projections, interactive social experiments and participatory performances — and ultimately led them to make the "difficult decision" to end it.

“We had terrific sponsors, like AT&T and Tito’s, who are committed to the arts and allowed us to keep the focus there," Kim said. "We owe our success to them. But we saw that continuing to grow the festival meant bringing on sponsors who would seek to commercialize the event and we weren’t comfortable doing that.”

"As a result, in consultation with the organizing team, we have elected to end the festival and refocus on how best to allocate resources to support an active, year-round DUMBO arts community."

Kim plans to host smaller events — like open studios, mural paintings and sculpture installations — throughout the year that will support the neighborhood's arts community.

"Instead of focusing on one crushing event, we want to provide people with things to do and see in DUMBO all year long," she said.

Kim added that the decision was made with a heavy heart because she knows that the festival, which started in 1997, has meant a lot to the community and to artists who sought a platform to display their experimental works.

"Still we decided that this was the best time to exit," she said.

The festival was originally founded by residents Joy Glidden and Tyson Daugherty as a way to attract people to the neighborhood's art scene.