The annual DUMBO Arts Festival, a weekend-long celebration on the Brooklyn waterfront that grew into a borough institution over the last 18 years, has officially ended its run. The problem was not, for once, rising rents or angry landlords or messy lawsuits. Instead, the festival was a victim of its own success. Last year’s event drew 220,000 people, and was sponsored by the likes of AT&T and Tito’s Vodka. The organizers felt that the scale of things had gotten too grand and corporate, and were detracting from their goal of supporting the local art community. So they’ve shut the thing down.
“We were getting too far from the original mission of the festival,” director Lisa Kim told DNA Info. “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.”
“Instead of focusing on one crushing event, we want to provide people with things to do and see in DUMBO all year long,” she added, noting that the decision was one she made with sadness. “Still, we decided that this was the best time to exit.”
The festival was founded in 1997 as a way to showcase the DUMBO art scene. I guess the fact that the art scene is still going is a victory, though it is sad to see the festival go. I have fond memories of a performance artist cutting a friend’s hair in the middle of the street with clippers attached to a backpack amplifier. R.I.P. DUMBO Arts Festival.
[UPDATE: A representative reached out to Brooklyn Magazine to clarify that no blame for the festival’s demise is due to the sponsors, just that in order to keep things going, they would have need to commercialize more than they were comfortable with. “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 added. “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.”)