DUMBO’s art weekend turns a neighborhood into a gallery

Face in the crowd: A projection lights up the side of the Manhattan Bridge at a Dumbo Arts Festival of yore.
Courtesy of Leo Kuelbs

This weekend, DUMBO’s quiet streets will turn into a playground of giant love letters, blindfolded wrestling, a fluorescent Walt Whitman — and even a 3D universe on the Manhattan Bridge.

It’s all part of the DUMBO Arts Festival, an annual three-day bash of experimental art, music and performance — and this year has more digital frills than ever.

“Whether you’re 3- or 93-years-old, you’re going to find something to love,” said organizer Lisa Kim. “It’s a mixed-media cacophony, with festivals within the festival.”

The event, now in its 15th year, has gone from a homegrown affair to a cutting-edge multimedia bash fit for Brooklyn’s Silicon Alley.

More than 500 artists from across the world — and 150,000 visitors — will flock to DUMBO for what is now the borough’s largest arts festival.

Last year, DUMBO megadeveloper David Walentas’s firm Two Trees Management took over the celebration — which his tenant the DUMBO Arts Center had organized since 1997.

The celebration has more artists and flashier exhibitions than ever, but also includes a major corporate sponsor. AT&T is paying for a signature installation, “Sweet Stream Love’s River,” a lounge where visitors can charge their devices and a festival smartphone app.

Product placement aside, hundreds of local designers and businesses will open their doors for special exhibitions and a sneak peak at the artistic process.

The daylong spectacles include more than 100 open studios and 40 provocative acts. Here’s a few you can’t miss:

• “Immersive Surfaces”: DUMBO artist Leo Kuelbs and 20 other visionaries bring the Manhattan Bridge to life with state-of-the-art video mapping. Using 16 projectors stationed in nearby windows, the artists move the bridge’s bricks like piano keys and cast hovering humans across the archway.

“You may never see this kind of thing again,” Kuelbs said. “It’s a metaphor for what’s going on in DUMBO as it becomes a high-tech neighborhood but still retains its traditional rugged charm.”

Manhattan Bridge, Friday–Sunday, 8 pm–midnight.

• “Sweet Stream Love’s River”: NYU-Poly professors Carl Skelton and Luke DuBois project love letters onto the facade of Empire Stores warehouse. Send them a text message and if they approve, your words of love will ripple across the building for all to see.

Main and Water streets, Friday-Sunday, sundown to midnight.

• “Wet Exit”: Manhattan artist Janet Biggs stages an epic kayak battle on the East River with contenders paddling to drum beats and siren-like violins. Biggs said this riverside waltz is a play on chaos and desire in extreme situations. It starts with searchlights on the water and the frenzy fuses with footage from Biggs’s recent Arctic expedition on a large screen.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Amphitheater, near Main and Plymouth streets between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, Friday and Saturday, 8:30 pm.

• “Battle Royal”: Inspired by the opening of Ralph Ellison’s “The Invisible Man,” Queens artist Shaun Leonardo puts 15 professional wrestlers in a 16-foot-high steel cage until one man is left standing.

“It’s somewhere between spectacle, art performance and literary representation,” Leonardo said. “My hope is that the audience will question what they are seeing.”

Pearl Street Triangle, Saturday, 3 pm.

• “The Dumpster Project”: Mac Premo, a Park Slope artist, premiers his 30-foot Dumpster-cum-artspace with more than 400 objects. Step in and find his life’s curiosities, including a friend’s wisdom teeth, a toy adding machine, his grandma’s makeup case, a Super 8 projector, and a can of imitation chicken.

Faced with moving to a smaller studio, Premo had a choice: he could chuck his beloved items or combine them into a work of art. Visitors can download a mobile app that shows a eulogy he wrote for each item.

Manhattan Bridge Archway, Friday–Sunday, all day

• “I Love You Forever”: DUMBO artist Erin Hudak will install giant silver and gold helium balloons on the water. It’s a tender proclamation with the skyline as a backdrop.

East River waterfront under the Manhattan Bridge, Friday-Sunday, all day.

• “Walt Whitman”: Manhattan artist Mark Gagnon sets up a fluorescent, life-sized papier-mâché sculpture of the poet at Washington and Prospect streets.

DUMBO Arts Festival [various locations in the neighborhood Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, (718) 488-8588], Sept. 23, 6–9 pm; Sept. 24, noon–8 pm; Sept. 25, noon–6 pm. For info, visit dumboartsfestival.com.

You know crochet legend Agata Olek will outdo herself at this weekend's DUMBO Arts Festival.

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