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The original intent of a museum, established during the French Revolution with the repurposing of the Louvre, was to make great art available to the public.  Since then, however, it seems that sometimes museums are dominated by art professors who speak to each other in hushed tones. The DUMBO Arts Festival, however, was a completely different animal, displaying art for art’s sake. Over 300 exhibitions of contemporary art were on display, in the public spaces of DUMBO for free.

Here’s a recap of the highlights from this weekend’s festival:

First, we came across a bubble processional. If you came to the DUMBO festival in a bad mood, simply looking at this processional will brighten your day no matter what.



Our favorite exhibit was entitled Random (Fortune) Generator by the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective. It was just a piece in a full set entitled, “Sublime.”

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Each participant received a penny with a number on it. You put your penny on a sticker which contained a quote which resonated with you. Some of the quotes were quite pensive, like “blades of grass are in my hand.” Others were less serious, like, “my knee hurts and I have to pee.” And of course there was the “I steal kids toys” for kicks.

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After putting your penny on a quote, you were given a colored sticker and you wrote your own quote which participants would put pennies on. The goal of the exhibit was to have colored stickers cover the cobblestone street.

Another more thought provoking exhibition was “Who is Chelsea Manning” by Kyle Goen (read more about this exhibit in our preview of the festival here). This exhibit is a tribute to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

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To the passer-by, it might have looked just like colored flags but when standing farther away the outline of a face became visible. If you weren’t aware of the intention of the piece, you probably wouldn’t realize it was Private Manning, and even more importantly, this face no longer exists because of private Manning’s sex change. This face is almost like a lost relic – it dominated the media but now it no longer exists. Viewers were compelled to ponder the blurred lines of sex changes and transgender culture while gazing at this piece of art.

The DUMBO Art festival also forces onlookers to question what is and isn’t art. Art is paintings you put in museums, and the avant garde certainly taught us that art could be a urinal on a pedestal. Art could also be what you see on the street – it could be anything! While admiring the Manhattan skyline along the rocks by the carousel, we stumbled upon a wedding.

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It’s doubtful that this couple coordinated with the festival. But to onlookers, this wedding in and of itself is a work of art. Several guests had bongo drums, so the sound of the drums in chorus with guests singing “Mazel Tov” was nothing short of beautiful.

While the art at the DUMBO festival was spectacular, another important part of attending this festival is the exploration it requires. The best way to tackle this exhibit was to amble around and go towards what inspires you.

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For more info about various exhibits, check out our preview of the festival, here. Also, for more reading on arts and culture in the city, check out this section of Untapped Cities.