Bailout Boosts Dumbo Arts Festival

When you ask the Walentas family for a favor, be careful what you wish for–you might get it.

Financial problems brought the veteran Dumbo Arts Festival to the brink of cancellation earlier this year. The Dumbo Arts Center, which had run the weekend of waterfront visual-art installations and open studios for 13 years, approached real estate developer Two Trees, run by father-son duo David (self-proclaimed “Pied Piper of Dumbo”) and Jed Walentas for help, and ended up with more than they bargained for.

“We took the festival over because they didn’t have the capacity to do it any more,” said Two Trees Cultural Affairs director Zannah Mass. The massively expanded event, now as much a music festival as an art one, features individual exhibits curated by scores of programming partners and performances by 80 musical groups, plus dance and performance-art. “Anybody who’s willing to program during that festival, we are willing to promote and consider a partner,” she said. (A guide to the events, Sept. 24-26, is at dumboartsfestival.com)

This something-for-everyone (or by-everyone) approach may leave the serious art crowd feeling slighted. To try to keep the event from turning into “a street fair,” Jane Walentas, David’s spouse and an artist herself, has organized prizes for the best indoor and outdoor art installations, and the best open studio. The winners in those categories will each take $1,000, and the judges’ favorite will score a year’s free rent.

“It’s not the Venice Biennale yet,” she said, “but who knows? –W.M. Akers