With AT&T Sponsorship, Dumbo Arts Festival Adds New Interactive Elements

By Anna Sekula September 29, 2011, 2:00 PM EDT

Photo: Caleb Ferguson for BizBash

After last year's revamp, the producers of the Dumbo Arts Festival  sought to broaden the reach of the 15-year-old event by introducing more ways for attendees to participate. Bolstering the efforts for this year's run, which started Friday and ended Sunday, was corporate sponsor AT&T, which enabled an installation that projected text messages sent by consumers onto the facade of a building and the addition dozens of guides armed with tablets and a custom map app.

“AT&T came in as the title sponsor, which made a huge difference from last year,” said producer Karen Dalzell, who worked with a team that included Lisa Kim, the cultural affairs director from founding sponsor Two Trees Management and the festival's artistic director. “We worked really hard to develop a relationship, and it was a very successful partnership. With the sponsorship, we were able to do an app this year, and we had these art ambassadors. So as well as the volunteers, who were incredible this year, we had another layer of slightly more art-educated or art-involved volunteers. We called them the AT&T Art Ambassadors, and they would go around with an iPad and talk to people, show them where to go, and download cool information for visitors throughout the whole weekend. It was a nice way to engage with the public, and it worked really well with such a big event.”

Support from the telecommunications company also allowed artists Carl Skelton and Luke DuBois to produce their piece “Sweet Stream Love’s River"—where attendees could text love notes and have them displayed on the Main Street-facing wall of the 19th-century Empire Stores warehouse—and provided a smart device for the winner of the AT&T Audience Award.

Elsewhere, technology-enabled projects offered plenty of visual fare for visitors to the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood. Video curator Leo Kuelbs, multimedia outfit Light Harvest Studio, production design and management group SenovvA, and more than 15 artists collaborated to create “Immersive Surfaces,” which washed the Manhattan Bridge Anchorage and archway with colorful video projections, while art collective Manifest.AR brought its augmented reality pavilions to Main Street Park, allowing attendees to view artwork via the smartphones after downloading free app Layar. Out on the East River, video and installation artist Janet Biggs debuted “Wet Exit,” a performance that combined projected video and musicians—a vocalist, drummer, cellist, and violinist—with synchronized kayakers. And DJ duo Andrew Andrew hosted on-site interviews that were posted to a dedicated Livestream channel (livestream.com/dumboartsfestival2011) and their own Tumblr account.

This year, the Dumbo Arts Festival drew more than 500 participating artists, and although the organizers are still calculating the number of people who attended the event over the course of three days, they expect more than 2010's 150,000 visitors.

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