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People dance at a previous festival event.
Photograph: Courtesy of Argenis Apolinario for Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Dance to Afro Caribbean Soul music and try an interactive photo booth at this Brooklyn festival

The festival is all about celebrating the borough’s creative spirit.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
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Rossilynne Skena Culgan
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Local arts will take center stage at The Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival, a free two-day celebration of music, performing arts, and visual arts in a public plaza later this month.  

Brooklyn Downtown Partnership organized the annual event in collaboration with Two Trees Management Co. and gave us the scoop on what to expect for this festival on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1 at The Plaza at 300 Ashland.

“Downtown Brooklyn is a thriving cultural hub and every year, DBAF allows us to celebrate all of the creativity and talent our neighborhood has to offer,” Regina Myer, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said in a statement. “This year’s festival is even more special after a year of limited opportunities for community celebration. With an exciting lineup of art, dance, performance and more, we’re proud to bring residents and visitors together to enjoy a diverse array of events from some of the city’s best artists and institutions.”

People sit in the grass to watch a performance.
Photograph: Courtesy of Argenis Apolinario for Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Here’s a look at The Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival schedule:  

The Plaza at 300 Ashland events on Friday, September 30

One of the largest outdoor public spaces in Brooklyn for cultural activities, The Plaza at 300 Ashland has hosted hundreds of performances, exercise classes, and public art installations. It’s located at Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues. Here’s what’s on the schedule at the plaza. 

  • House music dance class
    4pm-5pm
    Get moving with some house music dance steps taught by Mark Morris Dance Group’s Kim Holmes. 
  • Soul summit dance party
    5-8pm
    Tap your does to the soulful and dynamic dance music from legendary intergenerational Soul Summit DJ collective.
  • Installation opening: Bradley McCallum’s Witnessing
    Details TBD

The Plaza at 300 Ashland events on Saturday, October 1

  • Kids hip-hop dance class
    11am-11:45am
    Bring the kids for a free hip-hop dance class with Mark Morris Dance Group.
  • Music and storytime
    12-12:45pm
    Let The Center for Fiction and The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music tell you a story through words and music.
  • Brooklyn Music School student performance
    1-1:45pm
    Give a round of applause to students from Brooklyn Music School who will present a special musical performance.
  • PhotoCube exhibition and interactive photo booth
    1-5pm
    Stop by an interactive photo booth and snap a few photos to take home. Also check out the work of interdisciplinary artist Tiffany Smith from the photography project “Throned.”
  • The Knights orchestra collective
    2-2:45pm
    Hear a vibrant orchestral experience by The Knights, which promises to fascinate both loyal followers and new listeners.
  • DJ Brina Payne
    3-3:45pm
    Move to the music curated by Brina Payne, a Brooklyn-based open-format DJ who celebrates the best from all musical genres.
  • Afro Dominicano
    4-4:45pm
    Rock out to the sounds of Afro Dominican, a Brooklyn-based band synthesizing folkloric Dominican genres, pop and rock music. Their sound is at the forefront of Afro Caribbean Soul.
  • Sample Sale Music featuring Tai Allen
    5-5:45pm
    Dance and think with the sounds of this funk-soul-jazz fusion collective.
  • DJ Spinna
    6-8pm
    Go old school with world-renowned DJ, producer, artist, and remixer DJ Spinna who will close out the night with his “Flavors” sets featuring the best in music from the ‘80s, ’90s, as well as sprinkles of ‘00s.
People dance at a previous festival event.
Photograph: Courtesy of Argenis Apolinario for Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Throughout the district both days

In addition to the events happening at 300 Ashland, regular programming by the neighborhood's cultural groups will round out the weekend (check the links for ticketing info). Here’s what you can see:

  • 300 el x 50 el x 30 elPretend you’re in Noah’s Ark as BAM presents the US premiere of 300 el x 50 el x 30 el. With some Old Testament inspiration (the title refers to the dimensions of Noah’s Ark), the Harvey Theater at BAM Strong has been transformed into a village in the woods where live animals, a gigantic cast, and six small houses sit clustered around a pond.
  • Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present, and Future, a permanent exhibition at Building 92, tells the story of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1801. The tale begins when it was founded as one of the nation’s first federal shipyards and continues through to the site’s use today as an active industrial and innovation hub home to nearly 500 businesses.
  • Theatre for a New Audience presents Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center. In an acclaimed, tour-de-force solo performance, David Strathairn portrays World War II hero and Holocaust witness Jan Karski who risked his life to carry his report of the Warsaw ghetto from war-torn Poland to the Allied Nations and the Oval Office only to be disbelieved.
  • Roulette presents Ex Machina. The Orchestre National de Jazz and IRCAM present Ex Machina, a creation conceived by the American saxophonist Steve Lehman and Frédéric Maurin, artistic director of the ONJ.
  • UrbanGlass Window Gallery. Christina Massey will show her mixed media glass and repurposed aluminum sculptures in a new colorful installation that activates the senses.
  • BRIC’s contemporary art program presents rigorously curated exhibitions and programs focusing on emerging and mid-career artists whose work captures a rich cross-section of ideas, voices, and artistic media that reflect Brooklyn’s diversity. Exhibitions currently on display include Na’ye Perez: What You Know Bout Love…, Rodrigo Valenzuela: New Works for a Post Worker’s World, and Sophia-Yemisi Adeyemo-Ross: Earth & Iron: Archival Visions of Land and Struggle.
  • The New York Transit Museum features rotating exhibits now on view including Reign of the Redbirds, Streetscapes & Subways: Photographs by Pierre P. and Granville W. Pullis, Ticket to Ride.

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