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A Brief History of Dumbo's Artist Origins

DUMBO is where Brooklyn’s industrial past marries its creative future. Once an epicenter of manufacturing and shipping, the cobblestone lanes of DUMBO have been reclaimed, and its lofts and warehouses reborn as canvases for the city's most innovative minds.

Outdoor view of people sitting on grass and having a picnic in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

You can hear more Brooklyn stories with Gesso’s self-guided New York audio walking tours, which you can experience at your own pace.

This corner of New York is a testament to evolution and resilience, an ever-changing tableau where street art collides with architectural grandeur. Local businesses, from chic boutiques to culinary establishments, breathe life into this historic Brooklyn neighborhood, while iconic landmarks such as walking the Brooklyn Bridge and Jane’s Carousel offer unforgettable things to do in Brooklyn.

Let's unveil the mystery of the peculiar moniker DUMBO, an acronym that stands for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass." A label that was once a clever ploy by the artists of the 70s to keep real estate sharks at bay, ended up backfiring in the most unexpected way. Drawn by the same allure that inspired SoHo’s rejuvenation, property developers in the 90s found an opportunity in DUMBO's rugged charm. They crafted a winning formula: affordable rents to draw the artists, who, in turn, attracted wealthy residents.

Tracing the signs of these early artists, you’ll notice the A.I.R. Gallery along the streets of DUMBO. As you enter this unique art space, it’s as if the brick and mortar of DUMBO itself reverberates with the gallery’s compelling mission: to advance the status of women in the art world.

Established in 1972 as the first all-female cooperative gallery in the United States, A.I.R. Gallery was born out of necessity. At a time when the art world was a boys' club, a collective of bold, visionary women artists decided to forge their own path, laying the groundwork for the modern intersection of gender, art, and activism.

As you walk through the gallery, each exhibit encapsulates a rich tapestry of diverse voices. Its walls adorned with thought-provoking pieces ranging from the representational to the abstract, this gallery champions artistic expression in all its forms. Yet, A.I.R. offers more than just a physical space; it's a beacon of mentorship, fostering intergenerational dialogue and exchange. The gallery is not just about showcasing art, but also about igniting conversations and creating a network of women artists who support and inspire each other.

Many more Brooklyn stories and New York City tours await. Discover more local history with our New York audio walking tours, and see which nearby New York City neighborhoods you want to explore next!


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