Brooklyn Cultural District

Downtown Brooklyn is where the ideas that epitomize the spirit of Brooklyn are blossoming.

What is the Brooklyn Cultural District?

The Brooklyn Cultural District, home to over 70 diverse cultural groups representing nearly every artistic discipline, stretches across Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The breadth, diversity, and density of these organizations, ranging from the 18,000+ seat Barclays Center to one-room galleries in Vinegar Hill, is unmatched and represents one of the City’s great cultural destinations. A visitor, resident, or office worker has the opportunity, in just a short walk, to experience numerous organizations and offerings. Whether showcasing the history of the subways at the New York Transit Museum, or presenting a cutting-edge theatrical production at St. Ann’s Warehouse in the middle of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Cultural District is truly unique. 

Its importance, however, extends far beyond its halls and galleries. It links together a thriving ecosystem that plugs directly into the area’s rapidly growing innovation economy, serving as its creative inspiration while concurrently attracting artistry and intellect from all corners of the globe.

The Center of the District

The core of the Brooklyn Cultural District is centered on the four-block stretch currently home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), BRIC, Mark Morris Dance Center, Theatre for A New Audience, and UrbanGlass. This core area serves as the border between Downtown and Fort Greene, with three other venues – the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Irondale, and Roulette – just a short walk away.

It is the result of a 40-year joint effort by the City and local arts organizations and was catalyzed by Harvey Lichtenstein, former president of BAM, who courageously revived the long-shuttered Majestic Theater (now the BAM Harvey) nearly three decades ago. The area was historically Brooklyn’s entertainment and cultural capital, hosting dozens of theaters, hotels, restaurants, and the original BAM opera house built in 1907 on Lafayette Avenue. 

How we're moving Culture Forward

Read the report produced in collaboration with the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance

Why does Brooklyn need a cultural district? 

The City and State of New York have invested more than $100 million in the area to create world-class cultural venues, marquee public spaces, and state-of-the-art streetscape improvements. This investment was not intended to create culture from scratch, but instead builds upon the area’s rich history and the infrastructure of existing institutions. 

When complete, the core of the Brooklyn Cultural District will be home to nine independent arts venues (with 651 Arts, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and The Center for Fiction joining in 2018) and more than 2,000 new residential units, nearly 30% of which are designated as affordable. There will also be 300,000 square feet of office space designed for emerging creative and technology firms, as well as new restaurants and shops adding to the area’s already vibrant street life. All of these assets will be linked together through a unique streetscape utilizing solar-powered LED lights to guide patrons through the area. Finally, a string of new public spaces are being built to serve as a stage for artistic expression and a forum for the thousands of people who will live, work, and visit the area.  

Beyond the physical attributes of this new neighborhood, the cultural organizations have joined together in founding the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance (DBAA), a coalition of more than 30 cultural groups organized in 2011 to connect and serve Downtown Brooklyn cultural organizations, communicate their impact on Brooklyn, actively mobilize in the best interests of artist communities, and help strengthen Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural infrastructure. The largest coalition of its kind in the borough, DBAA is a leading voice representing the arts in Brooklyn.  

The Brooklyn Cultural District is for creatives, by creatives.

The resulting Brooklyn Cultural District sends a clear signal of the immense value of culture to Downtown Brooklyn’s past, present, and future – a place where people of all backgrounds and talents can live, come together and create.