The Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival (DBAF), the annual celebration of Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural community and the artists, writers, and performers who inspire the borough’s creative spirit, returned in 2021 as an in-person festival to the Plaza at 300 Ashland from September 22-25.

DBAF launched with a salsa party in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The evening began with a salsa class led by teachers from the Mark Morris Dance Center. Brooklyn-based Colombian sensation, Maria Raquel then performed with her quintet followed by a DJed dance party of golden era hits by DJ JohnJohn, who has provided the music for our wildly popular Willoughby Plaza salsa series in previous years.

Day Two featured vaudeville circus artists Rob & Miss Jane, Senegalese traditional and contemporary dancer Babacar Top, the 18-piece NYC Ska Orchestra, and a special performance of Brooklyn-based, contemporary classical group, The Knights.

Friday’s big draw was Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Orchestra. The 18-piece big band had its first post-lockdown rehearsal together on the Plaza at 300 Ashland in October of 2020 and it was an honor to have them return in a joyous, full-scale performance one year later. The Orchestra performed a special repertoire celebrating Hispanic Heritage month and Mexican Independence Day and garnered a standing room-only and dancer-filled crowd.

Children and families filled the Plaza on the last day of the Festival with BAMkids Family Day, featuring performances and interactive workshops, Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats!, Feet of Rhythm Kids, Brooklyn United, and Brown Rice Family all performed.

Saturday evening marked the end of DBAF with Downtown Brooklyn and Arts Festival favorites, Soul Summit, spinning old-school house music on The Plaza. It was the largest dance party ever held on the Plaza with hundreds grooving to the music.

Stay tuned for updates on next year’s lineup! In the meantime, find out about everything that’s going on in Downtown Brooklyn, here.