Waterfront Art Spaces in DUMBO Begin to Recover From Sandy’s Destructive Impact

The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy left galleries and studios closest the waterfront of Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood with significant damage to their spaces and art. On Wednesday afternoon, the recovery process was well underway with generators and tubes draining water from basements dotting the sidewalks. ARTINFO visited some of these spaces to find out the extent of the destruction and what their plans are going forward.

“Our lower level, which is for our artist studio program, was flooded” said Kathleen Gilrain, director of Smack Mellon,who was working to dry out the space. While Smack Mellon’s gallery on the upper level of their space on the corner of Plymouth and Washington streets was high enough to avoid flooding, the seven artist studios, workspace, and digital lab in the basement were submerged. “We expected to get some flooding, but we thought 18 inches to two feet at the most, and we got six feet of water,” Gilrain told ARTINFO. Although the artists had taken precautions over last weekend to put their work and materials high in their studios, the force of the water moved tables around and left behind standing water. Artists are coming in on Thursday to salvage work and belongings from their studios.

Around the corner on Main Street, Galapagos Art Space experienced a similar level of flooding of their performance area (shown in the photograph above). “Devastating, dramatic, huge,” was how Robert Elmes, Director of Galapagos Art Space, described the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The water rose to five feet inside the building, covering the seating, stage, and, more importantly, totally wrecking their operating systems, although it left their upper level and the Kunsthalle Galapagos gallery upstairs unharmed. On Wednesday afternoon, around 50 volunteers came to help with the clean up, and Elmes and others were continuing to sweep out water and try to salvage what they could. “Culture has to come up swinging,” Elmes told ARTINFO. He also said that the neighborhood, which was “a very collaborative neighborhood to begin with,” was working together to help each other and offering to their neighbors the resources they could.

Sam Barzilay, Creative Director of United Photo Industries, located in the 111 Front Street building that remained without power, told ARTINFO that “we’ve been spending [Wednesday] helping our neighbors in DUMBO clean up their spaces, as Sandy was quite nasty to many of the businesses on street level and below, and we’ll continue helping them tomorrow and Friday until all is OK.” Karl Erickson, Executive Director of the Dumbo Arts Center, also located in the massive 111 Front Street building that avoided significant damage, stated that “unfortunately, not all of our DUMBO neighbors have been so lucky, as the flooding reached pretty far into the neighborhood. We’ve all seen the tragic pictures of Jane’s Carousel (which should be fine, I’ve heard) and we have had reports of serious damage to homes and businesses in the neighborhood. The park seems to be hit pretty hard. Our hearts go out to all of those effected.”

Below are more photos from the Galapagos Art Space, Smack Mellon, and the DUMBO waterfront area:

The flood repairs at  Galapagos Art Space will likely continue for some time, and Wednesday the floors remained wet from the storm that rose water from the East River.

Water was being drained from the basement studio area of Smack Mellon, while the gallery up the stairs to the left was dry.

There were still several inches of water in the studio level of Smack Mellon on Wednesday, although it had much receded from where it had been during the storm. (The waterline is the brown streak above the staircase.)

Powerhouse Books on Main Street across from the Galapagos Art Space was also in the middle of a serious clean up, with piles of damaged books still waterlogged from the storm.

A pool of water remained on Main Street in DUMBO outside of Galapagos Art Space. Across the street, the Clocktower Building was still without power and the adjacent restaurants appeared to have suffered significant damage.

Sandbags were piled outside of the Sweeney Building across from Galapagos Art Space, while a generator was running outside, familiar sites yesterday afternoon on the DUMBO waterfront.

Jane’s Carousel, whose flooding made for an incredibly haunting photo of the horses in their glass box still illuminated in the storm, appeared to still be sandbagged and debris was littered nearby, but despite the shocking image, reports state that the carousel managed to avoid any major ruin.

Allison Meier