Making Memories in Dumbo
Known for its cobblestone streets, waterfront walkway, and iconic bridge photo ops, you’d be forgiven for thinking Dumbo couldn’t possibly get any better.
You’d also be wrong.
This summer, one of Brooklyn’s top real estate companies approached Colossal Studios looking for unique, site-specific artwork to embellish two of their buildings in the area. Public art in our own backyard, custom designed by a fabulous artist within our network? Say less!
We immediately teamed up with one of our favorite artists, Finley, to add even more pizazz to Brooklyn’s snazziest neighborhood. Finley is a force of nature, who takes public art as seriously as we do. Known for bright colors, bold designs, and activism via artwork, we knew we were in for something special for this project. She came through with two out-of-this-world, borderless designs — both bound to be backdrops in tourist selfies for decades to come.
Now adorning buildings at 30 and 50 Columbia Heights in Dumbo, her designs are already turning heads. We had a chance to gave Finley a call and catch up once our paint team finished up the murals.
Looking back, can you tell us a bit about your creative process? How did you arrive at these designs?
Well, we had two completely different spaces, two completely different projects. One is a wedge with four little cutouts, and the other one is just a huge brick building. So I tried to look at the shapes and see what I might cook up. And I just kind of start throwing everything in the kitchen sink on the wall, see how it might translate. Psyche and Amore came right away as a first pick — which is thrilling for me because like I said, I’m completely obsessed with that.
The other sketch was kind of interesting, because they originally picked a super abstract piece, but then wanted to try something else. I wanted to kind of tell a story in those four squares that go down the street; it’s almost like an animation or something where you could move through overtime. I don’t know why I went with the octopi, but I tried them on the panels and realized I want them to be like fish out of water. By utilizing more space taking up more of the wall, it just became whimsical and super fun. Filling them with color and slapping them on the wall — it’s almost like they’re swimming through that space.
For the large Psyche and Amore, it seems like you really artfully balanced the artwork itself with the historic brick canvas too.
The brick is such a beautiful canvas for that color palette. You never really know what it’s going to look like. It just seems that that kind of thing is a divine intervention, because as much as I can say that I’m a colorist, (which I am, I think about color incessantly) I honestly couldn’t have made a better match.
Right — and we knew seeing your designs that they’d look cool, but it’s still so different seeing them huge in Dumbo.
It’s very exciting. Especially because basically all of that existed on my iPad, so to see it on a large scale, and the colors are beautiful. I’m curious to see what the response is on the street.
Totally. You usually work out of an art studio in the area too, right?
Yeah. I’ve worked all over Dumbo, but right now I think technically what they call it is ‘Dumbo Heights.’ It’s kind of on the other side of Dumbo, actually.
So when you come back to New York, you’re gonna see these in person while you’re out and about?
I know I’m gonna run over there and see the IRL! Like, bring all my friends for a champagne street soiree.
I think every time you see something hand-painted, there’s something magical about it.
Amazing. And this is your second time doing a project with us. Did it feel any different the second time or is it like a homecoming?
I thought it was a little bit easier this time. [The first one] turned out really cool, but that was a project where there was a very specific brief. This one was like, Hey, do you, whatever you want, get crazy. This is actually an art project. Somehow I was selected for it — I was so grateful.
It’s also really fun to work with Colossal because I don’t have to do all that work and organize all the stuff, which I always have to do. Everything is super pro and all worked out already. It makes me feel like a superstar.
What was very cool is to be abroad, and be like, I have all these amazing things happening, this stuff is dropping! And also the documentation is beautiful. So from start to finish, I’m thrilled because it’s just taking care of and it’s all really top quality, which feels great.
That makes us so happy to hear.
Having hand-painted signs and murals in the world just feels so beautiful — the way that I want to move and inhabit the world is with public art. Street art, I think, is also one of the biggest movements of our generation. It’s so beautiful to take art and give it to the people and let that be egalitarian, let people discover it for free.
Couldn’t agree more — like collapsing all of the barriers and prestige that usually surrounds art and just having it on the street. It seems like there’s a growing appreciation for public art and for these kinds of projects, too.
I think every time you see something hand-painted, there’s something magical about it. Whenever I go down Kent and Wythe Avenue where you guys have those iconic streets — yes, it’s advertising, but I want to look at it longer because I think, how do they do that, though?
With this placement too, there’s so much life and tourism and families. It’s like a fun surprise — you don’t necessarily know that’s what you’re going to find, and then there’s this incredible mural.
And that’s what I love about public art. It can be really surprising, you know, you round a corner and you’re like, Whoa, I had no idea! The Statue of Liberty is public art, public sculpture. And I never get tired of seeing her! She never disappoints — it’s epic. I’m very proud to be a part of that — putting joyful color positivity and, and creativity on the streets for all people.
What are you hoping people feel when they see these pieces in Dumbo?
Well, I definitely hope that people feel joy. For Psyche and Amore: a beautiful, colorful, big love. The panels with the water could mean a lot of things. But for me, it’s whimsical, it’s fun. It references the ocean, maybe it has an environmental conversation interpretation, but in a creative and joyful way. It just gives them a breath of life, and a little bit of energy, puts a little pep in their step. That’s all I mean, really. If you can dazzle someone for just one moment of the day, I think the work is done.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.