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Downtown Arts Festival Springs Forth

With warm weather on its way, New Yorkers are coming out of hibernation and going out to plays and concerts. At least, that's the idea behind Spring Downtown — an arts festival that begins this week at selected venues all located below Houston street.

The festival is the product of the Lower Manhattan Arts League, a collective of 11 small downtown arts non-profits that include the Three-Legged Dog theater group, the Battery Dance Company and The Flea Theater.

The League came together three years ago to pool their marketing and fundraising muscle in an effort to stay afloat in hard economic times. Since then, they've produced two Fall Downtown festivals and — including the one that starts this week — two Spring Downtown festivals.

"I think the recession brings to light a number of issues and a certain amount of scarcity that forces people to rethink the way they’re doing things," said Joe Harrell, an arts marketing specialist at the Alliance for the Arts.

Harrell said an increasing number of non-profits are banding together these days, especially downtown where the organizations are small and the rent is high.

"That could mean picking up the phone or sitting down at the table with another arts group, and saying, 'How can we together do this better or be stronger than if we were going it alone?'" he said.

Kristin Marting, the artistic director of HERE, a multidisciplinary arts space and member of the downtown league, said the strategy seems to be working. Although no hard data has been crunched yet, members have reported five to 10 percent increases in attendance since inaugurating the Fall and Spring Downtown festivals.

This year's Spring Downtown includes the Music With a View free concert series showcasing new and experimental music from 25 composers at The Flea, the "MADE HERE" documentary series about performing artists at HERE, and "Born Bad," a Tucker Green drama playing at Soho Rep, among other events.