Richard Mazda, the artistic director of Long Island City’s Secret Theatre, took the stage on Tuesday night, but not for any performance.
Standing before an “audience” of artists and others, in a space run by eGarage, a comedy troupe, located next door to his theater, Mazda gave an overview of preparations for the second annual LIC Arts Open, which will run from May 1 to 20.
He and a partner, Karen Dimit, are in the throes of organizing the second annual event, which, like last year’s, will include simultaneous open studios around the neighborhood, along with special exhibitions, performance events and more. Mazda is hoping this year’s fest will be even bigger than last year’s inaugural open, which he estimated brought some 5,000 people to the neighborhood.
“Last year it was a massive learning curve,” Mazda explained before the meeting. He later told the audience that he and Dimit had come up with the idea during “a conversation on the street.”
“Before we knew it, we were in this grand adventure.”
He and Dimit, who Mazda explained are not compensated to organize the fest, have been getting an early jump on the programming. In January, they began hosting bimonthly meetings, open to artists and anyone who might be interested in taking part.
At Tuesday’s meeting, among those present were painters, photographers and sculptors, as well as gallery owners and representatives of the Z Hotel, located in the area, and Chashama, an arts nonprofit that is considering working with the event.
The pair have an open call to artists based in Long Island City who would like to participate — individuals can submit proposals online, and for $25 are guaranteed a spot in a brochure that will be distributed before and during the event. Making the brochure is one of the fest’s major expenses.
Open studios are set to occur on Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20, and if artists don’t have a studio space of their own that would be suitable for an opening, Mazda and Dimit can help. Thus far, they have secured over 40 spaces they hope to use in one way or another during the open, at various condos, for example.
Referring to an arts festival he ran in London, Mazda noted, “people used to propose outrageous things,” and he encouraged artists in LIC to do the same, even if the idea seemed impossible to carry off. He added that two large scaffolds are being made available by Eric Benaim, president of realty company Modern Spaces, which handles rentals and sales in the area.
The scaffolds would be “two great opportunities for two large-scale public art projects,” Mazda said. Proposals for temporary murals or other projects there, he emphasized, would be welcome.
In addition to the open studios and art exhibitions, LICAO will also include a block party on Saturday, May 19, on 22nd Street, as well as workshops at Gantry Plaza State Park on the waterfront.
Steve Hofstetter, of the Laughing Devil Comedy Club, will be running a comedy fest that will team up with the open, according to Mazda, and a cook-off featuring Hugue Darfour of M. Wells as well as chefs from area favorites Tournesol and LIC Market, among others, is scheduled to take place at Manducatis, a popular Italian restaurant, on the 15th.
Still in the early stages, many seemed to be considering how they could contribute to the event. Lisa Gneo, director of sales at the Z Hotel, was present at the meeting, and indicated the hotel might participate in some way, while Lisa DiClerico, an antique restorer, said the newly formed Artisan’s Guild of America was considering a table at the block party.
And while the spectre of the recent 7 train closures — scheduled to last until April 2 — had cast a shadow over the event when they were first announced, Mazda had good news: the MTA has promised to open the 7 train during the weekends when LICAO will take place. That includes opening the Court Square station, which has been shut down entirely since the MTA began its 7 train work on Jan. 21.
Mazda said he was looking forward to future fests as well, when larger institutions and big funders might be persuaded to get involved.
“Mark your calendars for the next decade,” Dimit said at one point during the meeting.
“Because we’re not going away,” Mazda added.