Organizers of the LIC Arts Open have been planning since December, and as of Tuesday night’s meeting were five weeks away from opening day, forcing the group of artists to turn for an evening to hard logistics.
“Tonight, we’ll be putting out fires,” said festival director Richard Mazda. “Somebody is going to have a problem with an ad. Someone is going to say they haven’t heard back from us about their proposal. Some artist will be asking us about the space for his multimedia presentation that involves some nudity.”
The second annual festival, which runs from May 12 through 20, will include more than 500 artists and performers, almost all of whom will set up shop for the nine days inside the LIC triangle formed by Queens Plaza, Jackson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard.
He also said Long Island City, with large, open buildings from its industrial past, is a natural setting for the festival.
“You have a large warehouse building on this street with 200 artist studios,” he said. “One block over there’s another with about 100, and another one across the street from that. In two blocks you have space for 400 studios. I think artists are drawn to places that are unloved. They love them, improve them and turn those places around.
“Then the realtors and developers follow along,” he said with a smile.
While they may have a handful of exhibits outside the triangle this year, Mazda said he could easily see expanding to places like Astoria within a few short years.
With last year’s festival exceeding their initial expectations, organizers began discussions at the end of last year, and began contacting artists in January.
They expect to at least surpass the 2011 numbers. Last year’s success has moved them beyond the point of scuffling to find artists and performers to fill the bill, though they are not yet so large as to be turning away quality applications.
“We’re really working on capacity right now,” he said.
Mazda has had a long and varied career in the arts, going back to his native Great Britain as an actor, musician and music producer.
Tuesday night’s meeting took place in the vestibule of The Secret Theatre while theater members were outside hauling props and scenery off a truck.
Around two folding tables, Mazda and graphic artist Carlos Triminio were working on last-minute plans for the program booklet, which is about to go to the printer; volunteer Anna Grace Carter was working with intern Alex Carmine; and Ana Milosevic was talking to one of the artists who will be featured.
They and the rest of the skeleton staff expect to pull it off on a shoestring budget.
“I’m not taking a stipend,” Mazda said. “We’ve received some donations so we can maybe pay some volunteers and interns a little, but it’s not what you could call a salary.”
And what is the one feature that this year and last has required so much effort to make it look so easy?
“The booklet,” Mazda says without hesitation, holding up last year’s full-color glossy paper program, which details times, dates and the locations for each presenter.
“This was pretty big for our graphics people,” he said. “We pulled some all-nighters.”
Triminio considers it all in a day’s work.
“It’s about average for what we’re used to working on,” he said.