LIC Arts Open puts Queens artists on the map

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The creative colony of Long Island City blazed with inspirational energy during the second annual LIC Arts Open – a 10-day extravaganza in which local artists welcome the public into their studios. Festival-goers experienced the cutting edge in painting, sculpture, photography, theatre and ceramics, crafted by many of the city’s most forefront and promising artistic talents. Hundreds participated in more than 200 exhibitions and performances – demonstrating the masterful skill and breadth of mediums Long Island City artists bring to the creative world.

“I’m delighted with how the festival went,” said Richard Mazda, LIC Arts Open director and artistic director at The Secret Theatre. “It’s definitely a higher quality festival than last year.”

The event began several years ago as a two-day, open-studio event, mainly showcasing visual artists. Mazda sought to transform LIC Arts Open into a multi-studio event, larger and more widely encompassing than ever before.

“The event mushroomed in size,” said Mazda. “It was kind of like a hit record. I knew it would be successful.”

This year’s festival brought art unseen at previous gatherings to the foreground, marking the debut of performance pieces at the LIC Arts Open. Mazda also revealed that sculpture, a medium he believed was underrepresented at previous festivals, was more abundant during this year’s celebration.

“It’s hard to present more sculpture, especially the larger pieces,” said Mazda. “It’s hard to transport them and display them. Painting generally gets shown more in galleries. Sculpture is a less accessible form of art.”

Ten years ago, Gotham Center at Queens Plaza was a desolate industrial hall. During the festival, hundreds of one-of-a-kind, 10 X 10 pictures lined the walls of the now-revitalized hub. The works, donated by both well-known and underground artists, were available to be purchased by browsing patrons. Half of the proceeds went to future LIC Arts Open events and the other half helped continue a program run by the Queens Council for the Arts.

Mazda remarked that many of the Gotham Center affair attendees had never seen an art exhibit before. He believed the event’s locale brought commuters passing through Queens Plaza station into the building, drawn by the crowd and the excitement.

“[This kind of event] makes art accessible to ordinary human beings,” said Mazda.

Photographer Orestes Gonzalez displayed his photo essay, “Portraits of Artists 2010-2012,”depicting LIC creatives in their studios.

“I think [the festival] went really well,” said Gonzalez. “We had twice as many participants this year. There was a lot more traffic as far as the public was concerned. There were a lot more interesting exhibits. It’s gaining force in other parts of the city as well.”

Gonzalez believes the LIC Arts Open publicizes a group of artists formerly flying under the radar.

“The festival is about making a statement about the artists of LIC,” said Gonzalez. “It puts the artists of Queens on the map. Everyone’s always looking at Manhattan and Brooklyn, but we have a huge amount of artistic activity here.”

Bertille De Baudiniere, a local artist whose works were on display during the LIC Arts Open, curated a contest where 780 kids from across the borough, ages five to 18, created postcards in line with the theme of De Baudiniere’s latest collection, “Green Earth.”

“It was perfect to do [the contest] with children because they will be the next generation to deal with Earth and these problems,” said De Baudiniere. “They can speak freely. The kids are very imaginative and full of ideas. They express themselves differently. It was very unique.”