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LIC Arts Open Fest to Celebrate Local Talent

Donna Levinstone in her Long Island City studio.
Donna Levinstone in her Long Island City studio.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

LONG ISLAND CITY — More than 300 Long Island City artists will show off their work at 55 local venues during the second annual LIC Arts Open, a festival that aims to emphasize the neighborhood's place on New York's art map.

The festival, which runs from May 12-20, will feature more than 200 art shows and concerts, as well as theater and dance performances, many of which are free.

The staggering menu of events marks a 40-percent increase over last year's festival, said Richard Mazda, a British musician, actor and theater owner, who came up with the idea for the festival along with Karen Dimit, a New York mosaicist and sculptor.

"It kind of grew organically," Mazda noted.

In recent years, Long Island City has become a magnet for artists, often from other New York neighborhoods, who come there to work in converted warehouses and loft spaces.

One of the pioneers of this trend is well-known sculptor Joel Shapiro, who built a studio in the neighborhood decades ago and is the festival's patron sculptor this year.

"When I realized how many artists live and work in Long Island City, I couldn’t understand why there is no festival," Mazda noted.

Initially, the organizers wanted to build the festival around open studios, with local artists allowing visitors into their workspaces. But the event has welcomed other forms of art, too, with musicians and other performers joining the long list of participants.

One of the contributing artists, Manhattan resident Donna Levinstone has been working at Reis Studios on 22nd Street, just off the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge, for the past five years.

As part of the festival’s activities, Levinstone will offer a workshop, teaching her techniques at the Gantries Plaza on Saturday.

"There is a sense of community among artists working in Long Island City, and it’s heightened by the festival," she said. "Artists really got together and talked about what’s needed and wanted in the community."

Most of Levinstone's pastel landscapes show dramatic configurations of the sky, water and clouds. Walking around Vernon Boulevard and 21st Street inspires her, she said.

"I feel like there is an amazing light here and a feeling of openness that sometimes is missing in Manhattan," she explained.

"It's just one stop from Manhattan," Levinstone added. "[The festival will] present LIC to the city." 

The festival will kick off with an opening party on Saturday at Reis Studios, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Festivalgoers can also check out The Laughing Devil Comedy Festival, which will feature more than 100 comedians and is the first event of its kind in Long Island City.

The LIC School of Ballet will perform and LIC Jazz Alliance will play a concert.

And four Nabe Nites Out will take visitors on artistic tours around Court Square, Queens Plaza, Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.

Festival catalogs are available online and in many neighborhood stores and public places.