When Richard Mazda emigrated from London leaving behind a successful acting career to become a full-time Queens resident in the early 2000s, it didn’t take him long to settle in and start tossing around the idea of opening his own local business.
First, in 2005, he considered founding a hostel, but when funding and real estate didn’t line up he followed up on a tip that the LIC waterfront was under development. So he went to take a look around for himself.
On a long walk through the developing district, Mazda became enthralled with its trappings. He was convinced that the riverfront in LIC could end up becoming, “just like the south bank of the Thames.”
“It was getting dark and I came past a place called The Creek and the Cave,” he recalls. “There was just one guy serving beer to another guy with a three-legged dog.”
Mazda said that after a quick look around the place, he asked the bartender, “I haven’t got any money, but can I start an acting company here? That’s where the Queens players started.”
After a short run at the Creek and the Cave, eventually the players moved on to rehearse at an event space in a Jackson Heights steakhouse. Now, several years later, Mazda is running the Secret Theatre, Queens’ most prominent independent theater.
In 2011, Mazda had a chance encounter with a mosaicist friend from the neighborhood, and, after it came to light that Mazda had founded the successful, now 20-year-old Camberwell Art Week, it led to his involvement with, and eventually leadership of, the LIC Arts Open.
Formed out of a mildly successful annual open theater event, the LIC Arts Open raised over $30,000 in its inaugural year. This year's festival runs from May 14-18.
“Now we’re here four years later, with over 40 venues this year,” Mazda said. “Well over 160 artists will open up their studios, and there will be some 400 artists.”