The Secret City was born in 2007 when Chris Wells and Bobby Lucy gathered with friends on the floor of a small studio above 14th Street in New York City. The vision: to create a haven for artists and creative people, to build community with the arts and to celebrate art and artists in a joyful, commercial-free setting.
We began to meet monthly. And people started to come. Artists presented work, musicians sang songs, a food offering was added, a choir, then a band. We meditated, we danced, we gave thanks. Chris wrote and told a story for each event. Bobby curated the visuals. Every event was followed by a coffee hour and folks brought treats to share. What emerged was part salon, part ceremony, and a pure celebration of art and community. In 2010, we won an Obie Award for Service to the Creative Community.The New York Times wrote about us for their Sunday Arts and Leisure section. We moved to Dixon Place and our community grew. We incorporated as a non-profit. We expanded to LA! with quarterly events at the Bootleg Theater in Silverlake.
Then came the outfits: outrageous, fabulous, silly. Our mission to build community through the arts, and to celebrate individual artists, thrived. Bobby and Chris moved to Woodstock, New York, in 2014 and we began to host an annual summer gathering in the heart of the Catskills. We added an annual Winter Solstice celebration at Judson Church in NYC. Now we program regularly in NY, LA, and Woodstock with guest appearances in other parts of the country and a weekly radio show in Kingston, New York.
The Secret City has a bi-coastal board of directors. These fine people keep our mission alive and move the organization forward.
Founding Artistic Director
CHRIS WELLS is the founding artistic director of The Secret City. Wells serves as host, producer, lead artist, storyteller and head curator, presenting an endless variety of artists in a setting dedicated to connecting artists to community and building community around the arts. With events in New York City, Los Angeles, the Hudson Valley and beyond, Wells has brought the singularly joyful, celebratory work of The Secret City to thousands of people.
Wells is also an award-winning actor who’s developed and performed original work with The Actors’ Gang, SITI Company, Theater Offensive, La Mama, Clubbed Thumb, Cornerstone Theater, Baltimore Center Stage, Papermill Playhouse, Alabama Shakespeare, Cornerstone Theater, Yale Rep, Long Wharf, Cleveland Playhouse, and San Jose Rep.
In 2007, Wells was honored with The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists for his work in support of new play development. In 2010, he received a Special Citation Obie Award for creating The Secret City, and for service to the artistic community of New York City.
Wells’ original work includes Liberty!, a play about American ideals, Swallow Me, a musical adaptation of Salome, Nowhere to Run, a Buddhist pop opera, Olsen Terror, the cult hit musical about a man turning into the Olsen Twins. His Off Off Broadway show It Will All Work Out, based on his stories and songs, premiered at Dixon Place in April 2017.
As a teacher, Wells leads the weekend writing intensive, Writing Life.
Wells lives with his husband, the painter Bobby Lucy, in Woodstock, New York, where he’s completing his first book.
CATHERINE JAMES is the Program Director of The Secret City. She is an arts educator with a particular focus on disability justice. She is the founder and director of Outside Voices Theater Company and Poets, of Course. Catherine has a BA Hons in Theater from Victoria University of Manchester, England and an MFA in Performance and Performance Studies from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She currently resides in Woodstock, has written multiple conference papers, and is responsible for the creation of the performing arts department at VSA Arts of New Mexico for adults with intellectual disabilities.