CREATING ART FROM CHAOS
Since 1995 Anita Durst has been giving shape to the New York Art Scene through ChaShaMa, her non-profit arts organization that transforms unused properties into artist studios, exhibit, performance, and educational workshop spaces.
In 2020, ChaShaMa (meaning in Farsi, “to have vision”) recognized its 25th year in existence, though focus was not on their annual, over-thetop fundraising gala, and instead on how the nonprofit could not only prevail but excel amidst major city-wide shutdowns and new pandemic protocols. “ChaShaMa is a great catalyst for recovery in the wake of the pandemic”, Durst says, seeing the opportunity to utilize the newly vacant properties left in the wake of the shutdowns. “We can be a bridge between the property owner, the artist, the small businesses, and the non-profits. We can help reignite the economy of New York and bring it back to life.”
As many flee from the City, ChaShaMa seeks to stimulate the economy and beautify communities, keeping the country’s cultural epicenter thriving and its people feeling engaged.
Starting out by transforming less than a dozen small Manhattan spaces into galleries, artist studios, and street window theaters, ChaShaMa has grown to working with nearly 50 different properties, including venues in upstate New York and Matawan, New Jersey.
So far they have collaborated with over 30,000 artists to create and present their work, believing in the rights of all artists to participate in New York City’s cultural exchange, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status. In reaction to the economic devastation that followed the nation-wide shutdowns in 2020, ChaShaMa launched the Enliven NYC initiative. Enliven NYC was created to lead New York City’s cultural resurgence through partnering an evergrowing list of unused properties with artists, creatives, and performers. For Durst, it is her vision that the initiative, “will remind people of what
makes this city so unique: the ability to walk down any street and happen upon something magical.”
Durst says that several major organizations have stepped up and given ChaShaMa large financial donations during the pandemic, including The New York Community Trust, CBRE, Fidelity National Title Insurance, Taconic Partners, and Turner Construction Company, among many others.
“We continue to be approached every day by artists and organizations that need space, and our partners will help make this happen” she says.
ChaShaMa annually gives $9 million worth of real estate to artists, subsidizes 200 artist workspaces, provides over 200 free art classes, and nearly 200 artists free space to present.
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