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A local organization is helping more artists and companies find work space during the COVID-19 pandemic.
25 years ago, Anita Durst founded Chashama, an organization that supports local artists and small businesses by giving them space to create. She got the idea to start Chashama after being in a theater group led by Reza Abdoh.
“[Abdoh’s] The work was very successful across Europe. If people saw his work it would change their life, ”said Durst. “He always talked about the power of creativity. When [Abdoh] I died of AIDS and wanted to share this sense of creativity and how it can change you. I did it in his memory. “
According to Durst, Chashama originally began with the intention of focusing on the production and presentation of new theater. Since its inception, Chashama has evolved to help artists and businesses find their own space in vacant spaces in New York City until the spaces can be rented out all day.
Chashama’s newest venture, Enliven NYC, really stepped up that mission, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in a number of store fronts closing.
“Right now, when you look at the city, you see all these people walking and the closed spaces, but there is still a great passion and a lot of people who are here want to help,” said Durst. “There is so much potential to help, and Enliven NYC will be helping artists and businesses in their spaces until they are rented out. We’re still awake and alive, and New York is making headway through this pandemic. “
Photo courtesy Chashama
Chashama currently operates 40 locations in New York City, New York State and Matawan, New Jersey. Durst anticipates that Enliven NYC will give Chashama 20 new rooms by January 2021.
Durst says these spaces not only help the artists but also give a boost to the urban community.
“First of all, it helps the artist a lot. Instead of being stuck in their apartment, they have a place to create something, so they do things and work with other artists, ”said Durst. “Then the occupied shop windows lift the passers-by for the people outside on the street. It gives them a sense of hope. When there is negative space, it creates a certain energy. But a positive space really changes things for the tenant and the people around. “
Durst says the response to Enliven NYC has been pretty positive and hopes to run hundreds of spaces for artists over the next two years.
During the holiday season, Chashama hosts a holiday market featuring handcrafted works by local artists. The organization is also working with the Shin Gallery to place museum-quality works in Chashama’s rooms for New Yorkers to safely enjoy during the pandemic.
For more information visit chashama.org.