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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Performing Arts

Mission: chashama empowers artists in New York City with space to create by transforming unutilized real estate into work and presentation space.

Results: chashama, which means “to have vision” in Farsi, was founded in 1995 by Anita Durst, to celebrate and honor the legacy of theater artist Reza Abdoh. The organization initially focused on the production of theater performances in vacant properties along 42nd Street in Manhattan. Durst began fielding many requests from artists asking to use the spaces during off-nights. Recognizing that the lack of affordable studio and presentation space was a great threat to sustaining a diverse, dynamic, and provocative cultural environment in New York City, Durst’s vision was to find a way to connect artists and performers with untapped reserves of temporarily vacant commercial real estate. In response to artists’ need for space, Durst gained access to other buildings on the same block, creating a strong presence on the block of 42nd Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway. chashama sponsored nearly 700 gallery shows and performances during its first five years. In 2007, chashama expanded into studio spaces at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, 37th Street in Manhattan, and on 126th Street in West Harlem, and has operated with a strong presence in these neighborhoods ever since. chashama also programs exhibition, gallery, and performance spaces all over New York City, including Queens and the Bronx. One of the flagship spaces of chashama when we had many spaces along 42nd street in midtown manhattan. Now is the site of a through-block between the Conde Nast and Bank of America buildings where performances may be put on from our performances program Since 1995 chashama has supported the work of over 12,000 artists in New York City through subsidized studio space, and free exhibition, rehearsal and performance space. We have brought cultural programming to neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, including areas where the arts are not already well represented. In 2013 we programmed 150 public events in 21 venues, and supported 130 studio artists. In 2014 we are programming 26 venues, supporting 126 studio artists, and are on track to present a similarly large number of public events. chashama connects artists with vacant real estate - redistributing the untapped resources available in our urban landscape by partnering with private and public property owners. By structuring a mission around this goal, chashama has become a major force in the NYC arts community by supporting the work of an increasing number of emerging artists every year.

Target demographics: artists

Direct beneficiaries per year: 537 artists gain access to free and subsidized gallery, rehearsal and performance space

Geographic areas served: New York City

Programs: affordable work and presentation space.

Community Stories

15 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

2 Andrew52

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

chashama is one of the most effective organizations with which I have worked. As an organization, they under promise and over deliver. They have made a major contribution to the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica. I simply cannot say enough good things about their mission, business model and leadership.


Rating: 5

I volunteered with chashama at Open Studios and Go Brooklyn weekend. As an artist in Greenpoint I wanted to be able to help out other artists as well as this organization, which is to say the least, extremely beneficial for artists in NYC. Not only did I meet some great visitors, but I had the chance to meet artists in chashama's amazing studio spaces. Being that the studios are far away from my space and where I live in Williamsburg, I may have never been able to meet so many great people. Chashama was organized, inviting, and motivated to bring awareness to Open Studios. It was really a joy to volunteer with them and I will do it again hands down.


Rating: 5

chashama has a great staff and is a fun organization to work with. As a former Intern, I learned the ins and outs of Non-Profit Arts Administration and I gained a lot of valuable experience.


Rating: 5

I helped work the front desk during one of Chashama's open studios in Brooklyn. The experience was delightful, and the people I met from Chashama were extraordinarily enthusiastic about the work they were doing. I highly suggest Chashama for anyone looking to volunteer in the art field.


Rating: 5

As a volunteer for the BAT Open Studios, I was very impressed by Chashama's level of organization and welcoming staff. I had a lot of fun greeting guests and answering their questions. Before I knew it, six hours flew by and I left for the day with a smile on my face.