Empty buildings are her canvas.
An actress and artist with family ties to the real estate industry is helping to make art happen. Anita Durst’s organization Chashama has provided affordable exhibition and workshop space for more than 15,000 New York artists over the last 23 years. Durst said that she started the group in 1995 following the death of her mentor, Iranian director and playwright Reza Abdoh, in order to help carry on his vision of spreading creativity as far as possible.
“He taught me about the power of creativity, and I wanted other people to feel that power,” said Durst, who lives in Manhattan. “There was such a need for space for artists, and I realized that I could allow his legacy to live on by providing space to artists.”
Her organization partners with property owners who have vacant spaces, re-purposing them for performance and gallery artists. Chashama currently has 24 art spaces throughout New York City, including five in Brooklyn. Its spaces include two floors of the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, divided into 96 below-market rate studios for visual artists. Those studios are a hotly pursued commodity among local artists, said Durst.
“Lucky artists get that,” she said. “You get a space there and can stay as long as you want. They’re all filled and it’s a very long waiting list.”
One artist will use a Chashama space in Clinton Hill this month to present her an interactive installation “No. 1 Pretty,” which simulates a visit to a nail salon. Artist Aya Rodriguez-Izumi said she feels lucky to be able to realize her vision thanks to the organization.
“Since being granted the space from Chashama, the project and concept was able to develop and grow to a new level,” said Rodriguez-Izumi. “This type of support means everything — without it, the show as it is now would not have been possible. By eliminating concerns around securing a gallery space, Chashama provides artists and curators a unique opportunity to really focus on their exhibition.”