• Monmouth Arts

ChaShaMa Matawan: A Space for Artists

By Elsie Johnson


As part of Monmouth Arts' 50th Anniversary, we're taking time to showcase some of the nonprofit member groups that form the foundation of Monmouth Arts' creative community. In this installment, we're looking at ChaShaMa, an organization that provides spaces for artists to work, with locations in New York as well as in Monmouth County’s very own Matawan. We checked in with ChaShaMa Matawan’s Artistic Director Donna Kessinger for an update.

For those who aren't familiar with ChaShaMa Matawan, tell us a little about your nonprofit.

Chashama was founded in 1995 by Anita Durst. The initial focus was on the production and presentation of new theatre; however, once we realized a bigger issue, we changed our focus to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate. These spaces are then used for artists, small businesses, and free community-centric art classes. We currently have studios throughout New York City, upstate New York, and Matawan. By offering affordable studio space, our program supports the artists’ creative development and process.

Give one example of a way you've seen your organization's work make a difference.

Recognizing that a lack of affordable space was the biggest threat to sustaining a diverse cultural environment in New York City, we began to work toward securing studio and presentation space in Midtown Manhattan, an effort that was eventually expanded to Matawan. Our organization

has made a difference by giving artists work and presentation spaces, as well as providing free art workshops in underserved communities. Currently, we present 150 events a year, have a workspace for 120 artists, and have developed 80 workshops.


How are you operating right now in regards to reopening? Have you made any adaptations due to COVID-19 that our readers would be interested in hearing about?

We have been closely observing the latest COVID regulations, but we’ve been fortunate enough to remain open during the pandemic, allowing artists to work continuously during the past year. In fact, we currently have some new art exhibitions that are being presented right now with all necessary COVID precautions.


Can you share an interesting anecdote or something about your nonprofit that would surprise people?

Something interesting that most people don't know about our location in Matawan is that it sits on the edge of the waterfront where the ‘Jaws’ story originated in 1916. We're right on the edge of a beautiful marsh, which is another nice feature for our artists.


What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2021?

By providing "Space to Create," ChaShaMa Matawan is looking forward to bringing innovative, cutting edge art exhibitions that express the hope that is generated from arts-based healing, encouraging new growth in our local arts community.


Monmouth Arts has a great network of arts supporters. How can our members and readers support your nonprofit right now?

ChaShaMa has several artist studios that are currently available to rent -- below market rate! And our exhibition space is free with a refundable deposit. Anyone who is interested should contact Chashama Matawan Gallery Director and Curator Donna Kessinger at donna@chashama.org for more information.


Our current exhibition, Dreaming of Bees, is running through November 14th, with a closing reception on the 14th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. It’s a collaborative exhibit featuring original works and interactive elements by Brian Hallas and Stephanie Sommerlad Bello. Visit us and check it out!



Where can people find out more about ChaShaMa Matawan?

Website: https://chashama.org/spaces/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chamatawangalleryandstudios/


Interested in becoming a nonprofit member like ChaShaMa? Become a member of Monmouth Arts today!


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