Meet our Staff

Anita Durst

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Artistic Director

Anita Durst has been a star, a muse, and a patron of the avant-garde performing arts and emerging arts scene in New York City, since she was 18. She founded chashama in 1995 following the death of her mentor and artistic professor Reza Abdoh. While performing and working in his company, Dar A Luz, she learned the value of unbridled expression and how to value art objectively. In the wake of Reza’s absence she was driven to create a place for artists free of financial and subjective constraints. Anita has worked tirelessly for over 20 years to secure over one million square feet of space in New York City for artists. She believes programs like chashama are the vital building blocks to ensuring cultural capital in New York City. Anita was born in New York City and was the flower child to hippy parents living in New Foundland Canada, Ibiza Spain, and the suburbs of New York City. As a precocious teenager she resisted conventional schooling. Shortly after graduating high school she moved back to New York City to help care for her grandfather. Today, Anita sits on the boards of the Tai Chi Chuan Center and Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. She is a recipient of The Black Alumni of Pratt's "Creative Spirit" Award and a proud mother and loving wife, who ensures her entire family eats healthy, practices mindful movement, and lives in the moment. True to her ability to be in the moment and greatest strength of objective thinking she believes all art to be valuable.

Email Anita | phone: (212) 391-8151 x21

Maurya Brennan

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Special Events Manager

Maurya joined the chashama team in January 2017. In her role, she manages logistics and strategy for donor cultivation and fundraising events. Prior to joining chashama, she held positions in major gifts and event planning at Helen Keller International, Camy Calve Events, and International Society for the Performing Arts. Maurya received a B.A. in French and International Relations from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Email Maurya | phone: (212) 391-8151 x42

Janusz Jaworski

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Programs Director

Janusz Jaworski began working for chashama as a lighting designer for Deli Dances 2000. Shortly thereafter, he used the DSL closet under the stairs on the second floor of 135 W 42nd Street as a painting studio. He has worn many hats at chashama: artistic director and manager of TIXE, visual arts program director, general manager, and currently the program director (visual and performing). He is on the board of directors for Culture Push, a non-profit with a mission to create lively exchanges of ideas between many different communities; artists and non-artists, professional practitioners and laypeople, across generations, neighborhoods, and cultures. He appreciates all sorts of chocolate.

Email Janusz | phone: (212) 391-8151 x26

Goro Ikeda - Iyeki

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General Manager

Email Goro | phone: (212) 391-8151 x25

Sarah Zolt-Gilburne

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Program Manager

Sarah Zolt-Gilburne often goes by simply "ZG." A hoarder of jars and tupperware, a reader/maker of comix and zines, an "easy laugh," and a closeted schmaltzy-sentimentalist, ZG cherishes little more than a good play on words. One Halloween, ZG ironed vinyl letters spelling "Subtle" on a tee-shirt. No one got it--ZG relished the great "iron-y" of the Subtle-tee's success. Gertrude Stein once said, “I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences." ZG feels that there has been little more exciting than diagramming Gertrude Stein's sentences. Well, except diagramming Gertrude Stein's sentences in French.

Email Sarah | phone: (212) 391-8151 x41

Colby Cannon Welsh

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Operations Manager

Email Colby | phone: (212) 391-8151 x23

Chelsea Escher

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Communications Manager

Dancer, teacher, and arts administrator Chelsea Escher happily joins the chashama team as the Communications Manager. She graduated from Roger Williams University with two B.A. degrees in Public Relations and Dance and Performance Studies. She has gained much of her experience working in the nonprofit and arts fields from her time at RWU, WaterFire Providence, the Abrons Arts Center, and doing freelance consulting and marketing work for independent dance artists. A New England girl at heart, Chelsea moved to NYC from NH 2 years ago to pursue her performance career. Alongside her work as a company member for Kizuna Dance and other freelance dance projects, she is a boutique fitness fanatic and teaches children's ballet. Chelsea loves traveling, crafting, and dressing up, and will always bring her endless enthusiasm to any situation.

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Cayla Casciani

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Program Coordinator, Housing

Email Cayla | phone: (212) 391-8151 x30

Alison Bellucci

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Accountant

Alison joined chashama as our accountant. She hails from the high finance departments of several NY apparel retailers. At chashama Alison is able to work in the field she loves, art, while performing the vocation she knows, numbers. Her unusually cluttered desk, seen in her photo, displays an artistic side not usually seen in accounting. At home, Alison is a wife, mother of two, and proudly has the companionship of a cat and a dog. Proud because they are the only ones who listen to her.

Email Alison | phone: (212) 391-8151 x44

Deborah Zeolla

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Bookkeeper

Email Deborah | phone: (212) 391-8151 x28

Zachary Rees

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Lord of Technology

Email Zachary | phone: (212) 391-8151

Jessica Roses

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Graphic Designer

Despising her upbringing in humid South Florida, Jessica is thriving in New York City and does not have a southern accent. She is attending Parsons the New School for Design with a major in illustration and a minor in creative entrepreneurship. In addition to furthering chashama’s mission through her unique designs, Jessica one day hopes to publish her own graphic novel. When she is not working, Jessica enjoys reading Batman comics, knitting, and jamming out to obscure hipster bands you have probably never heard of. She prefers all her belongings to be purple and covered in glitter.

Email Jessica | phone: (212) 391-8151

Marc Dale

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Documentarian / Archivist

From Anacostia in Washington, DC. Assists in the coordination of archival and programming materials, office accounting, communications and logistics. Organization co-founder.

Email Marc | phone: (212) 391-8151 x46

Jenna Purcell

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Akiva Blander

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Communications Assistant

Akiva has been the Communications Assistant at Chashama since April, assisting with projects related to the annual gala and the production and launching of the new website. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 2016 with an honors degree in Urban Geography, and has previously worked in operations and research at several architecture and public health nonprofits.

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chashama nurtures artists by transforming unused property into work and presentation space.

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