During the height of the pandemic, New Yorkers were reminded of what makes the city’s heart beat — its arts and culture.
Stonehenge, a real estate company based in New York City, feels the same way. In an effort to fill the void created by quarantine and isolation, the company created the NYC Still Standing Residency.
In exchange for regular commissions of their work, Stonehenge gifted 20 applicants with one year of free residency at their properties in Queens and Manhattan.
Ofer Yardeni, chairman and CEO of Stonehenge, said it was incredibly difficult to choose just 20 artists out of the nearly 1,000 applicants for the program.
“Artists are the kind of people that create a community and change our lives for the better, whether it’s music, visual arts or photography,” said Yardeni. “Their income is never high enough.
“When these artists got the keys to the building, they were very grateful and we have an amazing relationship with them,” he added. “So it was a conscious decision to provide a place for them to rest their heads and relax during the pandemic without thinking about rent.”
One of the artists selected for the residency was Ngozi Anyanwu, an actress, producer and playwright.
She found out about Still Standing through social media and applied for a chance to be able to do what she loves in New York, where she has lived on-and-off for 15 years.
“As a playwright, you’re always seeking opportunities as far as housing and residencies to lock yourself away somewhere nice to go through your art,” said Anyanwu.
“So I was very excited to be selected,” she continued. “The way that I’m living now is better than I’ve ever lived. Sometimes when I’m writing I just stare out the window and admire how beautiful New York is.”
Anyanwu has been a part of a number of projects during her residency, but the one she said she’s most proud of is “Seven Deadly Sins,” a compilation of short plays curated and directed by Moisés Kaufman.
The critically acclaimed event was one of the first to reopen to the public mid-pandemic, and Anyanwu said she is extremely grateful to have been a part of it.
“I think I underestimated the project when I said ‘yes,’ but then to see people walking through New York again and how everything came about, I felt like I was getting the New York I was promised when I first moved here 15 years ago,” she said.
To be selected, each applicant submitted their artwork, two personal essays, two professional references and a resume to a selection committee for review.
The selection committee consisted of established artists of many backgrounds, including visual artists, playwrights, graphic designers and art historians.
“The residency is a pioneering program that extends opportunities to a very talented and diverse group of artists who all explore the multi-faceted and rich nature of New York City,” said committee member David Benrimon. “The program, which enables artists to focus on their unique art practices, is a silver-lining of a pandemic-year, as it reinvests resources back into our community.”