NYC Artist Safe Haven Residency Program

The Artist Safe Haven Residency Program is designed to house and nurture international artists who are persecuted on the basis of political affiliations, ethnic, locational, religious, and/or gender-based persecution; forcibly displaced; artists who need a respite from dangerous situations; or artists from countries experiencing active, violent conflict.

This initiative is led by a coalition of organizations working to safeguard free expression, and includes Artistic Freedom Initiative, Residency Unlimited, Westbeth Artist Housing, Fordham University, PEN America’s Artist at Risk Connection, Tasmizdat, and ArtistSafety.net.

Westbeth Artist Housing provides artists of all disciplines a residency for 6 months to two years, depending upon the requirements of the sponsoring program partners. Matthew Rutenberg of the Westbeth Board of Directors spearheaded Westbeth’s involvement in the coalition.

For more information, go to the NYC Artist Safe Haven website: Artistic Freedom Initiative.com

Recent Safe Haven Artists at Westbeth:


Haig Papazian A Lebanese Armenian artist, composer, and architect born in Beirut. He is a founding member and violinist Mashrou’ Leila, the Lebanese pop band whose electro-pop anthems about political freedoms, race, and modern Arabic identity have challenged the status quo of the Middle-Eastern music industry.


Mai Khoi rose to stardom in 2010 after winning the Vietnam Television song and album of the year awards. She became increasingly uncomfortable having to submit her work to government censors and, thinking she could reform the system from within, nominated herself to run in the National Assembly elections on a pro-democracy platform. Her campaign sparked a nationwide debate about political participation and culminated in a meeting with Barack Obama.


Faten Gaddes is a photographer from Tunisia. Her interactive installation, Punching-Ball, which symbolized the violence experienced by women across different religions was attacked and burned by extremists in Tunis. Her stay here during the pandemic is captured in a series of photographs entitled, Postcards from Home.


Kanchana Ugbabehas made the transition from India to Nigeria and writes fiction based on her negotiation with the new cultural terrain. Coming from an area torn apart by ethno-religious conflict, she also explores through her writing what it means to encounter terrorism in everyday living. Kanchana comes to us from Harvard where she was a Visiting Scholar in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies.


Hadi Nasiri is an activist/artist/researcher from Iran whose work encompasses performance, painting, sculpture, graphic design, and political protest exploring themes about the relationship of religion (specifically Islam) to women’s rights, LGBTI rights, sexuality, and political ideology.


Rashwan Abdelbaki, a recipient of several residencies and fellowships, Rashwan is known for work that delves into the interplay of racism, religion, and politics through joyful colors and eye-opening portraits.


King Raam is an Iranian musician, storyteller, and actor. He started his performing career as the singer/songwriter/founder of Hypernova, a post-punk band born in the undergrounds of Tehran in the early 2000’s. After touring worldwide with Hypernova, and unable to return to Iran, Raam is developing his solo story telling performance “Departure”, a work-in-progress.


Felix Kaputu Accused of participating in a separatist group and of violating national security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was subsequently detained illegally. He believes he was arrested on government orders as a warning to academics and intellectuals to remain silent. When released from prison, he found himself under constant surveillance and unable to return to the university where he had worked, decided to leave the country.

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