Post-Fire Press Statement

The Chewstick Foundation (Registered Charity #857) is still reeling from the devastating fire that took place on Thursday, July 21, 2016 that began in a nearby alleyway. The Chewstick Culture Hub at 81 Front Street has been under renovations for the past year-and-a-half and soft-opened in late May 2016 while final renovations continued to be worked on. The Chewstick Culture Hub was designed to be a safe space for the Bermuda’s community, catering to the development of the arts as an effective tool to help build bridges in Bermuda’s diverse community.  It was also created to be a primary revenue line to help underwrite general operations of The Chewstick Foundation, to help to subsidize Chewstick Foundation programming and to cover the significant costs incurred with creating a custom-built, multi-purpose performing arts community centre. With the primary revenue stream lost to the fire, and renovation costs that remain outstanding, Chewstick needs to raise money to recoup significant losses. A robust fundraising campaign will be launched shortly.

Chewstick has always been about more than a physical space: Chewstick’s power, strength, and inspiration has always been about the people that the organization empowered and united. The mission of The Chewstick Foundation is to empower storytelling, creative expression, and social justice to enrich youth, arts, culture, and community. This mission is achieved through a diverse variety of programming including; the famous Neo-Griot Lounge Open-Mic Jam Session, the Break The Chains Youth Poetry Programme, T.W.I.G.S. Youth Open-Mic Programme, creative outreach programs with inmates within the Dept. of Corrections, Chewstick Retreat Programme, Chewstick Community Art Programme, and countless events and initiatives highlighting the best of Bermuda’s music, poetry, film, art, and academia. Chewstick has provided a consistent platform for developing Bermuda talents and is consistently referred to as the only home for the local creative community. The Culture Hub was also quickly proving to be a vital resource for fellow charities and grassroots initiatives as one of the few neutral spaces that could accommodate deeper engagement and understanding. The loss of this space has become a depressing reality for so many in Bermuda, not only the creatives that utilize Chewstick as a resource and sanctuary, but also their families & friends, the audience, and supporters of the arts generally. Bermuda needs Chewstick.

It appears that all equipment, furnishings, instruments, art, and cultural items have been destroyed by fire, heat, smoke, water or structural collapse. We do not anticipate insurance to cover most of our losses and many of the items destroyed are truly irreplaceable. Some of the losses include original vinyl records from Lance Hayward and Ital Foundation, Gene Steede’s guitar, the lifetime collection of artist Michael DeSilva, Calix Smith’s recent art show, as well as the complete works of Chewstick Executive Director Gavin Djata Smith’s, along with countless other cultural and artistic artifacts of Bermuda.

We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from the community. We wish to thank our families, friends, volunteers, and allies for their support and strength during such a difficult time. We are grateful to the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service and the Bermuda Police Service for their brave response to the fire and working to help save as much as possible. We are deeply saddened for the devastating losses sustained by area businesses, who welcomed us in as neighbors and became our friends. We would also like to acknowledge our landlords who are sharing in this devastation, and have shown great support and understanding through this trying time.

Without raising funds to pay for the costs of lost renovations, equipment, and operational revenue streams, we will not be in a position to reopen, relocate, or rebuild. Without significant financial support, Chewstick will become inoperable for the immediate future, and possibly for some time. We urge all members of the community to donate to this charity that has worked tirelessly over the last 13 years to empower one, and to enrich all. Donations can be made online at or at donation jars at participating businesses such as Dangelinis Cafe or Rock Island Coffee. If you would like to have a donation jar at your business, or produce a fundraising activity, or make a donation, or have questions or ideas, you can contact The Chewstick Foundation (Bermuda Registered Charity #857) through or by calling (441) 292-2439. For more information, please visit our website and social media pages.

The future is uncertain, but like a phoenix, the community can empower Chewstick to rise from the ashes.

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