Columbia art curator and sculptor Anastasia Chernoff, who ran the Anastasia & Friends gallery on Main Street, died from cervical cancer Monday night. She was 49.
Those who knew her described Chernoff as a loving, vibrant presence in the local arts community and a promoter of emerging artists.
Anastasia & Friends was one of the first galleries to participate in First Thursdays on Main, the monthly arts crawl downtown, and remains one of the main locations to see and purchase visual art, said One Columbia for Arts and History Executive Director Lee Snelgrove.
“She’d give Columbia artists and friends opportunities to show and sell their work. Her impact on the city’s recognition of itself as an artistic place was strong,” he said.
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In lieu of flowers, Chernoff’s family asked that donations be made to One Columbia, which will be used to support work by Columbia artists.
“Anastasia was a stalwart and a pillar of our arts community,” Jasper Magazine editor Cindi Boiter said. “As an artist, she was whimsical and saw things in a piece of clay that were so surprising. I have her art all over my house.”
In addition to her own art, Chernoff had a talent for curating works of others and bringing different artists together for collaborative shows and projects. She curated local artwork for various restaurants, including Motor Supply Co. Bistro.
But more than anything, Chernoff is remembered for bottomless love for others.
“She had this way of loving people unconditionally,” longtime friend Lee Ann Kornegay said. “She was the type of person who lit the room up.”
Bohumila Augustinova, whom Chernoff selected to run Anastasia & Friends in January, added, “She’s one of those people who is like a ray of sunshine on a rainy day. She had this amazing light and energy about her.”
Chernoff is survived by her daughter Lauren Meads Melton and her daughter’s husband, Matthew Melton; her mother Ann Smith Hankins and stepfather Tommy Hankins.
A celebration of Chernoff's life will be held from 6-8 p.m. Sunday at Art Bar in the Vista.