A Broken Connection: The Armenian Financial Community and the Making of Culture

When the Illinois Holocaust Museum asked me in the late summer of 2012 if I would be the advising scholar and a primary writer of text for a major exhibit that the museum would develop for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, I was delighted and agreed. I was also excited by the idea that the exhibit would travel not only in the United States, but possibly in Europe and South America. It was a breakthrough to have the second largest Holocaust museum in the United States planning an Armenian Genocide exhibit entitled, “The Shadow of Ararat: The Armenian Genocide.” Not only would there be a significant exhibit—as the advising scholar, I can affirm that the proposal was excellent—it would be orchestrated and curated by a non-Armenian organization of high professional expertise.

In the last week of April, I went to the Illinois Holocaust Museum to give a keynote lecture for the April 24th commemoration and to kick off the campaign to raise the funding for the exhibit from the Armenian community of Chicago. We all left in good spirits, anticipating working together on the project. But, in early October, when I hadn’t heard anything from the curators at the museum, I called to see what was happening. My friends there reported that despite various conversations with the leaders of the Chicago-Armenian community, the community had not delivered any funding. Apparently, they had tried to find funds outside of their region as well, but in the end could not deliver any funding, and the time necessary for planning was running out. I was shocked.

The budget, which was about $600,000, seemed appropriate for the show planned, and in a larger context, I would say, it was a bargain, for this was a dream come true for many Armenians. With the museum about to pull the plug on it, I went into emergency mode, trying to raise several hundred thousand dollars in less than two weeks. I made calls for days to various friends and colleagues around the country. In the end, I could not raise enough money in such a short time. Shortly after, the museum cancelled its plans for the exhibit.

While many of us are more than disappointed in the failure of the Chicago-Armenian community to fulfill its obligation for 2015, I think this reflects a larger failure of the Armenian Diasporan community in the United States to create culture—by which I mean to use financial means to conceive and engineer cultural production. A hundred years after the genocide, Armenians in the United States, probably the most propitious place in the world for cultural production (just look at the film, book, arts and performing arts industries in the U.S.), have almost nothing to show in the domain of cultural production and representation in the mainstream. Armenians have created no mainstream cultural foundations, museums, performing arts centers, except for several cultural institutions such as NAASR, ANI, the Armenian Library and Museum, Zoryan Institute in Canada, all of which do admirable work, but there are no research institutes like that of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan.

The Armenian financial community has not been able to bring to fruition one feature film about the genocide or other aspects of Armenian history. By 2013, and given the presence of Armenian Americans in Hollywood in the 20th century, there’s something shocking about this. Surely, there might have been at least a dozen or so feature films dealing with these issues and stories in the past 50 years.

I want to underscore the obvious. Without culture there is no presence of a nation/ethnic group/people in a given society—in popular cultural thought, academic and intellectual thought, and in the wider global culture. Individuals live and die, money comes and goes, national borders appear and disappear, but artistic representation and culture remain the primary mode of general knowledge about any civilization/nation/ethnic group. Without museums, centers for the visual and performing arts, research institutes, sustained funding for translations, endowed chairs for academics, and more, there is no identity for any nation.

In the Armenian case (and I’m sure Armenians are not alone in this) something has gone wrong, or perhaps has not gone at all. Armenians in the United States, and probably in Europe, South America, and the Middle East (this is not true in the Republic of Armenia), have almost nothing to show as culture, either to themselves or to the wider public. Other than the individual achievements of various people in the arts and academic and intellectual world who have broken through into the mainstream, Armenian culture is a blank to our fellow Americans.

One Jewish scholar put it this way: “There seems to be a disconnect between the Armenian business community and the Armenian arts community; the business people don’t see that investing in the arts is investing in the core continuity of Armenian civilization. Investing in the community’s culture should be understood as a celebration of the life of all Armenians past and present, something that the Turkish perpetrators tried to extinguish. This is certainly the philosophy of a lot of Jewish investment in Jewish arts. It’s a ‘f-you Hitler’ attitude.”

Let’s take, just briefly, the case of Jewish-American culture as an example. We must acknowledge that there are more Jews than Armenians in the United States and in the world, and that there are correspondingly more resources, and that there is a much longer history in their diaspora and hence more experience.

Notwithstanding this, the discrepancy between Jewish-American cultural production and Armenian-American cultural production is painful to consider.

If we take New York City alone, we find that Jewish culture is represented by major institutions: the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the 92nd Street Y, and the Center for Jewish History, which houses five Jewish cultural organizations. All of these are beautiful edifices run with high administrative professionalism, and all serve a broad public. If you look just cursorily around the country, you find the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Holocaust museums in major cities from Chicago to Houston to Fort Lauderdale. I won’t spend time cataloging the Jewish cultural centers, the endowed chairs, the journals, magazines, newspapers, publishing imprints, and so on. The fact is clear.

There is no Armenian who would not applaud Armenian-American philanthropists for the commitment they have made to the Republic since its independence and to the extraordinary work organizations like the AGBU (the grandparent of it all), FAR, Armenian Tree Project, COAF, and others have done globally over the past decades for Armenian communities everywhere. Armenian civilization is about 2,500 years old and it embodies a remarkable story of survival against great odds. Its survival and identity are inextricable from the existence of the seminal texts made by such figures as Toros Roslin, Krikor of Nareg, Avivovsky, Komitas, Charents, Essayan, Gorky, Sarian, Saroyan, Paradjanov, Minas, Khatchadourian, Hovaness, the architects of the medieval churches, and so on. Armenian artists and intellectuals have been impressive cultural and aesthetic creators, especially given the duress of their historical situation. But they have not been backed by their financial communities.

If in the modern era the Armenian financial community can’t figure out ways to produce and finance Armenian culture and history—both historical and contemporary—and our present is very rich and dynamic (perhaps more so than ever) with artists, writers, composers, filmmakers, and others, then Armenian culture will not exist in any serious, representative way in the wider public arena, and correspondingly, Armenia as a cultural entity will be relegated to a ghettoized place in an obscure corner. This need not be the case.

There are some extraordinary individuals in our business community who have made a great deal happen, and some of them—though very few—have put some of their energies toward culture and education. They are great visionaries for doing so. I am deeply grateful for the personal support I’ve received from some of these extraordinary people. But, for the most part, in the big picture, there has been no sustained creation and nurturing of cultural production of the kind I and many of my colleagues in the various cultural arenas are noting.

I know it’s difficult—given the pressing challenges of working for the Republic and working for a complex diasporan society—but it has to be done. The Armenian community— especially its financial infrastructure—has to begin to work with its cultural producers (writers, artists, architects, academics, journalists, etc.) in order to create lasting institutions, fora, structures for culture to be made, created, and represented.

Furthermore, certain segments of the Armenian community need to feel at ease and embrace other communities that want to support Armenian history and culture. It might be noted that the only major PBS documentary made about the Armenian Genocide was made by Andrew Goldberg, and the only major feature film—Atom Egoyan’s “Ararat”— was produced by Robert Lantos.

The Armenian financial community has to turn the corner; it has to see the issue in a fresh and larger way, to make Armenian cultural production a top priority, if Armenian history and culture—and Armenia as a significant, ancient civilization—are to be a visible force in the global arena. There can be no progress without this.

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Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian is Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University and the author of many books including The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, winner of the Raphael Lemkin Prize.

32 Comments

  1. So the Illinois Holocaust Museum condescended to arrange an exhibit to commemorate the Armenian Genocide by having Mr. Balakian the advising scholar. And who would get the credit for all this at the end? Would there have been free admission to the Exhibit? How long would the Exhibit last? I suspect they would have taken the Armenians’ $600,000 and made many times more income and finally take credit for the whole affair. $600,000 will get more results ‘culturally’ if spent on AUA or Yerevan Opera or Art Museums of Armenia than on the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

    • Thanks for illustrating the EXACT problem we have as an ethnic group with your comment. WHO CARES who gets the credit???? We need the story to be become common knowledge!

  2. A much needed article on the disconnect between Armenian business and culture. As an Armenian American filmmaker I can attest to how difficult it can be to raise funds for films with Armenian themed ideas. This is not so much a complaint, as it is an expression of sadness. Somehow we have to do better. As Peter says, “Without culture there is no presence of a nation/ethnic group/people in a given society”.

  3. Peter’s comments, unfortunately, are quite true. There is a vast disconnect between the Armenian wealthy and the development of contemporary Armenian culture in the Diaspora. It seems sacrilegious that the Armenian genocide Museum in Washington DC has never really come to fruition. The Armenian research Center at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, has not reached its potential for lack of support and leadership.

    Peter Balakian has done yeoman work in producing an Armenian culture for the Diaspora but unfortunately there are a few others of his talents and connections.

    Two years ago I tried to begin a fundraiser to meet the challenges of 2015. Not one person, with the exception of my immediate entourage, was willing to contribute. We lack a farsighted leadership and farsighted followers.

    Peter should not be alone and crying out. We should all take the vital interests in producing an Armenian culture in the Diaspora.We have the resources, it is a question of reestablishing the connection between Armenian money and the producers of Armenian culture.

    Dennis R Papazian, PhD

  4. I would go after these organizations for immediate money! Probably siting in account gaining interest!
    In 2004 As part of the settlement, New York Life will contribute $3 million to nine Armenian civic organizations, including the Armenian Educational Foundation in Glendale, the Armenian Church of North America Western Diocese in Burbank and the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Los Angeles.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2004/jan/29/local/me-genocide29

  5. I have a few thoughts about this article. I am grateful that we have it because it has addressed some questions I have considered for years. I think some Armenians may remember that the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. was supposed to include reflection on the Armenian Genocide. I was told that Armenians were eventually not able to be at the table and the vision changed. We got a small plaque with the iconic comment from Hitler…”Who remembers the Armenians?” on the wall across from the train car in one area of the exhibit. So maybe some people were skeptical in this situation. I also think that the lack of acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide plays into this. To compare it to the acknowledgement of the Holocaust is not balanced. The world acknowledges that moment in history and the Armenian Genocide is still actively and publically denied. SO YES…we need to be more intentional and commited to changing this. I can’t give a lot but I give a little when I see an opportunity. We can do better. I believe that. Maybe Peter could help and consider what he did as planting seeds. As a writer I am sure he knows that the first try in anything doesn’t always work.

  6. Thanks you Mr. Balakian for calling attention to this issue of the disconnect between the business and cultural/arts segments of the Armenian diaspora, but I have to ask: Who dropped the ball? Why? How did this opportunity slip through our fingers? We surely could have raised the $600,000. The money exists in the Armenian. community. What else is there to this story? Is it truly too late to resurrect this project?

  7. The USC Shoah Foundation is in the process of partnering with the Armenian Film Foundation to make 400 Armenian Genocide Survivor testimonies available to the world as part of a Visual History Archive making almost 52,000 witnesses of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Nanjing Massacre and the first genocide of the 20th century, The Armenian Genocide – available to the world. With a budget of $500,000 we are fundraising to make this project a reality and bring these voices to young people for educational purposes throughout the world.

    We have been grateful to many supporters who have gotten us a third of the way to our goal. The work continues and we are all united in our effort to make these various projects a reality especially as we approach the significant milestone of the 100th commemoration of the Genocide.

    We will not rest until we have accomplished our mission. We hope many will pick up the banner of whichever project speaks to them. We just ask that you find the one that touches your heart and send what you can.

    Those of us who consider this sacred work will not rest until the mission is accomplished. The Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California is committed to making sure these voices are heard and never forgotten.

  8. I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how things get done by Armenian and Jewish communities. First, Armenians continue to think that it’s the “financial community’s” responsibility to fund projects. Jews and Armenians were paying the same “infidel” tax in Turkey. When Armenians left Turkey, they stopped paying that tax, Jews continued to pay it to themselves investing in their own communities. Second, US Holocaust Museum (including its regional offices) is a quasi-government agency founded and funded by US Congress.

    Armenian “financial community” is not in a position to pull any meaningful 2015 campaign from both intellectual and fiscal points of view. Until our regular folk start paying the Armenian tax all efforts will be doomed.

  9. This article is long overdue. Yet, it is good to see that finally someone has eloquently analyzed and defined the problem. We have been talking about the lack of vision on the part of the Armenian business community regarding the power of culture and arts for so long now, that we feel we have been talking to ourselves! However, Mr. Balakian, before we even point fingers at the Armenian business community, we cultural practitioners (i.e. artists, filmmakers, writers, etc.) need to learn to represent a COMMON and UNITED FRONT. We need to ‘Occupy Armenian Culture’ and as a group make a strong point. We have to learn to extend a hand to each other and work within a common cultural context first of all, instead of being preoccupied to shine as individual artists. As one fellow Armenian Actor impertinently said to me a long time ago when I was requested some contact information, or even an introduction to someone, “There isn’t much space for too many of us up there…” The space up there can be created if we all help each other get there together. Our Jewish friends will never say that to their counterparts. We, as Armenian artists and cultural workers, including Mr. Balakian, and many other successful or less successful Armenian artists and cultural workers, need to learn to mentor one another and nurture each other as Armenian cultural workers before we point the finger at the lack of support from our business compatriots. I will not name names. Every aspiring or successful Armenian cultural worker, artist, filmmaker, writer, actor, etc..(including our very dear Charles Aznavour) can tell horror stories about being shunned and not helped by his/her compatriots when asked, and not helping others asking for his/her help in turn… Let us first try to change that, and if we are going to learn something from our Jewish friends, let’s learn how to help each other, and by helping each other form the force to be really reckoned with… Maybe then, not only our own business community, but the world at large will realize that there is something worthwhile supporting… Rather than supporting individual efforts, or asking redundant and short-sighted questions such as: Who will this benefit? and What’s in it for me? we need to change this petty merchant mentality and start looking at the BIG PICTURE! Every effort ANY Armenian artist, filmmaker, write, creator, actor, organizer makes in putting Armenian culture and history in the MAINSTREAM and on the INTENTIONAL STAGE AND SCREEN should be supported UNCONDITIONALLY, with NO QUESTIONS ASKED!!! Specifically not the kind: Who will it benefit!
    How short-sighted. How petty! So if it does not benefit our church or school or even our own ethnic group directly does that mean it has no use? Everything has a price, and if we need to have our voice heard where it matters, we have to put our money where our CULTURE is and not where our CHURCH is, because culture transcends into the international realm, whereas the church limits us even more. Through cultural exchange we become enriched, by spreading our culture we not only survive but we thrive… However, by taking refuge in our churches as a means of self-preservation, we isolate ourselves even further and eventually disappear totally.
    There is a committee who is organizing a march for 2015…yet another occasion to yell and scream into deaf politicians’ ears. Great initiatives are being envisaged to bring attention to the centenary of the Genocide… And yet, when asked to support the screening of a film on the Genocide at an International Film Festival that would bring much more notoriety and attention to this important anniversary in the mainstream media, if not to the entire Genocide cause as a whole, the response is: “That is not what we do.” And why not? Because drivers’ seats are occupied by egos instead of genuine concern for maximizing the effect of an initiative with a common goal! Again, examples abound of failed attempts at making significant or major PR moves on the international arena with impact through promoting Armenian culture.
    First and foremost WE, ARMENIAN ARTISTS, MUST UNITE and HELP ONE ANOTHER… This needs to be achieved before we even start to approach the business community!
    OCCUPY ARMENIAN CULTURE!

  10. [Dennis R Papazian // January 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm //: “It seems sacrilegious that the Armenian genocide Museum in Washington DC has never really come to fruition.”]

    I think we should not be quick to blame the DC Museum failure on the Diaspora, which has done so much for Armenians and Armenia. To me, this failure shows the sinister role that Armenia’s regime plays in the Diaspora. The museum failed due to dispute between Gerard Cafesjian, who financed the project, and Hirair Hovnanian, who came up with the idea for the museum. GC is a major shareholder of Armenia TV, RoA’s propaganda tool in the US and the world. He also owns the Armenian Reporter, which has consistently denigrated HH. He is a favorite of RoA’s regime and has an entire museum in Yerevan named after him. HH, on the other hand, is a well known patriot who founded AAA (Arm Assembly of America) and is its chairman. While still doing philanthropic work in Armenia, he seems less popular in RoA than CG, which is probably because his AAA funds NGOs in RoA to promote democracy. So it appears that HH has fallen out of favor with Armenia’s regime, and the regime has encouraged GC to obstruct and discredit HH in US, with the DC museum becoming the victim. I wouldn’t be surprised if RoA’s regime used Soviet style “methods” (such as a supply of attractive Russian escorts) to win the elderly GC to its side. GC’s right hand man (whom GC used to squeeze HH on the DC museum deal) has sued GC, and some of the allegations include marital infidelity. In sum, it’s not the Diaspora’s fault, it’s individual Armenians manipulated by RoA’s regime for its own interests. Here are somd useful info.
    http://www.startribune.com/local/east/187536131.html
    http://armenianweekly.com/2011/05/28/open-letter-from-hirair-hovnanian-to-gerry-cafesjian/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Assembly_of_America
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CS_Media
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_Cafesjian

  11. A hearty “hear hear!” to Mr. Balakian. As an architect once involved with a failed effort to build a genocide museum in DC by 2015, I’ll say this: we have met the enemy and he/she is us. Disagreement and infighting in this factionalized community is a huge cause as to why efforts cannot be adequately focused. With a community as small as it is, there’s no excuse for not working together and the creation of compromise among the moneyed with divergent opinions. Will it ever be possible to unite under some kind of adequately funded cultural umbrella stretching around the world?

    • The enemy is not “us” (i.e. the Armenian people/the Diaspora). We are a great people. The enemy is the undemocratic government of Armenia, which
      manipulates individual Diasporans and organizarions for its own ends. As in the case of the DC museum. We need to be alert to that.

    • The answer to your question I believe is “Yes”, and only it is a matter of time, and that will be when the aspiration/vision/aim/mission would inspire the masses, to get inspired and rise up to augment and propel it. Example is when JFK stated in his inauguration that the US will land a man on the Moon and bring him back alive before the decade was over. Mission was accomplished and the “Moonshot” goes on after 50 years… Armenians needs such a reach objective, to motivate and inspire all… what would that be?

  12. This article has left me wondering if the Armenian business community has refused to support an exhibition in a Jewish museum because they intend to, or already are quietly supporting 2015 projects initiated by Armenians that also need money.

  13. There are problems in the Armenian community yes, but this article is highly selective.

    How about the ADAA (Armenian Dramatic Arts Association) based in L.A. which has put on film festivals and has nurtured playwrights and more? How about the multi-million dollar Armenian Heritage Park in Boston (it could have been better, but its more attractive featured were vetoed mainly by treacherous politicians and a top member of the Anti-Defamation League, namely a Catholic (yes, Catholic) named Peter Meade). There is an accompanying annual human rights lecture by the Park in historic Fanueil Hall.

    And $600K for an exhibit in some obscure Holocaust museum? No thanks.

    This article is not balanced. Sometimes we need to recognize how far we have come. In addition, no ethic or racial group in this country can compare with Jews. There are several reasons for this, so please let us be realistic and not always compare ourselves with Jews for heaven’s sake.
    Pound for pound, in comparison much larger groups, Armenian Americans have done magnificently.

  14. Judging from the comments made so far to his article, I would say that Peter Balakian seems to get a good deal of support for his views. Permit me to dissent. The cause for the apathy Balakian perceives on the part of the Armenian American community may be other than what he suspects.
    What appears as apathy may very well be antagonism for good reason. Many Armenians are well aware that prominent and influential organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, as well as the State of Israel do not acknowledge the Armenian genocide. Can you imagine the reaction on the part of the Jewish community if the Republic of Armenia refused to acknowledge the Jewish genocide? Is it possible that Armenians in general feel resentment over the disparity? Perhaps many Armenians are cool to the idea of cooperation with Holocaust commemorations because they know that “Medz Yeghern” will always be assigned the role of “second fiddle.”
    As far as Balakian’s concept of what “culture” signifies, I invite readers to take a look at my lecture to see what my idea of what “culture” is.
    Check it out at:
    http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Culture_in_America:_Dead_or_Alive%3F

  15. Compliments to Prof. Balakian for an astute article. The issues raised seems to be more prevalent in the US than elsewhere in the Diaspora. Having lived in four countries around the world more than five years each and seen the the ways of the Armenian communities there, it seems that in the US, divisive class distinction has evolved, based on various social, economic, geographic and religious grounds. Articulating more effectively inspiring common vision and common values might help fuse the intellectual and intrinsic capital together.

  16. In answer to comment #1 from Massis, would it really have mattered if the Illinois Holocaust Museum had shared in the credit for facilitating a Genocide exhibit? Why are we so “odaraphobic” (excuse the contrived neologism). Thanks Dr. Balakian for your article. I guess Armenians are less interested in Arts and Culture than their Jewish friends who brought their values and vast experiences to the Americas. Sylvia from Canada

  17. I just wanted to mention the St. John Armenian Church of greater Detroit. It’s a beautiful church which combines classic Armenian and modern designs and has an excellent museum in the same compound. It’s a larger and more professional looking museum than ALMA in Watertown MA. The church compound even boasts a small radio station which broadcasted Armenian topics to the local community for decades. Of course this funded by the great Alex Manoogian. He contributed to the Armenian community as well as to the greater Detroit community. He donated his mansion to the city as well as millions to the Detroit Institute of Art. Alex Manoogian is the sort of person I think we want more of.

  18. Well said, Peter and painfully true if obvious. I have just finished translating Krikor Beledian’s “50 years of Armenian Literatur ein France” from French. In it he relates a quote from from a speech given by K. Djizmédjian, in Paris…in 1961!! Djizmédjian was a Scutari-born Armenia writer. In this quote, Djizméjian points out that Armenians seem stuck in the past many ways, as–unlike Jews for example–and have developed only one aspect of their communities. Not much has changed, it seems in the ensuing fifty three years, culturally at least:

    “What can possibly be the role of a literary magazine when in the diaspora, and in particular in the Western diaspora, Armenian thought has fallen from its pedestal and lies in the obscurity and darkness of the soil, when wisdom has taken the stock market as its gauge and the intellect hides behind the black folds of a priest’s vestment?”
    Money and the church have triumphed! One last effort must be made. It is more important than ever…that the flag of literature, art and culture proudly fly, above the miasma that threatens to envelop us […] We believe that we can save something crucial: the vocation of the person who serves the arts…” (KAm, 1961, 1)”

    The stock market and the priest’s black vestments…how accurate.

  19. Harut Sassounian’s new column remarks about Balakian’s commentary and is called “How Can Benefactors Meet Armenia’s and the Diaspora’s Many Needs?”

    http://www.turkishnews.com/en/content/2014/01/21/how-can-benefactors-meet-armenias-diasporas-many-needs/

    He makes some very important points. Just one is that when it comes to individual benefactors, “it is their money and they decide what to do with it.”

    Unless the benefactor is in agreement with the artistic subject being proposed, why should he fund it?

    How often can we say today that we think Armenian artistic projects, by way of subject matter, serve the national interest — which is frankly the most urgent priority we face as a global nation threatened with extinction? And what levers are in place to arbitrate which are the most important ones to get behind?

  20. One Final Comment
    A museum risks becoming a place where they store dead things; and an Armenian museum risks becoming a place that non-Armenians can visit to observe the relics of a once proud culture that permitted itself to go down the tubes by yielding to the forces of assimilation.
    So where’s the priority?

    • I suggest that C.K Garabed get out of the cultural cobwebs. He may be a brilliant man but this comment is ignorant on so many fronts that it beggars description. The Jewish Museum has lines around the block this month in New York for a Chagall exhibit. CONTEMPORARY museums have support contemporary art, put on conferences, have courses in language, art and other things–just check out the previous museum or the Scandinavian Institute in New York or the Japanese Society or any decently successful institution.
      We as Armenians, as Balakian says, simply do not exist in America culturally apart from to ourselves in the pockets of our communities that have not assimilated. We have not one world class museum of cultural center to host visiting Artists and writers from Armenia, Artsakh or the rest of the diaspora, run a decent bilingual school (Hovnanian School is an exception in NJ but is free-standing). Even the AGBU Demirdjian Center in Beirut seems more oriented towards sports than culture. And before CK or anyone jumps on my back, I have translated books, write regularly on Armenian events and been on boards of several Armenian organizations so I know whereof I speak.
      I would add that nothing is permanent. If there is a will in the future, there is a way and we can turn this cultural lethargy around.

  21. Naz: I clicked on the link you posted for Harut’s column. The following note is posted at the end of it:
    “This article was made possible by the support of readers like you. If you liked it please consider donating to Turkish Forum now.”
    I found it hard to stop laughing!

    Harut is correct in stating that the Armenian business community, and by extension, anyone else, is entitled to donate—without criticism—to whatever and whomever they want. As Harut points out, “it’s their hard-earned money.” I doubt any Armenian can read his list of organizations that need money without agreeing that every single one is worth supporting.

    I found myself wishing that Balakian had been clearer about the $600,000 required for this exhibit. Professional artists, who have exhibited in public galleries, know that the gallery sometimes (not always) looks for matching funds to support an exhibition. They put up half of the cost and then look for donor support for the rest. This article left me wishing that Balakian had been clearer about how much the Jewish Museum is putting up to support this exhibit. Are they only donating the use of their museum floor space and are looking to the Armenian community to donate all the money? What’s their financial stake in this exhibit?

    Professor Garabed; I am absolutely astonished by your ability to transliterate from English to Armenian so accurately. I’ve never seen it done better.

  22. My husband and I have long lamented that even with all the -yan and -ian names we see at the ends of films and shows in the theater and on TV, we have yet to see any major shows or movies that focus on either Armenia, Armenians, or the Genocide. We had the same thoughts as Balakian – if Jewish producers, artists and directors can get so much on the small and big screens, why can’t Armenan producers, artists and directors get something (at least one thing) on the small or big screen? It’s a shame and a pity.

    I hope that some day soon, an Armenian book or play will be transformed onto the big screen for all the US/world to see.

    Thank you Peter for voicing our thoughts on a wider stage.

  23. The new film, Garegin Nzdeh, is one of the most dynamic films I have ever seen—and I’ve studied both Hollywood and international film in university. The acting is flawless. The story line is true to actual happenings in the defense of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia. In the middle of it, there is a memorable scene of men dancing and celebrating the news of a daughter born to Nzdeh. The impassioned singing of two of the men at the keff is worth twice the price of the DVD. If you want to support Armenian film, buy it. Both Abril Books and Sardarabad will ship it. It’s a two and a half hour film that will hold you spellbound. English sub-titles.

    You’ve never hear of Sergei Parajanov? http://www.ovguide.com/the-color-of-pomegranates-9202a8c04000641f800000000057cd47 Probably every university film studies library has all of his works. Support Armenian film. Buy a boxed set of his astonishing work.

    You haven’t heard of Hrair Toukhanian’s Assignment Berlin? MGM produced it. It’s about the assassination of Talat Pasha. Buy it.

    Nubar Alexanian of Walker Creek Media is making a film, along with his daughter. It’s their 2015 Memorial project. He is looking for funding. Nubar Alexanian [nubar@nubar.com] Support him.

    I could go on and on, not only about film, but about art, about music, about books written about Armenian art and culture. Ferret them out. Support them. Since you are interested in how the Jews do it—well, this is how. They support their own.

  24. I would like to suggest another way to view this situation. Far too many of us have had experiences similar to Mr. Balakian’s to the point that while many of us are saddened by the story we are completely unsurprised. For a moment, let’s step away from the situation and look at it as a third party observer. It might be reasonable to say that Armenian-Americans are individualistic, passionately opinionated, articulate, driven, creative and smart. It might also be reasonable to say that we are distrustful, tribal, poor at conflict resolution and that we have trouble finding peacefulness in the face of differences of opinion. As a people victimized by genocide, the fact that we don’t understand how to collaborate in the face of disagreement and that we fail miserably at resolving conflict is, at a minimum, ironic. Despite all that, we still somehow love each other and we feel an unspeakable bond with each other that exists at a level below consciousness. The article above bemoans a lack of commitment to our cultural development. But, perhaps this strange dichotomy of conflicting behaviors that Mr. Balakian experienced IS our culture. The initial excitement and pride dashed to the ground by ever-present self-defeating behaviors laid against a backdrop of love that leaves the individual having to declare to the world that this is all so wrong and point a finger at someone, anyone, to take the blame. It might be mixed up and crazy, it might be unflattering, and it might be hard to face, but perhaps it is really who we are 100 years after the genocide. If we don’t face it we continue to be in denial. If we can accept that this is who we are, then we can start to approach expressing ourselves in the arts from a place of authenticity. I would challenge Mr. Balakian to turn this experience of the unrealized Holocaust Museum Exhibit into an expression of his art. Blaming it on the Armenian financial community is an easy out. Something much deeper is going on here and he knows it. Let’s not be afraid to go through that door. And then let’s carry each other down that path ready to discover a new way to be with each other. Being Armenian is wonderful and hard all at the same time, but it is our destiny and why not embrace it and see where it takes us.

  25. this really resonates. i’m not sure when it became official, but it’s true that the arts cannot exist on their own in any widespread significant way without the backing of some kind of capitalistic enterprise. i’m not talking about local community movements, etc. (which are truly the backbone of a culture in many ways). i’m contemplating how business fuels art…how the biggest sales for a certain painter, for instance, may come from an ing purchase or a pop star’s biggest payout in a given year is courtesy of an oil mogul in saudi arabia or a coke commercial, etc. business fuels art…which, philosophically, can be an obvious problem. i forget who said this – maybe punk rock bassist mike watt, not sure – but the artist should never rely on getting paid for her/his work because ultimately it will lead to some kind of compromise. this obviously vexed me, but i get it. art should indeed have a different place in our society. but for sure it doesn’t. and there is much to be said about the role of business in helping preserve our great culture and help it move forward and the urgent and grand coming together that still needs to be had.

  26. The only place that Armenian culture can truly survive is in Armenia, not in America or in any other country.

    • This last statement is incorrect. It survived for 2000 years w/o a RofA. Ideally, it would survive in a strong Dispaora(s) and a strong Republic of Armenia and Artsakh. They are complementary.

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