By Sandra Vartanian
NEW YORK— The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern USA Regional Board ushered in the month of April with an astounding art exhibit featuring the works of Arthur Pinajian. His abstract and late lyrical works were arranged to be exhibited at St. Illuminator’s John Pashalian Hall.
The exhibit was organized as a fundraiser for the ARS Eastern Region’s Education Fund, which annually grants scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students throughout the USA. The exhibit was open for viewing the last few days of March with guests stopping by throughout the week to view the many displayed works. Thomas Schultz, the founder of the works and registrar and Anto Gharibian, Assistant Director, Pinajian Estate Collection, were available to answer questions throughout the exhibit which helped one to carve an image of the painter and his life.
On the evening of April 1, many art enthusiasts gathered for the opening reception to join in this celebration of Pinajian’s art. In addition to the art display, a video, Arthur Pinajian Master of Abstraction Discovered, produced by Keif Roberts and Donald Pruden, was run continuously so that guests could watch a segment about the artist’s life.
The reception officially opened when ARS Eastern USA board member and Chairwoman of the art exhibit committee, Sonia Bezdikian, welcomed those gathered, including Very Reverend Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General, Reverend Father Mesrob Lakissian, pastor and Sylvia Kouyoumdjian, ARS Central Executive Board member. Mrs. Bezdikian spoke about what inspired her to consider Pinajian as a desirable artist to feature for the Board’s event. She noted that Father Mesrob Lakissian had a prior association with the Pinajian estate and his willingness to support the ARS Board in bringing this event to his parish were key. Mrs. Bezdikian said, “Here we are after one year, and after several meetings with Mr. Schultz, my dream became a reality.” Bezdikian encouraged everyone to take advantage of this amazing opportunity for ownership and also help the ARS’ Education Fund.
Mrs. Bezdikian thanked Father Lakissian and the members of the art committee, Linda Keshishian, Arpi Misserlian, Mary Ohanessian, Ani Panossian and Nayda Voskerijian who helped to make this event a successful one. She then invited Vice-chairperson of the ARS Eastern USA board, Sandra Vartanian, to address the guests.
Sandra Vartanian welcomed the clergy, ARS Central Executive Board member Kouyoumdjian, ARS Board Members Mary Anne Bonjuklian and Margie Babikian-Medina and guests thanking them for choosing to make this event and the ARS their priority that evening. She then highlighted some of the ARS programs in the USA and abroad such as support of the local Armenian schools, the Sponsor a Child Orphan program, Camp Haiastan, the Youth Connect program and ANEC. The ARS’ participation with the United Nations and its consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) were also mentioned.
Guests learned that the ARS Eastern USA chapters have been actively organizing fundraisers for Syrian Armenian relief in order to support those in dire need. Ms. Vartanian also shared that this region supports the Soseh Kindergarten in the Medz Tagher village of Artsakh and will be participating with many others in the reopening of the Soseh Kindergarten in Stepanakert this September.
Vartanian spoke about the evening’s purpose, to expand the Education Fund and expressed the need for Pinajian’s work to be exposed to the public as much as possible. “These treasured pieces, once in obscurity are now brought into the light of our lives through this exhibit. His spirit lives on through these works and are highly revered by the art world,” she said.
After learning that Pinajian was the son of survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, guests were asked to explore more about Pinajian by reading about him in the books that were available that evening. They would find out that he was also an extremely talented cartoonist.
Vartanian concluded by wishing everyone a pleasant evening, asking them to perhaps return to their homes with an authentic Pinajian piece. Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian was then invited to speak to the gathered.
Very Reverend Anoushavan Tanielian greeted the attendees and expressed how pleased he was that education was the purpose behind the show. He invited Rev. Father Lakissian to join him and acknowledged the support he provided for this event. In inviting Thomas Schultz to also join them, he said though Thomas is not Armenian, he attends to the works of Pinajian and to the community as one of our own.
Guests were then left to enjoy the evening with family, friends and the viewing of works which were grouped together by the earlier works when the artist resided in Woodstock, N.Y., and then the later works from his days spent in Bellport, Long Island. Many of his works were not publicly shown during his life because according to Schultz, because Pinajian was a private person, not working toward exhibiting his work, but painting purely for the love of it.
At the end of the evening what happily remained was the satisfaction of knowing that the event was well organized and succeeded in its goals. That of promoting the art of a recently discovered and now well respected Armenian-American artist, and to bring together art lovers, the community and new friends to raise funds for a worthy cause.
The ARS Eastern USA Board of Regional Directors is extremely grateful to Rev. Father Lakissian, pastor of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral for his assistance. It also deeply appreciates the work of the members of the art committee as well as the many friends and family members who supported this event with their participation and who contributed to its great success.