Armenian-American Artist Norik Astvatsaturov to Receive National Endowment for Arts Fellowship

WASHINGTON (A.W.)—American-Armenian repoussé metal artist Norik Astvatsaturov will be one of nine 2017 National Heritage Fellowship recipients, who will each receive $25,000 and be honored in Washington, D.C. in September.

Norik Astvatsaturov (Photo: Inforum)

On June 19, the National Endowment for Arts (NEA) announced names of the recipients in a press statement.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to honor these individuals for artistic mastery, as well as a commitment to sharing their traditions,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Our nation is a richer, more vibrant place because of these artists and the art forms they practice.”

An example of Astvatsaturov’s metal art (Photo courtesy of Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte)

Astvatsaturov was born in Baku in 1947. “I learned to carve wood and stone, using traditional designs that my father’s father would bring back after traveling to different villages via donkey cart. My father also brought stones for me to carve. Traditional art was always around me,” Astvasaturov explained in a 2010 teacher’s guide to his art, published by the North Dakota Council on the Arts in 2010. “Then when I was about 10 years old, I learned metal repoussé from an old Armenian artisan in Baku named Goga. He taught me all the old techniques: how to work both sides of the metal to create depth, volume and detail using nothing but a hammer and nail punch: how to read different kinds of metal-gold, silver, bronze, copper, how to polish and affect the color with just sand and water. Everything is done by hand.”

Another example of Astvatsaturov’s metal art (Photo courtesy of Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte)

Astvatsaturov and his family escaped the atrocities taking place against the Armenians in Azerbaijan in the late 1980s. They found refuge in Armenia and later the United States.

“We were given the green light to come to the U.S. two and a half years after becoming refugees, when my father was 44 and my mother 38. Throughout these events that shaped us, I was a quiet and shell-shocked girl who watched them with a curious eye. I was privy to the details of what happened, but it is hard to understand just how we got to where we are today,” recounted Astvatsaturov’s daughter, Armenian-American writer, lecturer, activist, and politician Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte in an Armenian Weekly article published earlier this year. “As a 38-year-old mother of two, it’s now unimaginable to me the sheer depth of the sacrifices and suffering her and my father accepted for the well-being of their children.  It is also impossible to imagine the amount of strength it took them not only to make it out alive through the atrocities of Baku, but the ingenuity to survive in Yerevan as refugees along with the drive to succeed and propel their children and grandchildren forward in U.S.”

Norik and Irina Astvatsaturov

Since arriving in the U.S., Astvatsaturov has worked tirelessly to teach and share his traditional art and its message with Americans and the Armenian Diaspora regionally and nationally. He has taught, given workshops, presented at folk festivals, exhibited regionally and nationally, and is a recipient of fellowships from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, the Fund for Folk Culture, and the Bush Foundation.

For a complete list of 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients, click here.

The NEA will celebrate the 2017 National Heritage Fellows at two events this fall in Washington, D.C., both of which are free and open to the public. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships Awards Ceremony will take place at the Library of Congress on Sept. 14, at 5:30 p.m. and the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert will take place on Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium.

The concert will also be webcast live at

The National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients’ artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage. Including the 2017 class, the NEA has awarded 422 NEA National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, such as bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, sweetgrass basketweaver Mary Jackson, cowboy poet Wally McRae, Kathak dancer and choreographer Chitresh Das, and gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.