When a seed is planted, both in actuality and metaphorically, nothing is more rewarding than watching it grow and be fruitful. For the Armenian Diaspora, that growing seed is the highly anticipated Armenian American Museum (AAM) and Cultural Center of California. The community excitedly awaits the groundbreaking of the world-class facility in 2020.
AAM, whose official mission is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Armenian-American experience, will be a hub unlike any other for Armenians in Los Angeles and beyond. It will serve as a cultural campus that enriches the community and educates the public on the Armenian American story. It will be a space for Armenian Americans to both discover and rediscover their roots, for people of diverse backgrounds to make cross-cultural connections and for everyone to celebrate the rich multicultural tapestry of America.
Museum guests will be able to experience not only exhibitions, but also theatrical performances, live musical concerts, lectures and conferences, educational programs, cooking demonstrations and special events all in one place — the center of downtown Glendale’s Arts and Entertainment district at Central Park. Inspired by the landmark project, the City of Glendale plans to simultaneously redesign Central Park as an extension of the museum. The re-imagined park will create a campus surrounding the museum with a central open space, a childrens’ park and a sizable amphitheater for live performances.
Ultimately, the museum will be a bridge to Armenia and Armenians around the world. It will be a center that provides a platform for international artists, scholars and creative talent. The museum will also help build partnerships that strengthen connections between the Diaspora and the motherland.
“The Armenian American Museum is a legacy project that is going to have a major cultural, educational and transformational impact on our next generation,” said executive director Shant Sahakian. “I am excited for the day when our children will be able to walk through the doors of the museum and have the opportunity to learn and grow from the institution’s unique programs and experiences.”
The roots of the project date back to 2012 when the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee Western USA, made up of 19 local Armenian community organizations, first convened. The first initiative was to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and honor the 1.5 million who perished in the 1915 massacres. The committee successfully organized the historic Armenian Genocide Centennial March in Los Angeles on April 24, 2015 in what was one of the city’s largest ever public gatherings with 166,000 participants. The second initiative was to build a landmark for the next generation. After much planning, the committee decided that a museum and cultural center would have the greatest impact on the next generation. And with that, the Armenian American Museum was born.
Talks with the City of Glendale began in 2014 to establish the location of the museum. Originally the museum was planned to be built across from Glendale Community College, but when neighbors expressed concerns about the traffic it would cause, the City Council decided to move the project to downtown Glendale, a much more suitable and visible location. In August 2018, the city approved a 95-year ground lease for $1 per year.
Since that victory, the excitement around the project has been growing with every step and every new win, the most impressive of which includes securing $8 million in funding from the state of California, the first time the state has invested this much money in the Armenian community. In December 2018, the museum was surprised with a $1 million check by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger at the museum’s inaugural gala with over 1,000 guests in attendance. More than 2,500 donors from across the country have contributed and invested in the community-wide project.
In June 2019, AGBU Young Professionals (AGBU-YP) of Los Angeles, ANCA Professional Network, Armenian Professional Network Los Angeles Chapter, Armenian Professional Society, Birthright Armenia and Nerouj all joined forces to help raise funds for the museum. The mixer was attended by more than 700 young professionals. To say this has been a community effort would be an understatement.
“It gives me a great sense of pride to see the wonderful and positive response of the community in making the Armenian American Museum become a reality,” said Philip Hovanessian, founder of the Armenian Professional Network.
“This is a project that is uniting our entire community,” added Nerouj founder and chair Silvana Vartanian added, “our future generations will only thrive through this collaboration.”
Echoing a sentiment of unity, Birthright Armenia ambassador Karina Halajian said “it represents all the great things we could be and accomplish as individuals, but especially together.”
“The museum will be a great tool in teaching students, Armenian and non-Armenian alike, about the rich culture and traditions of Armenia and its people,” stated ANCA Professional Network board member Victoria Dochoghlian.
“We are excited that the museum will provide a collective place to preserve and share our Armenian culture, history, and heritage with Los Angeles and the rest of the world,” said AGBU-YP of Los Angeles co-chair Tenny Kachatourian.
“The museum is an important cultural center for the Armenian community here in Los Angeles and globally. We are proud to be a small part of bringing this project to life,” concluded Armenian Professional Society Communications Director Kathryn Mgrublian.
As we dream of what AAM will look like, the museum’s talented design team including Alajajian Marcoosi Architects, exhibition design and master planning firm Gallagher & Associates and construction manager Robert P. Goodwin (who worked on The Broad in downtown Los Angeles) are busy preparing the project for groundbreaking.
The seed continues to grow daily and will eventually give us the magnificent, plush tree that is the completed Armenian American Museum.