Toward Purpose

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YEREVAN—On October 11, an event was held at the Imperium Plaza dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the “Peace of Art” organization.

 “Today marks the 25th anniversary of the installation of the first billboard, which was unveiled in 1996 in Cambridge, MA, calling on the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide,” explained writer and poet Mary Poghosyan in her opening remarks. “We are proud to announce today that we have achieved our goal of recognizing the Armenian Genocide by the United States.”

Heghine Gevorgyan, the representative of the “Peace of Art” organization in Armenia, offered the following opening remarks:

The “Peace of Art” organization was founded in Boston, MA, in 2004 and is listed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, but has been active since 1996 with the installation of the first billboard.

“Peace of Art” is dedicated to the peacekeepers and implementers of world peace, as well as to those who had the courage to risk their lives for the welfare of humanity. The non-profit educational organization uses the universal language of art to raise awareness of the human condition and contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. It serves art for the sake of peace and has no political, partisan or religious orientation, focusing on the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Since its founding, the organization has not requested nor received any funding from individual, state or other sources; all the needs of the organization have been met through the generosity and efforts of Daniel Varoujan Hejinian.

Having worked with Hejinian since 2013 and representing the “Peace of Art” organization in Armenia, I would like to briefly present his work.

Hejinian urges people to adopt a peaceful and civilized way of resolving conflicts, as the idea of ​​”peace” is the main source of inspiration for his art. Through his initiative for the past twenty-five years, billboards have been erected in various US states in March and April, presenting the undeniable fact of the Armenian Genocide to the international community and calling for its recognition and condemnation.

He has had numerous solo exhibitions in various prestigious galleries in the United States, often contributing to Armenian and foreign charities. Also, Hejinian is the creator of numerous public and corporate murals that are visible and popular in various parts of Boston. In his art, in particular in the “Peace of Art” collection, Hejinian discusses humanistic ideas, presents human situations, the lack of peace and its catastrophic consequences. He also appreciates the role of women in society and emphasizes the peculiarities of the image of Armenian women in his works. Hejinian has painted many religious murals and paintings in seven Armenian churches throughout the United States. He completed 46 murals covering the northern and southern walls of the Saints Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church.

On May 10, 2014, an unprecedented khachkar monument called “Mother’s Hands,” designed by Hejinian and initiated by the Merrimack Valley Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee, was unveiled at the entrance of the Lowell Town Hall. The monument is special since it is the first in the Diaspora to be placed on a public space belonging to the city in front of a government building.

In 2014, on the initiative of the Ministry of Diaspora of Armenia, a solo exhibition entitled “Peace of Art,” dedicated to the 23rd anniversary of Armenia’s independence and the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, was organized at the National Gallery of Armenia.

In 2015, “Peace of Art” organized a campaign entitled “100 Billboards on the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide,” installing electronic and static billboards dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in various US states and Canada, as well as in memory of the innocent victims of all genocides committed in the past hundred years.

In 2018, with the participation of the Ministry of Diaspora, the Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Norway in the Republic of Armenia received a gift from the government of the Republic of Armenia to the government of the Kingdom of Norway: a portrait of Fridtjof Nansen by Daniel Varoujan Hejinian entitled “Nansen, Bridge of Friendship and Peace.”  The painting expresses the friendship of the Armenian and Norwegian nations.

In 2019, President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian presented Hejinian’s canvas entitled “Aznavour: Bridge of Friendship” to the French Ambassador to Armenia to transfer to French President Emanuel Macron as a symbol of permanent friendship between the two countries.

Hejinian is highly regarded at home and abroad, having received many awards and medals throughout his life for his efforts to promote peace through his art, as well as for his romantic expressive paintings that transcend the boundaries of place and time.

Considering that he is a gifted artist, educator and inspiration to the American-Armenian community in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized Hejinian’s many contributions to the Armenian-American community, his lifelong work and his art of serving peace and justice.

The event was accompanied by two videos — the first about the achievements of the organization and the second about the “Peace of Art” collection and its use of art as a tool to raise awareness of the human condition to prevent homelessness, hunger, violence against women, terrorism and genocide.

Karen Avanesyan, head of the Diaspora Potential Mapping and Involvement Department of the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, offered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs and Commissioner Zareh Sinanyan:

A quarter of a century has passed since Daniel Varoujan Hejinian initiated the display of the first large billboard informing about the Armenian Genocide in the United States of America, calling for its international recognition. From that day on, every year, Hejinian and his associates display billboards in public places in the US, which silently and eloquently inform the public about the reality of the Armenian Genocide. Many of us have seen them on various media platforms and social networks.

As a result of the years of active work, in 2004, Hejinian officially registered the non-profit organization, “Peace of Art”, which continued to work even harder, particularly in the US and Armenia, adopting a new form of civilized struggle, to be compassionate and tolerant of the public and to choose fair paths to achieve the goal.

One of the main activities of the organization became the support of genocide prevention. Over the past 25 years, the organization has installed more than 100 informative billboards about the Armenian Genocide in the United States. “Peace of Art” has organized about three dozen exhibitions, numerous lectures and other programs in the US and Armenia. As a result, it has been awarded many high honors by a number of authoritative institutions, including the state institutions of the Republic of Armenia.

We wish you more success in all future initiatives to continue your cherished and pro-Armenian work that started 25 years ago, with the same spirit, energy and diligence.

Writer, publicist, public figure and academician of the International Academy of Nature and Society Ruzan Asatryan’s remarks:

Dear Varoujan, I welcome your significant event today. Yes it’s very important, because peace is the oxygen of humanity on the planet. You have chosen “Peace of Art,” because art is a divine force leading to Parnassus. The talented radiance of your mind includes the universal outbursts of both the universal and the personal pulse, which have been highly valued by the art-loving society.

A child of parents who survived the Armenian Genocide, Hejinian recommitted his diligence and talent, as he turned his nation’s peace into a vital balm not only in his paintings, but also in his honorable public charitable work for 25 years. Hejinian’s work on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by US President Biden is undeniable, since he showed special details about the Genocide on 100 billboards around the US. In those days, the painting of the great philanthropist Nansen, a worthy friend of the Armenian people, who issued a passport to the Armenians in exile, had a great response, in which Varoujan presented the strong need for peace of art with the golden strokes of his brush. It is one thing when a person is talented and another thing when he is a soldier of peace in front of his ancestors. I am glad that we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the organization in our homeland. I congratulate you and wish you new initiatives.

The words of heart by the poet, architect Tatios Yessayan:

This beautiful picture, that you saw and loved, is really a symbol of the peace pioneer painter Mr.  Varoujan Hejinian. Here is the history of the Armenian Nation, which is presented in colors. See how Mr.  Hejinian’s brush changes from black to blue: the black as the suffering of the Armenian nation and the blue as the rebirth of the nation. And here is the proud Armenian woman with her native flag waving in the blue and raising her hands as if calling home birds like a Diaspora Armenian alien in the distance.

Hejinian lives in a world of different colors. He loves all the colors of the great painter, God.  He loves the seven colors of the rainbow. He prefers the colors that are missing in the rainbow – the “mysterious black” that Hejinian immortalizes in his black pencil drawings.

Hejinian sees everything with the far-sighted eye of his soul. He believes that optimism is the key to peace, and that at the end of all anxious phenomena, peace will surely prevail, as the waves of the sea calm down, ending at the crumbling of the rock on the shore.

Hejinian has a sensitive heart and a keen eye. He is taciturn, but with his silence he understands a lot.  Last week we were walking together in a garden and saw a laurel tree with only one red rose on top.  Involuntarily, the two of us stood and watched. “Varouj,” I said, “What do you think?”  He took a deep breath. “Something,” he said. He was silent and continued watching. It was a mystery to me what moved him. Was it the loneliness of the rose that was still waiting for the gentle gaze of a passer-by or other roses next to him? I think that all these thoughts had invaded Varoujan’s inner world together and were already being drawn on the poster of his soul.

Yes, Hejinian’s inner world is different. It is the inner world of a great artist that is completely loving, peaceful and compassionate, and all this is reflected in his wonderful works that we watch, enjoy and admire.

Let us honor Mr. Hejinian with applause. If France is proud of Matisse; if the Netherlands is proud of Van Koch; if Armenia is proud of Martiros Sarian, Roslin and Kochar; we Western Armenians are also proud of Varoujan Hejinian. Let his creative brush remain!

Director of the “Diaspora” Scientific-Educational Center, Professor Dr. Suren Danielyan, mentioned in his speech the parallel between the poet Daniel Varoujan, who called for fight, and the artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian, who a century later peacefully continued the struggle for the welfare and justice of humanity, condemning the Genocide to prevent future genocides.

Founding president of the “Peace of Art” organization Varoujan Hejinian concluded with the following:

On behalf of the “Peace of Art” organization and me, I would like to thank all of you for participating in the event dedicated to the 25th anniversary of our organization.

For Armenians, April is a month of mourning and sad memories. Every Armenian living abroad feels in his soul and essence the suffering and injustice to which he is personally subjected. In addition, the storm of genocide, along with the massacre of one and a half million, scattered another one million Armenians to the four corpses of the world, each of which already has its own victims.

I am one of them; from my father’s side, my paternal uncle was hanged, and my aunt suffering from tuberculosis died on the way to exile; my mother’s whole family was lost in Der Zor irretrievably; and I am a child of a migrant. Our fathers and grandfathers had a house, a garden, a pasture, but we were left with a longing for dry bread, under tin sheets, whistling with rain water and trembling winds blowing through the cracks.  All of these are lived realities, clear and unambiguous.

I am the child of that tortured generation and my cells are made up of suffering and pain. That pain will linger until the weight of justice begins to weigh heavily and good people multiply to listen to our grievances. Every Armenian has his just complaint and other ways to express it.

My ability was also very modestly these billboards, through which I hope to have taken a step in favor of justice.

We must condemn the crime in order to prevent new crimes. I would like to add a small note that I am an Armenian artist, not only by talent but also in spirit; in other words a cosmopolitan, because art can’t cage with its creator within its own narrow borders, but like a dove of peace it flies over the souls of all peoples, with the olive message of love and brotherhood.

How good it would be if the world’s political leaders were artists, then we would have a bouquet of peoples with a much more human face.

I firmly hope that one day the Turkish people, having reached the “Great Crime” of the past, will condemn it with all righteous people and, extending a friendly hand to the Armenian people, will confess the “unacknowledged crime.”

The event was concluded by RA Honored Artist, Conservatory Professor Armenuhi Seyranyan and the Symphony Orchestra violinist Sona Sokhikyan.

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Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.
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