WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival featuring “Armenia: Creating Home” concluded earlier this month, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) would like to congratulate the Smithsonian Institution, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and everyone involved for ensuring a successful two-week event. The 2018 Folklife Festival showcased Armenia and its culture, art, music, food, wine, and history through narratives, demonstrations, and workshops that touched on many aspects of Armenian life, and was one of the most attended in recent years. The Festival ran from June 27 to July 1 and then from July 4 to July 8.
“This year’s Folklife Festival was an unqualified success. It was truly wonderful for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that the ‘Armenia: Creating Home’ program really made people feel at home. We, at the Smithsonian, were able to accomplish that because we had good, strong partners in Armenia, and also Armenian Americans who came out, really supported the program and the Smithsonian, engaged the participants from Armenia, and made those participants feel comfortable and at home as well,” Smithsonian Folklife Festival Director Sabrina Lynn Motley told the Armenian Assembly.
She continued: “I kept hearing from visitors how warm and friendly the Festival felt and how much they learned about Armenia. So many people said that this was one of the best Folklife Festivals they experienced in years! That is in no small part due to the coming together of people from Armenia and the Armenian American diaspora, and sharing that sense of culture and what home means. With the Armenian Assembly of America, we had a wonderful partner and supporter who believed in the vision of the Folklife Festival.”
“In terms of our visitorship, it was clear that we had the largest attendance that we had in a couple of years. We conducted surveys, and results showed people were really pleased with what they encountered at this summer’s Folklife Festival. The Festival succeeded in sharing and exposing new cultures to people who didn’t know Armenia, and I think Armenian Americans also learned more about cultural life in Armenia and where the country is heading in the future,” Motley concluded.
The Armenian Assembly’s 2018 summer interns were among the guests in attendance, who were fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program in Washington, D.C. during the same year that the Smithsonian featured Armenia on the National Mall.
The interns attended the narratives and talks, including “Cultural Diplomacy with Two Ambassadors,” which featured the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian discussing U.S.-Armenia relations and the significance of cultural diplomacy today. They also participated in the traditional dancing and enjoyed the cooking demonstrations of the food most familiar to them, such as ghapama (stuffed pumpkin), khorovats (barbecue), dolma (stuffed grape leaves), baklava, string cheese, gata (Armenian pastry), kufta (ground meat kebab), sweet sujukh (dried fruit and walnuts), and eech (bulgur salad). They especially were excited to see the fresh lavash baked in a homemade tonir (clay oven), made in front of the crowds.
This year, Armenian Assembly summer intern Tamar Barsamian interned at the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, where she worked on the participant staff team of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
“Working at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was really touching and special to me. I had the opportunity to introduce Armenian culture to everybody, both Armenian and non-Armenian, who came to visit Washington, D.C. It was heartwarming to witness Americans learning about and appreciating Armenian culture,” stated Tamar Barsamian, a senior at Loyola University Maryland majoring in Political Science with a Peace and Justice Studies minor.
“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly and the Armenian American community, we would like to thank everyone involved in supporting the Smithsonian Institution to ensure a successful Folklife Festival. We want to especially thank Smithsonian Folklife Festival Director Sabrina Lynn Motley, Director of Special Projects Halle Butvin and the entire Smithsonian team, USAID, the United States Embassy in Yerevan, the Armenian Embassy in Washington, the sponsors, and the many individuals who helped make this Folklife Festival a great success,” Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian stated.
“To celebrate Armenia’s culture in the heart of Washington, D.C. was truly remarkable. The enduring bonds and shared values between Armenia and America were further enhanced through this unique opportunity. I extend my warm appreciation to my U.S. counterparts and to all the donors for making this festival possible,” added Ambassador Hovhannissian.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.