WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attendees of the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) National Advocacy Conference were treated to a sneak preview about the results from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as a special presentation about American humanitarian intervention in Armenia’s first republic.
SNEAK PREVIEW INTO 2018 SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL RESULTS
Luncheon speaker Smithsonian Director of Special Projects Halle Butvin made a special presentation on the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival which presented “Armenia: Creating Home.” She shared remarks and insights about this historic Festival that brought Armenian culture and tradition to our nation’s capital, which is considered the most widely attended in recent years.
“The two weeks of the Festival were packed – we normally worry about thunderstorms and rain, but this year it was all sun – so much so that most of the time there was a heat advisory. That didn’t stop the 738,000 people who came to the Mall to learn about Armenian culture. Staff who have worked on the Festival for their entire career commented on the powerful presence of Armenian Americans. Within the site, you could hear Eastern and Western Armenian spoken everywhere, and every day we encountered extended families who used the Festival as an opportunity for a reunion,” Butvin said.
Butvin was the curator for the Festival, and shared stories of her experiences traveling back and forth from Armenia over the past couple of years, and how welcomed she felt during her trips. This warmth continued at the Folklife Festival, and she told the attendees anecdotes of her memorable interactions with the Festival participants. Butvin concluded her presentation with an exclusive first-look video that has not yet been released, comprised of interviews from the Armenian participants and what the 2018 Folklife Festival meant to them.
“Throughout the Festival, we heard so much positive feedback, both from participants and visitors, and our team is in the process of finalizing a report on its impact. My co-curators are, as we speak, visiting with festival participants to learn from them about their experience, the new relationships made, and what they’ll carry forth as a result of being a part of this momentous occasion,” she added.
AMERICAN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE DURING FIRST REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA REMEMBERED
Another feature presentation was made by Armenian National Institute (ANI) Director Dr. Rouben Adalian, who introduced his digital exhibit on the role of the YMCA and American relief work during the first republic of Armenia (1918-1920). The exhibit explores the role of two exceptional individuals, John Elder and James O. Arroll, who volunteered to stay in Armenia during the critical year of 1918 when fellow American relief workers were withdrawn in view of the intensification of warfare in the region.
Dr. Adalian went into further detail about the American volunteers throughout the past century in Armenia, starting with the YMCA volunteers, recalling the relief workers who hastened to Armenia after the December 1988 earthquake, and continuing with those in the Peace Corps today.
“The United States and Armenia have a 100 year relationship. It’s the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Republic, and the United States was there from the very first year, helping the Armenian people,” he said. “The United States has been doing so much more for Armenia than these one or two occasional episodes of humanitarian intervention.”
The exhibit was on display in Yerevan this past summer, which was visited by U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills, and is currently in Artsakh being presented by the YMCA in Stepanakert.
“Two years ago, a granddaughter of John Elder sent me a photograph, and hence, started a conversation with Elder’s family. Out of that grew a continuing discussion. Today, we have the evidence – photographs and diary entries – of what John Elder experienced in Armenia with the Genocide survivors,” Dr. Adalian said.
Discovered the morning of the Advocacy Conference, Dr. Adalian shared with the attendees a never-before-seen gift to John Elder by the Armenian people a hundred years ago.
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.