By Aram Arkun
BAYSIDE, N.Y. — The Anthropology Museum of the People of New York City and the Armenian Cultural Educational Resource Center Gallery at Queens College presented Armenian Cultural Awareness Weekend at Queensborough Community College, from May 13 to 15. The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives at Queensborough Community College hosted the weekend events, which were spearheaded by the efforts of Margaret C. Tellalian-Kyrkostas.
Marge, as she is known to many, is the hardworking and gregarious executive director of both the Anthropology Museum and the Armenian Cultural Educational Resource Center. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and New York Community Bank provided financial support for the programs.
On May 15, after words of welcome from Tellalian-Kyrkostas, and an introduction by Master of Ceremonies Theo Kyrkostas, Ellen Golann, Sid Fidelman and Ida Fidelman, three veteran members of the Shalom Israeli Dancers, presented eight Israeli folk dances with different regional accents and styles, along with some explanations. The audience clapped along to many of the dances.
The main speaker for the evening was Shant Mardirossian, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Near East Foundation (NEF) since 2007. A certified public accountant, Mardirossian was born in Lebanon and has a bachelor’s and master’s degree (in business administration) from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business. Professionally, he is a partner and the chief financial officer of Kohlberg & Company, a middle-market private equity firm.
Mardirossian gave a PowerPoint presentation about the history and work of Near East Relief, the predecessor organization of the NEF, with Armenians. He spoke about the efforts of NEF to preserve the archives of the Near East Relief, which are now held by the Rockefeller Foundation in Sleepy Hollow, NY. He also pointed out that NEF still does projects for Armenians. At present, it is attempting to encourage local economic development in the Republic of Armenia through a communitybased participatory approach, and focuses on rural Armenian villages.
Mardirossian pointed out that the work of the Near East Relief organization became a model for the Marshall Plan, Peace Corp, USAID and the United Nations Development program, and the lessons of the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath should be taken to heart in today’s world.
The final part of the May 15 program was a rousing performance by the Antranig Dance Ensemble, sponsored by the AGBU. Established in 1969, the ensemble has performed in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the State Opera Theater in Armenia. Members train under the artistic directorship of Joyce Tamesian- Shenloogian, director since 1986, and for three months each year with Gagik Karapetian, recently the artistic director of the State Dance Ensemble of Armenia. The lively Armenian dances performed by the 16 members of the ensemble were received with great applause.
Earlier events during the weekend included a lecture by Dr. Dennis Papazian; readings of poetry taken from the experiences of Armenian Genocide and Holocaust survivors by Dr. Mary Filou and Raymond Tellalian; music performed by the Serenity Quartet (Ivy Zohra Adrian, Arnold Lee, Cosmo Mallardi and Lamy Istrefi Jr.), including Armenian Suite, a piece specially composed by Marcos Varela for the evening, and Mark Kyrkostas’ If I Were a River and performances by the Hychem Armenian Hip Hop Dancers and Michael Hovsepian’s PT Grimm Avant Guard Rock Band. A film based on Franz Werfel’s Forty Days of Musa Dagh, and the film version of William Saroyan’s stage play, “Hello Out There,” were screened on May 14.
During the entire weekend, a traveling exhibit of mounted photos of the Armenian Genocide and another exhibit with basic information about the Armenian people were displayed at Queensborough Community College. A great deal of information on Armenians is still accessible to visitors at the Anthropology Museum of the People of New York at Queens college and admission is free.