Thursday, September 1, 2011


Service with the U.S .Peace Corps involves trying to meet the 3 goals established when the organization was founded in the early 60’s.  During 2011, the Peace Corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary. As new volunteers, we are acutely cognizant of the goals set forth by our predecessors. These goals are: 1.To help people of interested countries meet their needs for trained men and women.  2. To help promote better understanding of Americans on the part of people served.  3. To help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.  We think that our service will reflect those goals, and we’ll strive to meet them to the best of our ability.
      The breeze blew softly through the large, heavily paned windows which were now pushed open to allow air into the stiflingly warm room. The lace curtains fluttered. A young woman’s hair blew into her face as she moved closer to the window to enjoy a bit of the cool passing air. A well- articulated voice could be heard within the room as a group of twelve people quietly moved about the room, stopping briefly at certain points to listen more carefully to what the young woman was saying. Several more people stepped closer to the windows when possible, not wanting to move too far from the speaker’s voice, yet feeling the need for a measure of comfort offered by the soft breeze.

Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia
location of National Gallery of Armenia

Dave and other Peace Corps volunteers in Republic Square to visit
National Gallery of Armenia and National History Museum 

Center of Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia

    Amazingly, this scenario took place in Yerevan, Armenia, in the National Gallery of Armenia. As part of our cultural education, our training group was taken there by the Peace Corps. We were surprised by the lack of climate control in the spacious gallery which held art pieces dating back hundreds of years. How could these precious works of art be maintained indefinitely with exposure to varying temperature, damaging light and air pollutants? The gallery showcased the works of numerous Armenian, Russian and Western European artists.  The most complete part of the National Art Gallery is the collection of Armenian paintings.  The driving force behind the gallery’s image and character was Rouben Drambian, brought to Yerevan from Leningrad in 1925. Through his sensitive judgment and leadership, purchases have been made to augment the collection. Today, The National Gallery is the most attractive center for every Armenian artist, no matter where he/she resides.                                                           

Joseph Andriano accompanied by Michael Braz, piano, and Stephanie Conrad, cello,
singing "Chinar Es", a beloved Armenian song recorded by Komitas

        Works impressive to Dave and me included one artist’s self- portrait composed completely in a unique stone mosaic. Large sculptures of famous Armenians graced the center of many gallery rooms. The painting of Komitas, the musician credited with writing down all of the vocal music of Armenia, was prominently displayed. This quiet, gentle yet massive work of art was one of my favorites. It spoke strongly of music’s influence and value to the Armenian people who survived the genocide of 1915-17. During our recent Peace Corps swear-in ceremony in Yerevan’s Komitas Chamber Music Hall, one of our fellow Peace Corps volunteers, Joseph Andriano, sang a tenor vocal selection, “Chinar Es” recorded by Komitas. Joseph stated that performing this piece of music in Komitas Chamber Music Hall was the highlight of his musical life.   
      Throughout the gallery, art met nature through open windows. Although the gentle breezes reached inside to cool us on a hot day in Yerevan, Armenia, a surreal feeling surrounded us. How was it that we Americans were in this place at this time, in a treasured art gallery in a country many of us knew little about?   As part of the Peace Corps’ Goal #3, we were learning something about the culture of the small country and its resilient, talented people. Above and beyond wars, genocide, earthquakes and tough economic times, the National Gallery of Armenia spoke to us through its artists and through the work of its staff.
     In memory of all the artists and other talented, well- educated Armenians who were put to death during the historic genocide, we give thanks for the preservation and restoration of their works. We have faith that other visitors to this beautiful place will feel the same way.     Judy

Trees planted annually in the Genocide Memorial Garden
in memory of those who died during the genocide of 1915-1917
Yerevan, Armenia


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