Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beauty and Art Know no Time Frame

Cascade building which houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia

It’s never too late to take in beauty and realize the talents of others in this world.  The occasion occurred this past weekend for David and me when we were in Yerevan with a few hours of unscheduled time to spend.  We chose to visit the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, a breathtaking structure housed within the Cascade, a building conceived by Armenian architect, Alexander Tamanyan . Deterioration of the building took place during the years of economic struggle in Armenia, but in 2002, Mr. Gerard Cafesjian established the Cafesjian Museum Foundation which restored the Cascade and is now continuing to transform it into one of the world’s preeminent centers for the arts.  During our cultural training for the Peace Corps in 2011, David and I visited the Cascade and its outdoor gardens. We witnessed the artistry of Armenian dancers who first displayed then taught their native dance routines to tourists and locals alike. Here during our first summer in Armenia, we were introduced to the beauty of native Armenian dress and culturally distinct footwork and music.  We, along with many other Peace Corps volunteers and casual participants, joined in the lines and circles of novice dancers and tried our hand at some of these dances even though we stumbled and ended up laughing our way to the sidelines, out of breath and totally confused with the intricacies of our new country’s complex choreography.
Tower of exquisite Swarovski crystals

Glass piece which changes colors as one views it
         Today we did not see this type of display of Armenian’s performing art but would, instead, see the art work of glass artists and contemporary creators from various countries including our own, and we viewed depictions of history and historical figures of which we’ve read much.  Armenian historical figures such as Tumanyan, Mashtots, and others, were portrayed in massive murals and stone statues.  Alongside them were contemporary creations of stunning Swarovski crystal and murano glass.  Above our heads were the breathtaking glass flowers of Dale Chihuly, and greeting us in the first gallery was a wall of these exquisite  creations projecting their colorful beauty upon us.   Having seen similar displays in Las Vegas on the ceiling of the Bellagio Casino made this opportunity to view Chihuly’s work up close even more impressive.
Stunning crystal art piece at Cafesjian Center for the Arts
           As we proceeded from floor to floor, indoors and out, and viewing each level’s galleries, we were impressed with the professionalism in which the museum was both arranged and managed.   Nowhere in this country have we seen quite the level of attention to detail and eclectic display of fine works of contemporary art intermingled with historic presentations. Impressive ,too, is the fact that the majority of exhibitions presented in the Cafesjian Center for the Arts are derived from the private collection of its main benefactor,  Mr. Gerard Cafesjian   The offerings themselves mirrored the diverse  mix of viewers and art enthusiasts.. In our presence were young couples spending an unseasonably warm February afternoon with a loved one, to young children being introduced to a new visual experience, to older patrons  individually and jointly absorbing the beauty before them. Inside and outside offered visual stimulation as we viewed the wide spectrum of man’s creative efforts in an Armenian garden setting overlooking the city we have grown to enjoy.  Here in Yerevan one can become refreshed and gain a different perspective of a country in which our day- to- day work is oft times frustrating and seemingly non-productive. Here we can become re-charged, have a chance to contemplate new approaches to our daily work, and return to our work ready to try something different or attempt to re-direct our energies in a more efficient way for the limited time we have left as Peace Corps volunteers. Spending time in such a setting frees ones’ thoughts thus allowing refocus and some measure of change in direction. Clearing the cob webs and constant thoughts of challenge and hurdles ahead promotes improved mental health and a renewed desire to be a better volunteer.
David viewing the city of Yerevan, Armenia from atop the Cascade
              As we step outside the Cafesjian  Center for the Arts, we are at the summit of the Cascade where  hazy but breath-taking views of the entire city  may be enjoyed. From this vantage point one realizes a  panoramic look at Yerevan  which will be even more inspiring in the spring when the gardens begin to green- up and the decorative, stone fountains are flowing with water again.   Randomly situated below us are the sculptures and whimsical, sometimes controversial art pieces provided by traveling exhibions or Mr. Cafesjian’s own collection.. They are strategically interspersed among historic statues of Armenian intellectual figures in the country’s history.   People are wandering leisurely about the area which is bordered on each side by shops and restaurants. Overlooking the park-like setting are apartments and offices with to-die-for views before them. One can only imagine the maneuvering involved as occupants of those buildings vie for offices and bedrooms facing this oasis within the city. It is a place to come for respite, relaxation, and beauty. It is a place in which one seeks a view from above or a park bench on the ground level.
Famous Armenian historical figure, Tamanyan, greets visitors to the Cascade  
                                                               Though we’ve known of the Cafesjian area for much of our time in Armenia, we’ve never had  the time or made the effort to explore it, aside from the dance experience mentioned above.  Fortunately, we followed the lead of others who suggested such a visit.  It is never too late to seek beauty and to enjoy it with a loved one, David.   We’ll continue the exploration of this jewel within the city of Yerevan as we look to expand our horizons through concert attendance within the same building.  What better way to further learn about a country of which we knew little 2 years ago, than to spend quality time experiencing its cultural treasures. 

         May each of you discover a place of beauty in your city where you may gain respite and a change of perspective. It is never too late.       Judy

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