Ambassador Richard Mills Remarks at the opening reception for The “America on the Road” cultural tour

I want to thank you all for coming tonight and warmly welcome you to my house this evening as we launch our “America on the Road 2015” cultural tour.

Arvest ev mshakuyt  – slowly but surely I’m working on my Armenian and these two words – art and culture – are very important, indeed key words to know.  Armenians are justifiably proud of Armenia’s strong cultural tradition and heritage.  And by recognizing that love and passion for the arts, our “America on the Road” cultural tour will allow the Embassy to connect to and communicate with people throughout Armenia through our shared love of culture.

During our two-month-long cultural tour, we will showcase three very successful cultural initiatives we’ve supported over the past couple of years, all in close cooperation with Armenian cultural partners, many of whom are present here tonight.

The “America on the Road” tour kicks off with a series of concerts by the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia, under the skillful leadership of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Sergey Smbatyan, and Conductor Ruben Asatryan.  The orchestra’s musical program, which features soundtracks from both classic and recent Hollywood films, filled our Embassy’s Fourth of July celebration with joy, exuberance, and memories.  During the “America on the Road” tour, the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia will bring to life the magic of Hollywood for audiences throughout Armenia.

The second element of our “America on the Road” cultural tour will showcase the works of young Armenian documentary filmmakers in screenings throughout the country.  These filmmakers, some of whom are here tonight, participated in last year’s Emerging Documentary Talent Competition, a partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.  This program empowered young aspiring Armenian filmmakers, between 17 and 26 years old, to use documentary film techniques to explore social, economic, and political issues. These young filmmakers tackled serious, important issues in their documentaries. Documentaries are important because they encourage people to reflect, question, and discuss.  I am excited that we will be taking these films on the road so that people across Armenia can not only see them, but also discuss them with the filmmakers in person.

The third element of our “America on the Road” cultural tour will be two performances of “Girl on the Moon,” an original dance piece by the talented choreographer Arina Araratyan.  Her work – which brings together on the same stage both professional dancers and novice dancers with disabilities – demonstrates how people with disabilities can be fully integrated into everyday activities that many of us take for granted.  Not only is it a moving and artistic dance performance, but the experience should serve as a reminder to us all of the work that remains to be done to ensure that all people can live lives free of barriers.

Our “America on the Road” cultural tour offers something for everyone, and as we visit communities throughout Armenia, from Meghri to Alaverdi, we look forward to showcasing the strong partnership and, indeed, true friendship between America and Armenia through the medium of arts and culture.  I want to thank you all for your support of “America on the Road,” and hope you will spread the word about our events and encourage people to attend.

Thank you.