On December 2, 2016, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. and Armenian Minister of Culture Armen Amiryan unveiled in Gyumri the newly restored mural “In the Mountains” created by famed Armenian artist Hakob Hakobyan. The U.S. Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) funded the restoration of this mural.
With the funding, the mural was removed from an abandoned factory building in Gyumri, repaired and conserved, and installed safely in the city’s Achemyan State Drama Theater where it is once again accessible to the public on the second floor.
“For the past several years the mural we are here to celebrate was hidden away in an abandoned factory. It was crumbling into dust,” Ambassador Mills said during the unveiling ceremony. “But thanks to the U.S. State Department’s Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation it now has new life. Now the eyes of the next generation of artists, community leaders, and innovators will see Hakobyan’s work, perhaps here of his story, and find in it inspiration to create future works of art that capture the spirit of Armenia.”
The mural was created by Hakob Hakobyan (1923-2013), an Armenian artist whose works are considered national treasures. His murals are included on the official list of historical and cultural treasures of Shirak province.
The restoration work done on “In the Mountains” was carried out by the Minas Avetisyan Cultural Foundation with the participation of Fabrizio Iacopini, a renowned restorer from the Restoration Institute in Florence, Italy. The Minas Avetisyan Cultural Foundation was established in 2003 by Arman Avetisyan, the son of prominent Armenian artist Minas Avetisyan, to preserve his and other artists’ murals, removing them from abandoned industrial buildings in Gyumri and moving them to safe locations.
“The restorer’s work is a labor of love, of respect for artists and their works. And their passion and dedication is clearly on display today,” Ambassador Mills said.
This is not the first time the U.S. Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation has worked on rescuing a mural in Gyumri. Last year, another project preserved Rafayel Atoyan’s “On the Way to the Watermill” mural, moving it from an abandoned factory to Gyumri’s newly-renovated Youth Palace.
The U.S. State Department established the U.S. Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation in 2000 to celebrate mankind’s shared cultural heritage and to bring countries and peoples together. Through the AFCP, the U.S. State Department each year funds a number of projects around the globe that protect unique cultural heritage sites.
The AFCP has been providing support for Armenian cultural sites since 2005, funding projects such as preserving the archeological finds at Areni cave, protecting the Dashtadem Fortress, mapping and cataloging items found at the Noratus medieval cemetery and its collection of khachkars, preservation of a medieval masonry bridge in the Garni Gorge, and documentation of traditional Armenian music and dance. Earlier this fall, the AFCP awarded a $450,000 grant to preserve and restore the historic St. Hovhannes Church in Meghri.
“Culture, art, traditions – these help celebrate the uniqueness of Armenia. This love of culture is shared by Americans. And by preserving these Armenian treasures, we not only help bring our two people together, but save a unique treasure for generations to come,” Ambassador Mills said.