In the Shadow of Branches

Diana Apcar in Japan in 1890. Berj Kailian, Untitled, mixed media on board, about 1970

Diana Apcar in Japan in 1890. Berj Kailian, Untitled, mixed media on board, about 1970

Diana Apcar | Berj Kailian

The Republic of the United States of America has been compared to that grain of mustard seed, which when planted in the earth budded forth and grew into such dimensions that the birds of the air lodged under the branches thereof. I pray that the shadow of those branches be extended over my bleeding nation.

NEW EXHIBITION AT THE ARMENIAN MUSEUM IN WATERTOWN, MA

Opening: Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 6–8:30 pm
Adele & Haig Der Manuelian galleries

AN UNTOLD STORY

The Armenian Museum presents a new exhibition in the Adele & Haig Der Manuelian galleries that explores the intertwined lives of diplomat Diana Agabeg Apcar (1859–1937) and artist Berjouhi Kailian (1914–2014). In 1919, history connected these two women in Yokohama, Japan. As refugees from the Armenian Genocide, Berj and her mother found themselves in the shadow of Diana’s sturdy branches as she helped them find their way to a new home in the United States. Berj’s creative life flourished for 95 more years because of Diana’s compassion.

This exhibition centers on the notion that individuals who take a stand can impact lives exponentially.

Not many know of Diana Apcar and the impact she had on shaping the discourse about the plight of Armenians during WWI. Born in Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) into a prominent Armenian merchant family, she grew up in Calcutta, and later moved to Yokohama with her husband to start a new company. In Japan, she became aware of the plight of her fellow Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and acted as an unofficial diplomat to write letters, newspaper articles, and books to create a network of support for Armenians throughout the world. She provided food and shelter, helped with visas and travel documents, and fiercely negotiated with the steamship companies to unite Armenian refugees with relatives in the United States. She was named Honorary Consul to Japan by the Armenian Republic, making her one of the first female diplomats in the modern age.

A survivor of the Armenian Genocide, Berj Kailian fled from her home in Ottoman Turkey, strapped to her mother’s back, to Yerevan (present-day Armenia). They managed to board the Trans-Siberian railroad to a refugee camp in Vladivostok, Russia, where Diana Apcar reached out to bring them to shelter in Yokohama. She arranged their passage on the Mexico Maru to sail to Seattle, Washington, where they made their way to join family in Weymouth, MA. Berj became an artist and made paintings and prints, many of which recall her early history as a refugee in a visceral way. Layered surfaces with earthbound colors reveal a buried past that revisited her memory throughout her long life. This significant body of work was donated by her family to the Armenian Museum in 2018.

Brought together for the first time, the objects, ephemera, and paintings on display connect these two women to tell this important story of persistence, survival, and witness.

—Jennifer Liston Munson, Executive Director

The exhibition will take place in the newly-renovated third floor galleries. This contemporary space, designed by Ben Thompson in 1969, has polished concrete floors and a cement waffled ceiling, and will contain objects from Diana Apcar’s life, including her pen that she used to write diplomats, world leaders, and friends around the world. Her personal papers and official documents will help tell the story of her astounding ability to create an extensive global network of supporters a hundred years before the emergence of social media.

The Museum’s recent acquisition of Berj Kailian’s work includes mixed media paintings on wood panels that seem to come from the earth—the thick layers are gouged, chiseled, and marked as part of a physical process “to release the hurt”. Suppressed loss emerges through to the surfaces with recurring imagery of lost architecture to convey the frenzy of looking for the siblings she will never find.

Together, their work intermingles at the Armenian Museum in Watertown, MA to bring context and connection to each of their substantial contributions to Armenian and Armenian-American experience.

OPENING RECEPTION & GALLERY TALK:

April 24, 2019, 6–8:30 pm
6 pm: Candlelight gallery viewing to observe Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, 1st floor
7 pm: Reception and gallery talk, Adele & Haig Der Manuelian galleries, 3rd floor

This exhibition will open on April 24, 2019 in recognition of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. The Armenian Museum wishes to engage in meaningful dialogue around this solemn subject that permeates Armenian experience around the world.

Join us from 6–8:30 pm for a candlelight viewing of the galleries followed by a discussion of the traumatic effects of the Genocide to remember the victims, survivors, and individuals who chose to intervene.

Armenia: art, culture, eternity

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Watertown, MA, October 25, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Stephanie Garafolo sgarafolo@armenianmuseum.org, 617-926-2562 Ext 4 

The Armenian Museum of America Presents

Armenia: art, culture, eternity

A new permanent gallery

Opening Reception Thursday, November 15

6–7:30 pm: Gallery viewing and talk. Speakers include Michele Kolligian, President of the Board of Trustees; Jennifer Liston Munson, Executive Director; and Virginia Durruty, Project Architect. 

Live music in the gallery.

7:30–9:00 pm: Special Armenian-inspired reception in the Adele & Haig Der Manuelian Galleries, 3rd floor.

The Armenian Museum of America is pleased to share its vision for the future. Founded in 1971, the Museum serves as the largest repository of Armenian artifacts in the diaspora, as well as the largest ethnic museum in Massachusetts. As the Museum builds towards the future, it strives to create a stronger, more connected community through shared exploration of Armenian art and history, both for Armenians and those who are new to Armenian culture.

The Museum’s new gallery Armenia: art, culture, eternity provides an overview of Armenian culture from antiquity to present-day Armenian experience here in the United States. Over fifty objects are on display, illustrating Armenia’s origins in the Asian continent, the invention of a unique Indo-European language and alphabet, the early adoption of Christianity, Armenian medieval illuminated manuscripts, interconnected trade routes, and the tragedy of the Genocide. 

Armenia: art, culture, eternity is the culmination of twelve months of intense research and design and represents a new level of scholarship and interpretation at the Museum. The project was made possible by the support of the Board of Trustees and was spearheaded by Executive Director Jennifer Liston Munson and architect Virginia Durruty, who worked side-by-side with Michele Kolligian, President of the Board of Trustees, on the inspired design. 

The gallery represents an incredible achievement and is the start of a holistic consideration of the entire Museum, which will examine everything from the building’s distinctive Brutalist architecture—including how the hard space is a meaningful metaphor for Armenia’s difficult history—to the Museum’s role in telling the modern Armenian-American cultural narrative. 

As a major moment in the process of awakening the building and developing a vibrant cultural space, the Museum is proud to welcome the public to its new gallery and invites the community to share in its future. 

About the Armenian Museum of America

The Armenian Museum of America houses and preserves objects of art and culture collected from Armenian families and donors from around the world. The Museum holds its collection in trust for future generations as objects of witness and survival to serve as a record of Armenian creativity, ingenuity, and wisdom for those who are familiar with Armenian history and culture, as well as for those to whom these objects, manuscripts, and ephemera are a new experience.

Museum Website: www.armenianmuseum.org
Museum Hours: Thursday–Sunday 12:00 pm–6:00 pm
Armenian Museum of America, 65 Main St., Watertown, MA 02472

Parking: Watertown Municipal lots behind the Museum.
Public Transportation: Bus 59 from Needham, 70 from Waltham Commuter
Rail/Cambridge Central Square, 70a from Waltham Commuter Rail/Cambridge Central Square, 71 from Harvard Square.
Museum Hours: Thursday–Sunday 12–6 pm, Wednesday by appointment.

We are building a new gallery!

We are renovating galleries as part of the first phase of the reinvention of the Museum. Follow us on Facebook for updates.

Become a member to receive an invitation to the opening in November.

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These objects will come out of storage with many others  to tell the story of Armenian culture in a new way. Pardon us as we close the Museum from July 21–August 5, 2018 during renovations.

Armenian Museum of America Hires a New Executive Director

Watertown, MA, February 28, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Jennifer Liston Munson, Executive Director

Armenian Museum of America

The Board of Trustees at the Armenian Museum of America is pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer Liston Munson as the Armenian Museum’s next Executive Director.

Jennifer’s association with the organization first began in 2011 when she was introduced to the Museum by portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh’s widow, Estrellita Karsh as one of the leading design professionals from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It was at that time that Jennifer, along with her colleague Keith Crippen, transformed the first floor of the Museum in preparation for the Karsh: Celebrating Humanity and Highlights from the Collection exhibitions.

Following this transformational project, the Executive Committee at the Museum contracted Jennifer for a number of other projects. Her work has always been of the highest caliber and has brought a new level of excellence and awareness to the Armenian Museum. She designed the Simourian Family Galleries which feature the exhibition Objects That Transcend, a display of newly-acquired metalwork, and the Adel and Haig Der Manuelian Contemporary Galleries, where she curated and designed Scars of Silence, an installation of video and photographs by Nubar Alexanian that explores the subconscious suppression of loss by three generations of Armenian-Americans. In 2017, she worked with graphic designer Andrew Wollner to create the rebranding and identity program for the Museum, which draws from an expressive symbol of eternity carved on a 12th-century Armenian monastery to form a distinctive logo that, combined with the tagline art, culture, & eternity, sets the tone for the reinvention of the Museum.

During Jennifer’s association with the Armenian Museum, she developed a great love and passion for Armenian art, history, and culture. One of her many goals will be to develop programs and exhibitions to expand visibility to a wider audience within both the Armenian and non-Armenian communities. The Board feels extremely fortunate to have someone with her extensive experience and creativity leading the Museum at this pivotal time in the organization’s history.

Liston Munson received her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University, and a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Loughborough College of Art and Design in England. Prior to her work as a senior member of the Exhibitions and Design Department at the MFA, she was a 2001 Traveling Scholar at the MFA. Jennifer maintains a professional art practice. Her work is held in many corporate and private collections.