Grand Park (Los Angeles)

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Grand Park is a multi-block park in the City of Los Angeles, in front of LA City Hall.

In 2015 the park hosted a large installation of photos by Ara Oshagan of Armenian Genocide survivors.

Memorial to Armenian genocide unveiled in L.A.'s Grand Park

Sep 17, 2016

Bettina Boxall

Split in half, chiseled on one side and smooth on the other, the black rock memorializes not just the Armenian genocide, but also survival.

Unveiled Saturday evening as the sun set over Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, the Armenian Genocide Monument is ringed by metal bars embedded in the ground and etched with the words of Armenian American writer William Saroyan:

“In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

“We wanted something that was uplifting and also spoke to a much broader audience,” said photographer Levon Parian, one of a team who created the monument.

The five-ton piece was sculpted by Glendale architect Vahagn Thomasian from volcanic rock quarried from Armenia’s Ararat Valley.

The split in the monument represents the disruption of the 1915-18 genocide, which claimed the lives of about 1.2 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern republic of Turkey. The Turkish government disputes that a genocide took place.

“The rough part resembles [the period] after the genocide when the Armenian people struggled and tried to survive,” Thomasian said. The smooth half “represents the present, future, new generations.”

Southern California is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia. More than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County.

The idea for a Los Angeles monument grew out of last year’s iWitness installation in Grand Park, which marked the centennial of the genocide with huge portraits of survivors.

County Supervisor Michael Antonovich told the iWitness team that he would like a permanent memorial. Thomasian settled on something “very simple” that was, he said, both less and more.


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Supervisor Antonovich to Unveil Genocide Monument at Grand Park

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich will officially unveil a permanent Armenian Genocide monument at Grand Park’s Olive Court on September 17 at 5 p.m. Last year, Supervisor Antonovich sponsored the highly popular and well-received iWitness public art installation at Grand Park and the Music Center. Moved by the great response, LA County has teamed-up with the iwitness project to install a permanent memorial to the Genocide. The unveiling will include musical performances and speakers.

The iWitness project is a collective made up of artists Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian, architect Vahagn Thomasian and other activists and artists.

The permanent monument is made of black volcanic tuff rock imported directly from the Ararat Valley of Armenia. Tuff is indigenous to the Armenian highlands and deep-rooted in that millennial history. It has been the material of choice for centuries and used to build hundreds of churches, historical buildings and artworks. The monument is a silent witness to that history as well as a witness to the Genocide itself. The sculpted angular shape of the iwitness monument is an echo and extension of the iwitness installation.

“This remarkable memorial honors the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and offers a space for contemplation and reflection,” said Supervisor Antonovich. “I’m thrilled to have this monument in Grand Park where people from diverse backgrounds gather to celebrate and reflect in this urban oasis. It’s a natural fit.”

Sculpted by Vahagn Thomasian, the monument is both organic and conceptual. It is sourced from the earth itself and blends in with the natural flora and fauna of Grand Park. The monument is split in two, symbolizing the spiritual and physical rupture of the Armenian Genocide: a disruption of history and community not only for the Armenian nation but also for all of humanity.

“The idea that a rock can be a witness is perhaps unusual but very significant”, says artist Ara Oshagan. “It was there and that history is embedded in it. A witness need not speak to be a witness. Just like the trees around Auschwitz are witnesses to the Holocaust.”

The juxtaposition of smooth and rough surfaces on either half of the iwitness monument further symbolizes the past and the present and re-emphasizes the disruption between the two realities.

“The monument is sculpted at 4, 24, 19, 15 degrees symbolizing the date of April 24, 1915,” said architect and designer Vahagn Thomasian. “The monument has meaning at every level of its conceptualization and construction.”

April 24 is the infamous day the Ottoman Turks began their systematic annihilation of the Armenian people. Armenians worldwide annually commemorate April 24 with memorials, vigils, marches, protests and demands for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which the present Turkish government continues to deny. Wrapped around the foot of the iwitness memorial are words by the Pulitzer Prize winning Armenian- American playwright and author, William Saroyan—urging a celebration of life and hope for the future. “This is a memorial to a horrible event,” says artist Levon Parian, “but Saroyan’s words elevate and remind us of the mysteries and joys of being alive. We remember the past, but live in the today- reaching for the future.”.

Source: California Courier Online, Sept 8, 2016