September 17, 2016 - 17:47 AMT
Los Angeles Grand Park to house first Armenian Genocide monument

A memorial stone sculpture dedicated to victims of the Armenian Genocide victims will be unveiled in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, September 17. Architect and sculptor Vahagn Thomasian created the memorial from volcanic rock from Armenia, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

In its shape, sculpted at 4, 24, 19 and 15 degrees, there is the date when the cleansing began: April 24, 1915. And its form, split in two, symbolizes how the first genocide of the 20th century left lives fractured.

“The monument has meaning at every level of its conceptualization and construction,” said Thomasian, who along with Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, will unveil the Armenian Genocide memorial Saturday.

Though not the only monument dedicated to the Armenian Genocide in the county, it’s the first one for the city of Los Angeles and marks a continuation of the iWitness public art installation that was featured at Grand Park and the Music Center last year. That exhibit included 24 sculptures ranging in height from 8 to 15 feet with photographs of Armenian Genocide survivors. They were installed in observance of the centennial of the start of the massacres and marches. Antonovich said the response to iwitness was well received, so the county teamed up with its creators again: Thomasian and photographers Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian. The monument was donated by the Sarkisov Family Foundation.

Split in two, each side of the monument is different.

“The rough side represents the past, the struggle of Armenians,” Thomasian noted. “The smoother side says we survived and represents the present and the future.”

The sharpest corner points toward Armenia, but the memorial is meant to have universal meaning, Thomasian said.

“Part of this is a memorial to the Armenian Genocide, but we didn’t want it to be just for Armenians, but about the whole human condition,” added Parian, a photography professor at Cal State Northridge.

Despite its somber reminder, the monument also offers advice. Engraved around it is a saying made famous by novelist, playwright and short story 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.”