“Intrepid Zabel” - Sculpture of Zabel Yessayan by Nune Tumanyan

Innovating Armenian Enterprise: Victor Zarougian and Judy Saryan Integrate Art and Agriculture in the Homeland

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By Lisa Kradjian

BOSTON — After successful careers in real estate and finance, Victor Zarougian and Judy Saryan of Boston have championed Armenian philanthropy in many ways. Their latest effort combines their passion for sustainable agriculture and for art. In doing so they are raising awareness for both organizations and creating new opportunities to sustain Armenian enterprise.

Victor Zarougian was born in Cairo, Egypt and immigrated to the US in 1962. After attaining his BA at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, he pursued a career in urban real estate management and development. He has a strong interest in geography and developmental economics which he has put to excellent use in his philanthropic efforts, particularly in Armenia, with organizations such as the Tufenkian Foundation, Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE), TUMO and others.

Judy Saryan was born in Delaware and graduated from Wellesley College with a major in economics. She spent her career in the financial industry, most recently at Eaton Vance Management, where she was vice president and a portfolio manager. She has provided financial commentary for several media outlets. After retirement, Saryan decided to pursue her passion for literature and history, and in partnership with the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), published translations of Zabel Yessayan and others. She also has worked on philanthropic projects with AIWA, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, among others.

The couple’s passion for supporting Armenia took a new turn in recent years, as they decided to pursue two major goals concurrently: to support sustainable agriculture in Armenia, and to support Armenian artists — both areas that have long been part of Armenia’s history and accomplishments.

Philanthropists Victor Zarougian and Judy Saryan

ICARE’s EcoFarm and the Armenian Artists Project

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In 2005 Texas A&M University, Armenian National Agrarian University and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, founded ICARE — a non-governmental and non-commercial organization in Yerevan. It provides degrees in agribusiness education to achieve sustainable entrepreneurial activities in the food and agriculture sector in Armenia. ICARE is an umbrella institution for the Agribusiness Teaching Center (ATC, the flagship unit of ICARE), the Agribusiness Research Center (ARC), and the EVN Wine Academy. It also prepares agribusiness specialists at undergraduate and graduate levels, armed with broad economic, marketing, and managerial skills, up-to-date communication abilities, and excellent knowledge of English. These skills make ATC graduates competitive in the growing regional agribusiness sector.

Because they saw the immense benefits of renewable energy in Armenia, the two first partnered with ICARE in 2014 on their solar panel project, the largest solar project in Armenia at the time. They continued their involvement with a donation for the development of the EVN Wine Academy. Saryan and Zarougian appreciated the education that ICARE offers. Most recently they are working with ICARE to establish its EcoFarm, an incubation center promoting environmentally conscious agriculture, agribusiness research and startups, and responding to the challenges of climate change. They did so in response to the socio-economic condition of Armenia and to the opportunity to develop a leading-edge institution.

Around the same time, through colleagues, Victor and Judy came in contact with the Armenian Artists Project (AAP) which supports Armenian artists and economy by selling their works online around the world, with proceeds going to the artist and to charitable efforts in Armenia. AAP has already sold more than $150,000 worth of artwork by 35 Armenian artists and contributing approximately $65,000 to Armenia’s economy and charities supporting Armenia.

Sculptor Nune Tumanyan

The couple saw an opportunity for a truly distinctive synergy between ICARE and AAP. They made a donation to AAP artist and sculptor Nune Tumanyan to create a sculpture of Zabel Yessayan, a courageous Armenian woman (1878-1943) who was a renowned writer, political activist, editor, and teacher, to be installed in front of the ICARE EcoFarm. They felt it was important to highlight Yessayan’s impact on Armenian literature, history, and education and to also support a female Armenian artist.

Titled “Անվհեր Զապէլ,” or Intrepid Zabel, the greater-than-lifesize sculpture reflects her courage and devotion as a leader and advocate for human rights.

The work also reflects the passion of sculptor Tumanyan, for her homeland and its women. Born in Yerevan, Tumanyan has held positions as a Professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Armenia and the head of the Department of Sculpture and Artists’ Union of Armenia. She is also the curator of the Project “Urban Sculpture,” aimed at improving the artistic look of Yerevan through the creative works of the sculptors of Armenia. She has won numerous awards at the Ravenna Biennale in Italy and has had work exhibited at the National Art Gallery of Armenia, and around the world. Her sculptures are also held in both private and corporate collections in Armenia, and worldwide.

The sculpture is scheduled to be installed at a formal ceremony at ICARE in Fall 2022.

 

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