BOSTON — One of the fanciest hotel banquet halls in Boston was filled to the brim with some 460 guests on September 21 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Armenian Heritage Park. The goal of the gala benefit at the InterContinental Hotel, titled “Celebrating Contributions of our Nation’s Immigrants,” was to further endow a legacy fund to care for and maintain the park – and it not only met but exceeded its targeted goal of $1 million. The evening honored three-time Pulitzer-Prize-winning Boston Globe journalist Stephen Kurkjian and recognized various organizations which serve immigrants and refugees in the Boston area.
Cindy Fitzgibbon, the chief meteorologist at WCVB-TV (Channel 5 Boston), served as the master of ceremonies, and in her opening remarks revealed that while she did not have an Armenian last name, she was half-Armenian on her mother’s side. She spoke of the immigrant stories which are retold in the park each spring in the abstract sculpture’s annual reconfiguration to create a new sculptural shape, while the labyrinth in the park is symbolic of life’s journey, with the message of hope and rebirth in the form of the single jet of water in the center.
Bruce Bagdasarian, vice president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, which is the sponsor of the park, and also a partner at Sheehan, Phinney, Bass and Green, explained that the park has many purposes, including to remember the Armenian Genocide and those who came before us, and to recognize Armenians as a “tribe” in Massachusetts. As part of the park’s broader connection to the immigrant experience, Bagdasarian then introduced five organizations doing exemplary work in this field, including the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, the International Institute of New England, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, RefugePoint and the Rian Immigration Center, and pointed out their leaders who were present. Each organization, he said, would receive a gift in support of their work. More information about their missions was presented in the program booklet for the evening, which also provided basic information about the park and its programs, Kurkjian, and a list of benefactors of the park.
James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, spoke next, and prefaced his remarks with a call for a quick, peaceful, and just resolution to the conflict that Azerbaijan had again revived through unprovoked attacks on Armenian soil. He asked that those present contact their government representatives to let them know of their concerns.
Kalustian thanked the gala committee chaired by Barbara Tellalian and the Friends of Armenian Heritage Park, the executive committee of the Armenian Heritage Foundation and various other contributors to the work of the park, as well as benefactors such as Peter Palandjian. Reflecting on the past 18 years of the park and prior preparations, Kalustian expressed pride in the generosity of the Armenian community and what it collectively achieved: “We did first of all what we said we would do. We gifted and endowed a beautiful and engaging park to the city and the commonwealth.”
Not stopping there, he continued: “We have done so much more than that. We have established a respectful but uplifting remembrance of the attempted genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, and all the horrific genocides that followed, and it is the first of its kind built on US federal government land…Armenian Heritage Park has become a gathering community for our community in greater Boston, Massachusetts and New England, but it has also become a beacon and example for other Armenian communities around the world.” It has become a focal point for celebration for many other communities, and a site of celebration for new citizens, he added.