USAID Honors Armenia's Success at 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in USA

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US Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills presents an appreciation award to the Director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Sabrina Motley, during the reception at the US Embassy in Yerevan.
Robert Kent, for USAID

For Immediate Release

Friday, October 5, 2018

This summer, 740,000 visitors from across the United States and around the world experienced Armenian food, craft, music, dance, and folk traditions during the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. Armenia was the first country in the Caucasus region to be featured at the renowned festival in the heart of the U.S. capital. During the ten-day event, through dozens of interactive performances and presentations, 216 participants from the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian-American diaspora taught visitors how to cook, bake, dance, weave, carve, and toast like Armenians.

On October 5, as a tribute to the resounding success of the “Armenia: Creating Home” program, and in recognition of the participants’ relentless efforts to expose hundreds of thousands of Americans to Armenia’s rich cultural heritage, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills, Jr. and USAID Armenia Mission Director Deborah Grieser honored the Armenian artisans and artists, the curatorial teams, and the supporting donors at a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.  Representatives of the Smithsonian Institution and Government of Armenia also attended the event.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Mills noted it had taken three years of tremendous effort by the Smithsonian Institution, the Government of Armenia, and the U.S. Government to bring Armenian culture to the American people through the Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. “I thank all the artisans, performers, food and wine experts, cultural presenters, and the program’s curatorial teams for their tireless efforts in guiding visitors through Armenia’s rich and diverse cultural and culinary traditions, introducing them to Armenian hospitality, and sharing the warmth of an Armenian home.”

The Ambassador also thanked the Government of Armenia and all of the donors for their remarkable support and collaboration to ensure a superb presentation of Armenia’s rich cultural heritage in the United States. “This is a great example of partnership that will far outlast the festival and will impact the economic development of the country and the wellbeing of Armenian citizens for years to come,” he said.

USAID Mission Director Deborah Grieser highlighted the continued efforts of My Armenia – a five-year cultural heritage tourism program funded by USAID and implemented by the Smithsonian Institution – in developing Armenia’s tourism industry to create jobs and drive economic growth in rural communities. 

Starting in three provinces and now covering five, My Armenia works with many local partners to market Armenia as a unique tourism destination. On the sidelines of the 2018 Folklife Festival, My Armenia organized three business-to-business meetings in Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC, aimed at boosting Armenia as an attractive cultural heritage tourism destination and creating business linkages to increase the number of tourists from the United States to Armenia. As a direct outcome of these meetings, a group of American tour operators will visit Armenia in Spring 2019 to explore partnership avenues. My Armenia also promotes Armenia, its people, places, and traditions through engaging stories on the program’s webpage and the Smithsonian’s storytelling hub.

My Armenia helps local artisans create opportunities for enriching tourism experiences and one-on-one cultural exchanges. Program assistance covers the entire value chain: from revitalization of Armenian craft traditions via modern products to linking the artisans to tourism supply markets.

“While many of Armenia’s talented craftsmen were able to showcase and sell their works at the Folklife Festival, another unique festival, this time in Yerevan, will allow both locals and visitors to see some of the new products created by our partner artisans from Tavush and Shirak regions,” Grieser said. The My Handmade Armenia festival, which will be held on October 14 at the Cafesjian Sculpture Garden in Yerevan, will demonstrate the results of the program’s collaboration with the Teryan Cultural Center, including works of woodcarving, embroidery, knitting, pottery, carpet weaving and more.

During the reception, Ambassador Mills presented appreciation awards to the Government of Armenia, the curatorial teams of the Smithsonian Institution and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, and the My Armenia Program for their critical contributions to the success of the “Armenia: Creating Home” program in the States. Lively musical performances by three festival participants, Mikayel Voskanyan & Friends, Menq and Hrayrk, closed the event, sharing the spirit of the 2018 Folklife Festival with those present.

The “Armenia: Creating Home” program partners included the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, the My Armenia Program, USAID, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, and the Embassy of Armenia to the United States of America.