Portsmouth Herald News, NH
June 28 2005

Haley Gallery on a mission to enlighten the world

By Jeanne' McCartin
[email protected]

Jackie Abramian and her family moved to the Seacoast looking for a
simpler, more diverse life surrounded by nature, where they could
build on a dream that is part love, part mission. It's been a year
since they've lived in Kittery full time, and six months since they
opened Haley Farm Gallery - a space where she reaches out to the
neighbors and world.

"We were looking for somewhere to be for many years to come, and to
have a gift shop/bookstore, gallery, something like that. ... We had
talked about it for year," she says. "We saw the potential here. ...
There are so many artists here, beautiful scenery, we thought it just
has to be."

As Abramian explains, she's not an art historian, her degree is in
journalism not art, and she's not an artist. Her motivations for a
gallery lie in her love of creativity, and humanity. In her mind the
two are intertwined. Art, when done well, provides a deeper meaning and
understanding of ourselves, she says. That belief drives the exhibition
selections. Haley's first display was the work of local schoolchildren
- it was a way to meet the neighbors. The next featured two nationally
renowned artists, Samuel Bak and Berj Kailian, one a survivor of the
Holocaust, the other of the early 20th-century Armenian genocide,
respectively. It was during a period both horrors were marking major
anniversaries, something that needed to be noted, she says.

The two artists' works speak not only of the incident, but also to
survival and hope. They, like any true artist, bring truth to light,
she says. For Abramian truth is art's value.

"I have to say there are so many crazy things in this world, wars,
human trafficking, drugs, abuse, I think art is where we find solace.
It is the only sane aspect of our existence," she says, in a voice
lightly laced by an accent. Sharing that element is one motivation
behind the gallery. Another is she and her husband are collectors,
who find art a necessity to a rich and well-lived life. They also
appreciate the relationships they build with those who create the work.

"Whether it's a filmmaker capturing the struggle of a village in a
far-away land, or a poem you read and are moved by, (artists) have
a different eye, not the same as I have. ... I appreciate that when
they look at life, war and abuse, they see a different thing that is
the only thing we can hang on to that's truthful."

But, she concedes, not all creations contain truth. There are
paintings, sculpture and writings that don't qualify as art, though
they may appear as such. They're pure propaganda, work motivated by
a different place, an institution, or government, "not produced by
a creative artist."

"Look at the former Soviet Union, there were artist within it that all
they created was propaganda. That artist is not an artist in my book,
even if they think so. They have been manipulated. Maybe they had to
sell their soul to survive. But there were true artists who didn't."

It happens everywhere, she adds. But the discerning eye, and
intelligent person knows the difference.

"You know who's taking pictures to show you things you know are not
happening. You can see. It's an insult to your intelligence. ... You
can see there is no challenge. Some people would want propaganda in
their gallery. It's their choice, but I won't have it here. ... My
husband and I strive to bring a message"

Although every Haley exhibition won't have to make a powerful social
or political statement, she hopes all will at least have visitors
look differently at things. She notes the work of Lisa Reinke, who
exhibited back in May.

"Lisa says, 'We miss to pause and see humanity in humanity.' That is
her message."

When asked if her gallery is in fact a mission, Abramian laughs out
loud. "Yes it is," she says. "We didn't have a business plan on this,
where we expressed our political and social idea, but it has become
that because that's who we are - it just comes out somehow."

There is purpose even in the gift items offered at the gallery. Each
is a one-of-a-kind item, purchased from privately owned cottage

This focus started before their Kittery life.

Abramian, who speaks "four and a half, five languages," which are
Armenian, Farsi, (spoken in Iran) Turkish, English and a bit of German,
is a former journalist. In addition to writing for magazines and
newspapers, she published two books "Conversations With Contemporary
Armenian Artists," (Amana Books) and "Get Paid to Travel the World"
(Cader Publishing), before moving into public relations.

It was her interest in her heritage and world affairs that prompted
her involvement with the Cambridge Peace Project, in the mid '90s.
She would be one of its first ambassadors to Armenia, where she would
return numerous times over the next few years. In 2001, she visited
Armenia with her family. It was during this trip she connected with
people struggling to keep their cottage industries going, and began
the effort to help distribute their items in the United States.

"We're so lucky we can have (the gallery) as a channel. My husband and
I are always caring about what goes on around the world in Africa,
the former Soviet, Iraq. Maybe some people think we're crazy for
caring about it. But we are human beings and we should care about
human beings. No matter who they are, we should care."

So, in their own way, in a small gallery on a Maine back road, they're
trying do their part to support the effort of others, and enrich lives.

As for establishing that gallery off the beaten path, well it's another
choice some have called foolhardy or at least wildly optimistic. A
friend who owns a gallery in Boston warned, "you're not going to
make money."

"We said, it's OK. ... We didn't think this was a million-dollar
endeavor we were taking on. ... We still need jobs. However it's what
you want to do, so you do it," she says. "I believe in time we'll
be recognized."