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Haley Gallery on a mission to enlighten the world

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  • Haley Gallery on a mission to enlighten the world

    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."
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