‘I’ve learned that art is a way to transform an experience or feeling so that I can see it in a truer way.’
New Hyde Park
“I’m an Armenian American, and a lot of my work in the arts has been connected to the Armenian genocide and recognition of it in the U.S. My grandfather was a child survivor and became a famous cubist impressionist painter in Cairo, Egypt, where a lot of the diaspora Armenians went.
“When my family moved to Queens and subsequently to Melville, my grandfather was with us the whole time. I was really close to him and I would watch him paint and create this meaningful life that was almost taken away from him. I realized that art was a way to make meaning of our own lives. That led me to an immersion in the arts, and now I’m a poet, essayist, musician and teacher.
“Armenians are tethered to a rich, cultural past with beautiful artistry. We’re slightly romantic, but we’re also resilient and tough. My grandfather’s craft helped me realize I couldn’t be anything else except an educator. I saw how important it is for us to have voice and tackle issues through writing and art. There’s this idea of teaching and helping people create change for themselves, but being an English teacher helped me explore the questions I had for myself as an artist. What better way to learn about poetry than to teach poetry?
We’re attracted to a beautiful painting or a great film because it transports us into a truer place. I explored my identity and my students’ lives through poetry.
“Teaching is a student-centered art. I run a songwriting club, and it’s a way for me to understand what makes people feel alive when they’re listening to music. When I was a kid, I’d play guitar and sing alternative rock on Long Island and in New York. I would cover songs that inspired people to embrace life. I made dozens of albums and performed more than 1,100 times across America. A commitment to art, whether it be through the process of making it or having it around in our lives, is a commitment to making meaning of our lives.
“I’ve learned that art is a way to transform an experience or feeling so that I can see it in a truer way. We’re attracted to a beautiful painting or a great film because it transports us into a truer place. I explored my identity and my students’ lives through poetry. In my music, I’ve explored the extent to which sound can lift us and bring us to these rooms which we don’t visit often and should visit more. In the classroom it all comes together.”