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Grand Park debuts sculpture memorializing Armenian genocide

This monument commemorating the Armenian Genocide was unveiled Sep. 17, 2016 in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.
This monument commemorating the Armenian Genocide was unveiled Sep. 17, 2016 in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.
courtesy of the iWitness project

LACMA isn't the only Los Angeles venue with a Rock. Grand Park in downtown now has one. But it's smaller and memorializes a dark episode in history: the Armenian Genocide and its 1.5 million victims.

Conceived and designed by Ara Oshagan, Levon Parian and Vahagn Thomasian of the iWitness collective, the sculpture was unveiled on Saturday by county supervisor Michael Antonovich.

The monument is made of black volcanic tuff rock imported from Armenia's Ararat Valley. It weighs about five tons and sits in Grand Park's Olive Court.

Every aspect of the monument has meaning, according to Thomasian.

The rock is split into two, signifying the disruption caused by genocide or mass atrocity. It has many angles and is unevenly shaped.

The juxtaposition of smooth and rough surfaces also symbolizes that disruption as well as the split between the past and the present.

"The large rough jagged piece of the monument represents the struggle of the Armenian people following the genocide. The smaller piece with the smooth surface represents the rebirth of the Armenian people," he tells KPCC.

The rock has been sculpted at 4, 24, 19 and 15 degrees to highlight the date of April 24, 1915 — the day the genocide began.

Although L.A. County has two other memorials to the Armenian genocide — one in Montebello and one that was installed in 2015 in Pasadena — this is the first such monument in the city of Los Angeles.

Wrapped around the foot of the memorial are words by Pulitzer Prize winning Armenian-American author William Saroyan, urging people to remember the past, live for the present and strive for the future.

"The wording doesn't just talk about the Armenian Genocide but about many other genocides," Thomasian says. "It kind of gives hope that things like this don't happen again."