Armenian Orphan Rug Mural at Zakian Carpet Cleaning by Kathryn Pannepacker
August 7th, a beautiful sunny Summer Day, there was a big party at 4930 Parkside Avenue. Rows of chairs were lined up on the carpeted sidewalk in front of Zakian Carpet Cleaning. The Philly press, politicians, artists, neighbors and friends all gathered for an unveiling of an important artwork. The story of the Armenian Orphan Rug is difficult to explain without tears coming to my eyes since it was woven by hundreds of orphaned children; the Armenian Orphan Rug Mural memorializes the genocide of over one million Armenians a century ago.
Zakian Carpet Cleaning owner Bob Zakian hired Kathryn Pannepacker to create a mural for a large expanse of wall on the front of the historic factory. Kathryn is well known for her carpet themed murals throughout Philly and understands how to make large scale projects happen. Philadelphia mural artists Kathryn Pannepacker and Angela Crafton along with apprentice Lizzy Mamourian interpreted the carpet in a bold, eye catching, design complementing the architecture and telling the tragic tale of Armenian annihilation with confidence and sensitivity. Lizzy had never worked on such a big project and as a representative of the Zakian family, her input to the completion of the mural can not be understated.
“Not many businesses have been around since 1923 much less still run by the same family. Each day when Bob Zakian arrives at his rug cleaning plant and showroom on Parkside Avenue, across from the Mann Music Center, he is reminded how his grandfather and then his father took extreme care in cleaning their customers’ valuable Oriental rugs.” – About Zakian Carpet Cleaning
“The rug is made to characterize the Garden of Eden, contains 4 million knots and took 18 months to complete. The rug measures 11.5 feet by 19 feet and is in excellent condition. It was removed with President Coolidge’s personal possessions when he left office in 1929 but was returned to the White House as a gift from his family in 1982. The rug has only been displayed twice since then, and is a reminder of the close relationship between the people of Armenia and the United States.” – The White House
At the mural unveiling I overheard comments from Armenians whose families were affected by the genocide. Families reconnected with cousins of cousins, and friends of friends. The mural is a metaphor for the awful separation of families, children were sent to orphanages all over Europe, and a hundred years later Armenians are still reconnecting with relatives.
The Armenian Orphan Rug, also known as the Ghazir Orphans’ Rug, is an Armenian styled carpet woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide in Ghazir, Lebanon. The carpet took eighteen months to make and was eventually shipped to the United States where it was given to President Calvin Coolidge as a gift in 1925. It was returned by the Coolidge family to the White House in 1982. Its most recent public display was in November 2014 at the White House Visitors’ Center as part of the exhibition “Thank you to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad”. – Wikipedia
“Third generation Philadelphia business owner Bob Zakian’s rug cleaning business has been a cornerstone of the Parkside neighborhood of the city for more than 92 years. Zakian’s grandparents opened Zakian Rug Cleaning in 1923 shortly after emigrating from Armenia and surviving the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
In honor of the100th anniversary of the genocide, Bob Zakian knew he wanted to pay tribute to his family’s heritage as well as give back to Parkside, the neighborhood his business has always called home.” – Kathryn Pannepacker
Bob Zakian, Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown, Lizzy Mamourian, Kathryn Pannepacker, State Senator Vincent Hughes, and Angela Crafton at the unveiling of Armenian Orphan Rug Mural at Zakian Carpet Cleaning by Kathryn Pannepacker.
Read Mural honors Armenian heritage, Parkside neighborhood, by The Philadelphia Tribune staff writer Bobbie Booker.
“In honor of the 100th anniversary of the genocide, Zakian knew he wanted to share his history in the neighborhood his business has always called home.” – Bobbi Brooker
When you drive down Parkside Avenue and you catch a glimpse of the colorful mural take some time to stop and take a closer look. The design incorporates fanciful animals, natural and supernatural, like characters from a child’s favorite book. One of my earliest memories is my Grandma reading to me. Armenian Orphan Rug Mural at Zakian Carpet Cleaning kindly explains the unfathomable gap of maternal and familial love that was experienced by generations of Armenians.
Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted.
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