My arts picks for the week include a chance to learn more about the culture and history of a region you’ve heard about a lot over the years, plus a special play reading for a good cause and the kickoff of a mini-fringe festival.
The event: The Armenian Museum of Fresno celebrates the 25th anniversary of the independence of Artsakh, the eastern province of historical Armenia referred to in modern terms as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Two exhibitions mark the historic event: “Spirit of Artsakh,” which through a series of panels offers 2,500 years of history, faith, culture and the struggle for self-determination of Artsakh-Armenians; and “Armenia: From BC to Christianity,” a collection of 31 history paintings by Clovis artist Rubik Kocharian.
The special guest: Robert Avetisyan, who represents Nagorno-Karabakh in Washington, D.C., as the republic’s official “permanent representative” (the region is in a sort of diplomatic limbo) to the United States, will be on hand for the opening reception. He will speak about current conditions in his country. Avetisyan returned from a visit just a few weeks ago.
The draw: A major reason for the show is to acknowledge the “strong expression of the deep-rooted commitment of the Armenian Diaspora’s link to our ancestral homeland Artsakh,” says Varoujan Der Simonian, curator along with Ani Grigoryan (who was born in Artsakh) of both exhibitions. But it can also be an opportunity for people who don’t know much about the region to get a grounding in a region that has received a lot of media attention over the decades.
The history: “Spirit of Artsakh” was conceived, Der Simonian says, as a way to familiarize people with the historical and cultural situation in the region, which has experienced armed conflict and political upheaval. Such topics as history, literature, clothing and landscapes are covered in text and images.
The art: Kocharian paints in a realistic style. In his series of oil paintings on canvas, he takes significant moments in Armenian history and interprets them. In his “Baking Lavash Bread,” for example, he pays tribute to the unusual technique for producing it and the role lavash plays in the community. Kocharian will be on hand at the opening reception.
Details: The opening reception is from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, at the Armenian Museum of Fresno Exhibition Hall, housed in the UC Center at 550 E. Shaw Ave. Admission is free. The two exhibitions continue through Dec. 16. www.armof.org.
Mother and daughter
The event: A staged reading of Kathleen Tolan’s “Memory House,” about a girl trying to finish her college essay while her mother bakes a pie. “As the deadline looms, unexamined issues of the girl’s adoption from Russia, the rupture of her parents’ divorce and the fear of leaving home break through the surface.”
The draw: Amelia Ryan, well known on the local theater scene, is performing in the reading with her daughter, Alice Ryan, as a benefit to help Leslie and Jeff Martin’s efforts to adopt Samantha, an orphan from Ukraine. It’s one of several events put together by members of the arts community to help the cause.
More online: To read an interview with Amelia Ryan, go to www.fresnobeehive.com.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave. Suggested donation is $10. Tickets available at door or at email@example.com.
The event: With “Seattle to Fresno: Best of Fringe,” you get a chance to experience five different fringe-festival-style shows Sept. 8-11 at Mia Cuppa Caffe.
The draw: Sponsored by Fresno’s Rogue Festival, this is the third time around for this mini-version, which is curated by former Rogue producer Jayne Day and Seattle’s Minion Productions. The lineup includes both local productions (Fresno Dance Collective, or NOCO; stand-up comedy by Jaguar Bennett, the Inner Ear poetry folks) and out-of-town shows (Portland-based Box of Clowns; the touring “one-man-folk-punk riot” Strangely).
Opening night: The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, with NOCO’s “what the body remembers,” an original work by Elijah Munoz. That’s followed at 7:30 p.m. by “Mustache Party! The Salvador Dali Show” by Box of Clowns. (Press material describes the group this way: It’s as if “Carol Burnett and the Three Stooges had triplets who were raised by Mr. Bean.”) They’re followed at 9 p.m. by “Voices from Inner Ear.”
Details: Mia Cuppa Caffé, 620 E Olive Ave. www.minionproductions.org/seattle-to-fresno. Tickets are $10.