Unique new mural unveiled in Parkside

Senator Vincent Hughes speaking at unveiling ceremony
Senator Vincent Hughes speaking at unveiling ceremony

On a beautiful afternoon in August, a ceremony was held to honor the victims of a 100 year old atrocity, the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  Some area residents may not see the immediate connection to Parkside, but look a little closer and you will discover the international connections that exist in our area to this day.

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 the 100th 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.

Bob Zakian , along with local artists Kathryn Pannepacker and Angela Crafton, unveiled their painted mural interpretation of the world famous Armenian Orphan Rug, which was woven /hand-knotted by more than 400 orphaned Armenian girls in Ghazir, Lebanon, and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire’s government (present-day Turkey) initiated the systematic extermination and deportation of an estimated 1.5 million men, women, and children of ethnic Armenian Christian descent.

In observance of the 100th anniversary of this genocide, Zakian Rug Cleaning opened its doors to celebrate Armenian culture with all of Parkside. The free event featured Armenian food, music, and a live rug repair workshop to welcome the neighborhood as part of the Zakian family.

“I’m excited to couple my reverence for my family’s Armenian heritage with my adoration for the neighborhood that has supported our business for 92 years,” said Zakian. “Parkside has gone through so many changes over the years, and I’m delighted to take part in the renaissance the neighborhood is undergoing. I’m delighted to invite our friends and neighbors to gain a better understanding of our culture and celebrate what’s happening here.”

In recent years, Parkside has seen a resurgence in development including the opening of Park West Town Center shopping plaza, which generated several retail spaces and more than 300 jobs; two new charter schools — Discovery Charter School and KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy; the creation of the Negro League Memorial Park and Mural; the opening of the Please Touch Museum’s new ‘Imagination Playground’ and ‘Good Morning Garden’ programs; the addition of the new Skyline Stage at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Add to that the Philadelphia Zoo’s expansion, which includes Big Cat Crossing, part of Zoo360 a network of see-though mesh trails where animals can roam around and above the grounds.

From the start, fate seemingly played a vital role in the creation of Parkside’s newest mural. While visiting Washington, D.C. last year to view the Armenian Orphan Rug in-person, Zakian bumped into his niece Lizzy Mamourian, who immediately suggested Zakian should create his own version of the rug. Thanks to his niece, Bob found mural artist Kathryn Pannepacker. Zakian conceived the perfect way to venerate his lineage and the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Kathryn has worked on several notable Mural Arts Program murals including her “Wall of Rugs” at Belmont and Girard Avenues; “Wall of Rugs, #2” at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue; and “Nana Blankets,” the third in the Wall of Rugs series.

Bob Zakian, along with artist Kathryn Pannepacker, State Rep. Vanessa Brown and Senator Vincent Hughes
Bob Zakian, along with artist Kathryn Pannepacker, State Rep. Vanessa Brown and Senator Vincent Hughes

Joining Pannepacker on the Armenian Orphan Rug project is her assistant, Angela Crafton, who worked on many murals over the years via the Mural Arts Program with the non-profit’s re-entry programming. After completing Temple University fine arts classes, Crafton continues to focus on outreach, and making art.

“This project is totally in line with my creative style, and it’s been a freeing and expressive undertaking with Zakian Rug’s support,” said Pannepacker. “I believe this is one of the greatest pieces I’ve ever worked on & I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to interpret this very beautiful & meaningful rug.”

Zakian Rug Cleaning is located at 4930 W. Parkside Avenue. It provides area rug cleaning, oriental rug repairs and new carpet sales.

To learn more about Zakian Rug Cleaning, visit http://zakianrugs.com.

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