FRESNO, CA — The William Saroyan Museum officially opened Friday, August 31st, in Fresno, on the 110th birthday anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize winner, in the presence of the Mayor of City of Fresno Lee Brand, Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria (in whose district Saroyan’s house in located), benefactor of the Museum from Armenia Mr. and Mrs. Artur Janibekyan. Also present was Hon. Grigor Hovhannisyan, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States, as well as the honorary consuls Apkarian of Fresno and Hjiuajui of Las Vegas. Some guests from San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, Los Angeles and other parts of California.
Because it is in an area where citizens live, the city permitted only 40 to 50 people at the opening, so that there would not congestion in the neighborhood.
The program started at 4:30 pm when Janibekyan, Mayor Brand and councilwoman Soria participated in the unveiling of the plaque on the front wall of the Museum and the ribbon cutting ceremony, emceed by Professor Barlow Der Mugerditchian, Chair of the Armenian studies Program at Fresno State University. Those present at the opening enjoyed the hologram of Saroyan, his working desk, artifacts, some of his watercolor paintings, covers of his paintings, covers of his books, and many historic pictures, including the burial of half of his ashes in Yerevan on May 29, 1982. The ashes were taken to Armenia by a delegation headed by Professor Osheen Keshishian, Allan Jendian, attorney Robert Demir, and Dr. Dikran Kouyoumjian. A reception was given in the backyard of the Museum.
Saroyan was born in Fresno in 1908 and died at the Veterans Hospital in 1981 of cancer. He purchased the home on Griffith Way seventeen years before his death and split his time there and abroad.
The Renaissance Cultural and Intellectual Foundation, based in Armenia, headed by Artur Janibekyan, purchased the home in 2015, and set out to renovate it to honor Saroyan and the Armenian community. Councilwoman Soria said Saroyan grew up in what is now downtown Fresno because of a city law that blocked immigrants from owning or living in certain areas. “Despite all of this Saroyan still felt and left his heart here in Fresno,” she said.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sundays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.