I met a truly inspiring young lady last tonight, Liana Aghajanian. She is new to Detroit coming from Los Angeles as she is a recipient of a residency for two years, part of Write-A-House. She was one of 232 applicants from around the US and five other countries.
Detroit based Write-A-House supports journalists by inspiring creativity as they leverage (which are in abundance) distressed housing that will “promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, and creative arts”. Grassroots level work that combines the arts community and Detroit’s neighborhoods is the mission of this organization. Basically, Liana was given a free house that she will live in for two years and then handed the deed to become a true homeowner.
Liana is of Armenian decent, born in Iran and moving to the United States when she was a little girl. She is an independent journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Foreign Policy, the BBC, Al Jazeera America, and The Atlantic, among other publications. She has been to Mongolia, Kenya, Germany, United Kingdom and much more. Her focus is on writing about topics others wont or don’t cover.
Sure, this initially caught my eye when I saw that an Armenian won this residency, but what made it extra special was that she is an artist (and a writer/journalist is just that) coming to Detroit. I was excited to meet and welcome her to Detroit.
A reception and conversation was held at Shinola in Midtown Detroit, one of the epicenters of redevelopment in Detroit. Introduction was made by Toby Barlow, Team Detroit. The conversation was moderated by Steve Byrne, Arts and Entertainment Editor of Detroit Free Press.
Liana and I corresponded online a few months back and even in her messages, you could sense the excitement of this new adventure she was about to begin. It was great to finally meet her in person. She was with her partner, graphic designer Keegam Shamlian. Keegam, I didn’t know until I got home, is the awesome inspiration behind the Ara The Rat clothing line for Armenian themed shirts. I can see Liana and Keegam make a good team.
Moving from Los Angeles (sunny and warm) to Detroit (cold and sometimes sunny!) was no easy feat and you can see the excitement and adventure in her eyes. What struck me the most during her conversation with Steve was that coming from Los Angeles, she never experienced ‘quiet’. Always there was noise around her – family, friends – there never was the peacefulness that artists sometimes
crave in order to hone their craft. When she came to Detroit, she immediately felt the silence she never had and it made her feel at home.
Detroit has embraced her. Too often we lose talent to other areas around the globe, but this time we are all the recipients of this great talent that has come to Detroit to write, to learn, to be inspired and shed light about topics others wont or don’t cover.
Watch the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-73zMXpPG8E