The Swallow Project

The Swallow Project was inspired by a small hand-carved metal swallow crafted by my grandfather while he was held in a WWI POW camp. It is inscribed in Armenian with the phrase, “With my tears I send greetings to my people/compatriots from whom I have been separated.”

This project invited Marketplace vendors, workers, and visitors to enter the space, consider their own sense of exile and on the wooden cards provided, write a personal message ‘home’ — to their real or imagined place of belonging, homeland, people, or community.

At the end of the project, those cards were transformed into small magnetic plaques to be taken home by visitors, sending into flight the home-bound aspirations of this community.

My grandfather was placed in a POW camp after WWI having been conscripted into the Turkish army as an Armenian citizen of Turkey. He was taken from his priesthood studies at Armash Seminary and was sent on a march toward the Syrian desert in a caravan of other 17-18 year old boys. Back home, his family in Papert was undergoing killings, kidnapping, and exile as part of the Armenian genocide. He escaped from the caravan but was quickly found and assigned as a medical assistant in the Turkish army. Later, he was found by the Allied Powers and taken to a POW camp in Cairo. While a prisoner there, he carved this swallow’s image and message.

The Swallow Project offers an extreme example of how we all simultaneously live with limits and possibilities — in different proportions depending on the particular circumstance of our lives. This project aims to acknowledge that which limits us, and bring focus to our individual aspirations, our hopes and visions for a better life.

Midtown Global Market, with its diverse gathering of people was an ideal location to reflect across cultures and experience to read other’s notes and reflections. This installation offered us the opportunity to experience our collective aspirations for ‘home.’

Visitors were invited to participate with this notice posted with the installation:


You are invited to consider both home and exile – as those feelings or realities exist in your life and write your response on one of the wooden cards using the pen provided. Then hang your note on one of the vines.

Home is many things; a place, a sensibility, a memory, an identity of belonging.

Exile is the separation from home whether voluntary or by force of circumstance.

What does ‘home’ mean to you? Are there ways you’ve been separated from there?

From where/what do you have a sense of exile? What is the nature of your separation?

What message, thoughts, or desires would you send home?

On April 25th, starting at 3pm, your note will be transformed from a hanging note card into a magnetic placard and be given away.