Cafesjian Center for the Arts   »   News   »   In Memoriam: Gerard L. Cafesjian

In Memoriam: Gerard L. Cafesjian

September 19, 2013
Gerard Leon Cafesjian was a remarkable man. Born in Brooklyn, New York on April 26, 1925 to Armenian immigrant parents, Gerard fought in a war, made a fortune, saved a carousel and founded a magnificent Center for the Arts in his ancestral home, Armenia.

After graduating from New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, New York (later the setting for the TV show "Welcome Back Kotter"), Gerard joined the U.S. Navy and fought bravely in the South Pacific During World War II. He met Cleo Thomas in 1946 In New York City; they were both in uniform - he in his sailor blues, she in her nursing whites. They married on July 4, 1947.

Gerard attended Hunter College and later St. Johns Law School, courtesy of the G.I. Bill. After practicing law in New York City for several years, Gerard joined the editorial staff of legal publishing company Edward J. Thompson. In 1960 Gerard and his family moved to St Paul Minnesota where he began his long and distinguished career at West Publishing Company. As Sr. Vice President of Marketing, Advertising and West Law, he helped usher in the age of computerized legal research. As one of the owners of the privately held company, he amassed a fortune upon its sale to Thompson Corp. in 1996. 

In 1988 he donated one million dollars to prevent the dismantling and sale of the historic State Fair Carousel which now bears his name. In 2000, he donated an additional sum to construct the building in Como Park where it is now housed and enjoyed by thousands each year.

As a passionate and life long art collector, one of Gerard's greatest achievements was to create the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia. Housed in a unique, ziggurat-style structure called the Cascade, the Center is a hub for both visual and performing arts and contains works by world renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly, Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova, Pablo Picasso, Arshile Gorky, Jaume Plensa and others. The Center also boasts a sculpture garden containing works by artists such as Fernando Botero, Lynn Chadwick, Barry Flanagan and others.

A fighter all his life, Gerard was finally dealt a blow from which he could not recover when his beloved wife of 66 years passed away in March of this year. Cleo Cafesjian was as vital to him as the beat of his own heart and without her, broken hearted; he departed this world on September 15, 2013.

Gerard was pre-deceased by his parents, Nora Tashjian and Levon Cafesjian, by his son Gerard Cafesjian Jr. and by his beloved wife, Cleo Thomas Cafesjian. He is survived by his sister Mary Dobbs, his daughter Kathleen Baradaran (Jaff Baradaran), his son Thomas Cafesjian, his Granddaughter Carrie Martinson (Ben Jones) and his three Great-Grandsons, Sam, Eli and Jack.

No Memorial or funeral service has been scheduled. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Cafesjian Museum Foundation, Inc. 15 South 5th Street Suite 900 Minneapolis MN 55402.

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CCA presented the project of Armenian National Pavilion within the framework of the 60th Venice Art Biennale
Admission and Hours

Cafesjian Sculpture Garden: always open.
Escalator Gallery: everyday, 8:00-20:00.
Exhibition Galleries, Museum Store and Visitor Center: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 10:00-20:00.
The Center is closed on state holidays.

From April 1 until October 31, CCA Museum Store, besides Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, will also be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 10:00am till 6:00pm.