Haroutioun Gurunian was a man invested in all of life’s most beautiful trades: in music, in dance, in art. From a young age, he was committed to creating, committed to forming worlds apart from his own and sharing his incredible talent with those around him. He would travel across continents with his artisanship and artistry sustaining him and ultimately leave behind a legacy of excellence, passion and generosity.
Born in 1956 in Lebanon’s Bourj Hammoud, Haroutioun was the youngest of five children in an Armenian family. He attended the Mesrobian Armenian Catholic School and although he would ultimately leave his formal education to pursue artisanship after middle school, he was a dedicated scout during his years there. As a scout, he would find creative ways to complete tasks, often making figurines out of the materials he was given: wood, clay and even soap. Soon his interest in his classes waned as his artistic ambition grew and it wasn’t long before he joined his father to work in the family foundry business. There, a new world of materials was available to him: aluminum, copper, steel—and he could explore with them all. As he was delving into sculpting, carving and metalworking, he was also experimenting with other art forms.
Never one to limit himself, Haroutioun also began taking accordion lessons. It all seemed to be something innate to him, passed down ancestrally.
When the civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975, Haroutioun left for Paris, France. A young, ambitious and talented artisan, he was taken under the wing of an Armenian jewelry maker almost immediately. It was there that he would gain access to the tools that would marry his artistic passion with his technical skill. He was only 19 years old but this art form would take him to a new land in a few years and support him through his life.
As the war continued in Lebanon, Haroutioun decided to emigrate once again, this time to the United States. When he settled in New Jersey, he joined the Antranig Dance Ensemble to maintain an active connection to his Armenian culture. At the same time, he found a way to put his craft to work. He began working for an established jewelry designer and manufacturer in New York City. In his decades working for the company, Haroutioun tried his hand at all different types of jewelry— bracelets, rings, earrings, brooches; they would give him designs and he would work enthusiastically to bring them to life. At this time, he also began working independently—formally creating his own designs with larger, idiosyncratic statement pieces. He focused on transposing the natural world into his pieces—tigers, alligators, birds of paradise were all common motifs.
His good-hearted nature was noted by many and attracted a vibrant community of people around him. Haroutioun would marry later in life but after only six years of marriage, he was diagnosed with cancer. When he passed away after a two-year battle, a memorial fund was established in his name to honor his spirit of generosity. The purpose of the endowment is to provide access to medical support through the healthcare initiatives of the AGBU.