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Art Knows No Borders is a public art, literary, music, and relief event spearheaded by Crystal Allene Cook to raise awareness of the effects of war, ethnic conflicts, and genocide on present and subsequent generations, in particular the stalemate struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In 2004, Cook had the opportunity to conduct research in the Caucasus, with the assistance of a U.S. Fulbright. In 1991, as a recipient of an ACTR grant, she lived in the Soviet Union during its last days.

She is giving away her novel Bombardirovka as a public art project to promote discourse about the Caucasus, the effects of war, and American perception of political engagement.

The artists, writers, and musicians donating their work and time to Art Knows No Borders are doing so for the benefit of Doctors Without Borders. They are not receiving compensation for the work featured during this event.

What are the real borders? – In 2004, while researching a novel in the Caucasus, Cook talked for hours with someone leaving his job doing landmine retrieval to pursue his dream of playing in his town's new orchestra. He had this to say:

"After this war [between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh], we live in our heads. Nothing seems real any more. After knowing what I know now, I don't wish war on anyone, or on anyone's children. The financial assistance to us has been very helpful, but what has also meant a lot is when the French [Doctors Without Borders], when they have come and helped us deal psychologically. The psychological issues have been the most hard for us to grapple with."

After her time in the Caucasus, Cook knew when she came back, she wanted to figure out a way to support Doctors Without Borders.

Nagorno-Karabakh is between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both Armenians and Azeris claim a right to the area and went to war over the region in the early 1990s, displacing hundreds of thousands from both countries and killing upwards of 30,000. The area remains at cease fire. No peace has been brokered, and the entire region, from Turkey to Azerbaijan, is locked up with closed borders due to this ethnic crisis.

The stalemate in the ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan deterred many groups from working in the area. In 2003 and 2004, Doctors Without Borders, with its focus on independent humanitarian aid rather than politics, was at the time one of the few organizations able to deliver mental health care to people there. Currently, Doctors Without Borders runs Armenia’s only drug-resistant tuberculosis program.

 

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