It is a known fact that art is Gyumri’s treasure. We believe that the people of Gyumri, however, are the city’s hidden treasures. Their humor, their endurance, their hospitality, and their passion to keep the traditions of Gyumri alive arguably drew the 2015 Luys Gyumri team as much as the city’s culture did. We wanted to create a platform which emphasized the value of Gyumri’s people, not just its cultural capital.
Ashot Mirzoyan, a officer at the municipality and the City Resource Center, had started a project earlier this year documenting the oral histories of Gyumri’s people by video. He wanted to preserve not only Gyumri’s oral history, but the art of storytelling of its people. We decided to help.
Living History is an eBook--an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on an electric device, downloaded, saved as a pdf, and more--which features the stories and memories of Gyumretsis from every walks of life. It tells of a man who tried breaking free from the horse-drawn carriage business his grandfathers spent generations crafting, only to be ordered to drive a carriage around the town square by the government as an attraction. It tells of a female entrepreneur who fearlessly began a baking business after her grandfather, the only sweet bread baker in all of Gyumri, passed. The stories, many of which were given to the Luys team from Mr. Mirzoyan’s video collection, span different social classes and personal histories.
The Next Step:
The versatility of the eBook allows future Luys teams to continue to preserve oral histories by adding to the original file. We hope that future Luys teams continue to throw themselves not only into Gyumri’s culture, but into Gyumri’s everyday life. We ask that they speak to as many people as possible, and see each story they gain as a newly retrieved cultural artifact for the city.
Dance for Unity
Unfortunately, a stigma surrounding those with disabilities prevails in Armenia. While efforts to tend to this demographic have increased over the past years, these efforts often target “care” rather than “cooperation.” While many are willing to volunteer for those with disabilities, few have created a safe space where those with disabilities and those without disabilities can interact, learn, and grow as equals. Leaping Over Boundaries strives to create this space by using yet another art form that is rich in Gyumri--dance.
We prompted the cooperation between two NGOs—Endanik, an arts center for children, and Aregak, a center for children with disabilities. Though they catered to different demographics, they were seeking the same goal—a brighter future for Gyumri's generation achieved through art as a means of therapy and expression. We created an integrated dance team over a span of four days so the children and their parents could get to comfortably know one another. The first meeting was an arts party open to all the children of both centers. The children played interactive games and collaborated on a mural representing their cooperation. After the two following days of dance rehearsals, children who previously hesitated to mingle with those unlike themselves opened up to new friendships and began cherishing the time of integration.After three rehearsals, the integrated dance team performed for their peers and parents followed by a short celebration, proving that the two groups could create alongside one another.
The Next Step:
This is an important step for the complete integration of those with disabilities into societies which heavily favor those without. Those with disabilities were able to freely interact with children of their age as opposed to just volunteers of their organization. Aregak's dance teacher agreed to continue the dance team, continuing the tradition of integration. Hopefully, the collaboration of the two NGOs will prompt other spaces to become more handicap accessible, just as it will prompt Endanik to make its space more handicap accessible. We are certain that the project shall continue independent of Luys.
Filming in Gyumri is not an independent project. It is in fact a collaboration between Luys and Gyumri, between actors, between resources, between artists. The child actors of this film received a crash course on acting for the screen, introduced to new styles of the art in the theatre-heavy setting of Gyumri. By using different parts of Gyumri as the setting for a film--even the broken parts reminding us of the tragic earthquake of ‘88--we can depict Gyumri’s versatile landscape as a gem for films. Art can exist outside of the space of the theatre.
The Passing, directed by Victoria Aleksanyan, is a short film which poignantly connects the beloved tale, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with the history of Gyumri’s 1988 earthquake. The prince, a victim of the earthquake, travels multiple planets (represented by different landscapes in Gyumri) and speaks with people from different walks of life. Almost all of the actors are local Gyumretsis.
The Next Step:
In order to get Gyumri’s name out into the world, we will try to submit the film to as many festivals as possible.
American Corner Seminar
There was a great demand for workshops related to resumes, job interview protocol, and college entrance exams. The American Corner, an educational center in Gyumri, specifically asked for a workshop series revolving around TOEFLs, IELTS, CV writing, college entrance exams, and online courses. The children came prepared with many scenarios and questions. The Corner asked that the following Luys teams from Gyumri continue this tradition.
Last year, the Gyumri team created an incredible online platform featuring the biographies and works of local Gyumretsi artists. The platform allowed for the purchasing and selling of their artworks, featuring videos of their works explaining their artistic impulses. We updated the website this year by adding more artists to the platform. The next step, however, is to find someone to run the website locally. While Luys can continue to update the website annually, it cannot make the platform truly sustainable and functional unless it finds an organization to run it.
Gyumri Investment Book
Gyumri has a blossoming IT environment. We want to present Gyumri (and by extension, Armenia), as a growing environment for investment in order to attract investors and prompt further growth in the city.
The Gyumri Investment Book is an eBook featuring (so far) 12 promising startups and Gyumri businesses such as Technopark and even the newly developed educational Tumo Center, their recent growth, their projected growth, and more statistics. The investment book describes Gyumri’s emerging global startup ecosystem, fed by Technopark.
The Next Step:
Thanks to the versatility of the eBook platform, we can put the Investment Book on consulting websites--any online platform which attracts investors.
How was the Idea born?
The second largest city of Armenia – Gyumri is known as the city of crafts and arts. Moreover, it is not a secret that Gyumri has a valuable cultural heritage. However, this vast cultural potential is not justly shared with the world. Taking into consideration all these facts, a new idea was born, to create something that would serve the local artists and would give them an opportunity to export their art pieces.The idea was already there. The only thing was to bulid a team that would be deeply involved in the implementation process. Surprisingly or not but in Luys Foundation it is not difficult to unite people over a new idea. Likewise, Develop Armenia Together project is strong platform for cooperation and good networks. Thus, 12 young and enthusiastic Armenians got together to build a strong team. Each of the team members put his own knowledge, skills and values into the work, and we defined our final goal in Gyumri.Being excited with the realistic idea, our team left for Gyumri to launch the DAT project there.
Our product for Gyumri
Artmenia is a pioneering Armenian online art gallery, connecting people with art from the artists they love.
The site strives to offer the largest selection of Armenian art online. Featured works are nominated by renowned curators, and product descriptions are brought to life through professional videos. The website is a portal that brings the art connoisseur on a personal level with various artists in Armenia directly to their homes, studios and to the sources of their inspiration.
By buying art on this site, you would be supporting the artists of Armenia and would be helping them reach a global audience. It was the aspiration of Luys Foundation to launch a platform for Armenian artists to boost their creativity and encourage them to co-create as active citizens, taking part in the development of their country and the world through their art. Artmenia is an acknowledgement of the country’s vast potential in the arts, and in the potential of arts to affect change in Armenian society.
Being the first online business based in Gyumri, we hope Artmenia’s successful business model will encourage local entrepreneurs to establish their own online businesses. We aspire to show that regardless of various obstacles, it is possible to start a profitable online business in Armenia.
This project is an initiative by the Luys Foundation Scholars participating in the Develop Armenia Together program. It is also in collaboration with Artland.am which also provides profiles of Armenian artists.
The Tale of ArtScope
Gyumri Art + Science festival
Aim: Laying the foundations for a living art economy, raising public awareness on different types of interactive art, and creating links between art and science.
Gyumri recently became the cultural capital of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), and more than 50 great art projects are organized here this year. We wanted to make our event different from past events, thus our ‘ArtScope’ Festival was based on a new and innovative concept.
The idea was to organize a festival featuring living art, a form of art relying both on artistic vision and scientific methods and tools.
We did not want this to be a one-time festival, but an event that would lay the foundation for future festivals and thus help to launch a new economy in Gyumri. The industry of interactive art could boost both sides of the economy.
From the supply side: In addition to the beautiful churches and ancient architecture, living art as featured in the “ArtScope” festival could from now on become one of the icons of Gyumri. This festival could be branded to attract more and more tourists and art aficionados every year.
From the demand side: The success of Armenia’s pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 showed that there is a growing international demand for living art from countries such as China.
Organizing the festival
We started working early on, meeting with artists, and visiting cultural, educational and technological centers. We had lengthy conversations with various local actors until the ways of implementing the idea became clearer.
The Luys team was fortunate to be accompanied by living art experts from France and Belgium, Isabelle Bonté and Serge Hoffman, who gave helpful advice on how to emphasize the works of Gyumri artists with the tools of interactive art.
After getting our artists on board, receiving approval from the heads of museums and art galleries, we needed the support of the local government. Mayor of Gyumri Mr. Samvel Balasanyan was excited by our program, and gave us full authority to perform during this festival. He and his team were very cooperative, and provided security and technical support.
We launched an advertising campaign, first on the internet, then on television. Two local TV channels, Gala and Shant agreed to run our advertisement for ArtScope.
Because the festival presented interactive art work, it made sense for the PR campaign to be interactive, too. A flash mob was organized on the main pedestrian street of Gyumri, Rizhov Street. We had prepared a large white sheet and a lot of colorful paints, and invited a group of children to dip their feet in the paint before performing a beautiful dance on the sheet. Soon, all passing children and even adults got excited too and joined the dancing group. This flash mob attracted some attention to the Luys team and we were able to distribute many of our flyers to the curious crowd.
For the Art & Science Festival, we wanted to make the journey itself interactive, so that visitors would not be passive spectators but actors, part of an active discovery of the art. While talking with local actors we thought the best way to make the festival fun and interactive would be through a treasure hunt. We hselected four art centers in which the festival was held, and intended to distribute clues to participants to find the artworks. When defining the way to the different centers and coming up with clues, we tried to put emphasis on historic and artistic places and sights.
The treasure hunt
The festival was launched on July 21 on Rizhov street. The music started while white cardboard boxes, large canvases, easels, paints and brushes awaited pedestrians to participate and create art on the spot. Children, parents, grandparents, tourists, artists and passersby alike got together to create and inspire.
Later all four galleries opened, we distributed the clues to our participants and the treasure hunt started.
“Follow the diamonds to the main square
Continue straight past the fallen tower domes
Make a right after October
And find the two sisters.”
This first clue lead participants to the Aslamazyan Sisters’ gallery, our first location. There an interactive installation by Isabelle Bonté highlighted the importance of collective responsibility. “Silent does not exist” questions the viewer with examples of destroyed Ani and the Armenian Genocide: what happens when we stop looking, when we stop caring?
The second work presented in the gallery was an interactive art piece by local artist Liana Yengoyan, who offered visitors the possibility to try her technique themselves by passing thread through an array of nails.
The clue to our second location read:
“Now go past one of our greatest hero on his horse, towards Savior Church
Follow the valley of khachkars
Make a first left into the arch between the two fountains
(If you reach the Alexandrapol hotel, you have gone too far!)
After the pharmacy, look for the crown in the stone
Cross the gardens, and find Germany
To enter, make a right after the big yellow bear.”
The Berlin Art Hotel presented art works of Masters Vahan Topchyan (paintings), Albert Vardanyan (sculptures) and talented artists Levon Fljyan, Hrach Vardanyan and Karen Barseghyan.
After talking with Albert Vardanyan, we decided the best way to introduce interaction in his work was probably the simplest method: a mirror. Albert Vardanyan’s sculptures are empty knight armors, as knights are a thing of the past. But if you felt like a modern-day knight on that day, the mirror invited you to “come in” and become a part of the sculpture, at least in your reflection. This was a simple and innovative way to introduce visitors to the idea of living art – now imagine what we could do with a few webcams and a bit of programming…
The mysterious big yellow bear from the clue took a good part in our festival. Usually Max the Bear, the emblem of the Berlin Art Hotel, stands quietly near the entrance. With a dose of wit and video editing, Levon Fljyan, the Berlin Art Hotel team and Luys team were able to make… not only living art, but actually walking art!
Luckily Max the Bear was back in his spot before the visitors arrived to indicate the way.
Then, visitors going out of Berlin were given the next clue:
"Go down the street between Petrol and watermelons
After 250 steps, say hello to Pushkin on your left
Then follow his gaze until you reach the main square
Take the street dividing the Shirak diocese from the Seven Wounds church
After 100 steps, look around, find the clock in the window and come in…”
The Social-Educational Center of Shirak Apostolic church awaited visitors with a living art installation by Serge Hoffman. It included video-portraits of Gyumri artists (many of whom also participated in the festival) in their workplace, who came and left depending on the sound level of visitors. In the dark room, lit only by the feeble video light, we could still sense the presence of a luminescent artwork by Tatev Hovespyan. Made of iron and phosphor, this work, at the same time shadowy and bright, strong and delicate, told us the story of the hidden power of women in Armenia.
Back in the light, the visitor’s quest would go on with the next clue…
“Make a left when you go out, and continue up the street
When you see the statue of Shiraz, follow his gaze
After a few minutes in that direction, take the 3rd street on your left, between a puppet theatre and a palette sign on the wall
Then take a right after the two sisters
You arrive in front of the cognac shop…
…There, cross the street, towards a black and glass door
And find yourself in a place of style.”
In Style Gallery, Taron Manukyan’s artist group created large paintings on a piece of thin wood, as an imitation of street art. The artists created a beautiful work and visitors were able to participate, as their shadows represented the churchgoers we can see in the painting. The GITC’s new phone applications were also presented in Style Gallery, always with this aim of getting art and science closer.
The festival was crowned by a live concert on Vartanants square. On the main screen above the square we were able to slide show a few pictures from the festival, before showing young director Saro Varjabedian’s short movie about the city of Gyumri.
The Gyumri DAP team was happy to receive a lot of positive feedback from participants. It was a pleasure organizing this festival and introducing Gyumri to living art — and we hope that a bigger, better version of this festival will be organized next year.
And here was our last clue:
“Congratulations, you have completed your quest! But don’t forget that there are many more treasures to be found in Gyumri…”