Culture Against the Crisis: summary of projects 2022

Article, 09.01.2023

In April 2022, the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) in Armenia launched its "Arts and Culture Against the Crisis" campaign, in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 War. In the firm belief that artists play a valuable role in helping people to process their experiences through creativity and encounters with others, the SCO AM called for creative and innovative project proposals, which would contribute to the development of contemporary arts in Armenia. 

More than 60 proposals were received, out of which five projects were selected for funding. The selected projects addressed the current socio-cultural and socio-economic issues faced by the Armenian population in the midst of regional instability, as artistic contributions to a public debate on Armenia’s immediate future.

Exhibitions and presentations of the below presented projects took place throughout the year in Armenia and its regions.

"Resilience Hubs Vayots Dzor"

70 children from Vayots Dzor perform at "A Swiss Christmas Concert"
70 children from Vayots Dzor perform at "A Swiss Christmas Concert" © SCO South Caucasus

Implementing partner: Atken Armenian Foundation (Canada) through its Armenia-based partner the AKNA “Cultural Society” NGO

On 26 December 2022, 70 children from border villages of the Vayots Dzor region came together for "A Swiss Christmas Concert".

Practicing for the past 6 months in the framework of the Swiss-funded cultural project "Resilience Hubs Vayots Dzor", children aged 7 to 15 from border settlements Yegheknadzor, Malishka, Areni, Yelpin, Chiva, Khachik, Aghnjadzor, and Karaklukh got the opportunity to learn songs in French, German, Armenian and English. Preparing for the grand Christmas Concert, the children were working in small groups with Mrs. Maro  Simonyan, a wonderful local musician who led the project on the ground as its musical director. They were supported by a group of young musicians who are currently studying at the State Musical University.

Talking to the young talents in his opening speech at the concert, Werner Thut, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Switzerland in Armenia, also responsible for the Swiss Cooperation Program in Armenia said, "Since 6 months, you have been working for a Christmas concert. We all know that Christmas is the festival of joy, love and peace. That is what we all long for, and what we all need. Children, their parents, everyone.

The last two years in particular have been difficult for Armenia. Many of you have not been able to do what all the children of the world would like to do: play, learn and grow without fear. However, in the last few months, thanks to Mrs. Simonyan and your parents, it was possible to give you back at least a part of all that: Joy, fun and other beautiful things that very often go hand in hand with music. In return, your enthusiasm and dedication were a role model for us adults," Mr. Thut continued.

"Reality Brought on by War"

Photographers Nazik Armenakyan, Piruza Khalapyan, and Vaghinak Ghazaryan present their photo essays
Photographers Nazik Armenakyan, Piruza Khalapyan, and Vaghinak Ghazaryan present their photo essays © SCO South Caucasus

Implementing partner: 4Plus Documentary Photography Center

"When Do You Think to Return?" This question led the three documentary photographers of the 4 Plus Documentary Photography Center on their path of unveiling the inspiring stories of refugees and migrants from different countries who found shelter in Armenia over the past year; and to examine how this migration streams have affected the Armenian social landscape.

Russia's military aggression against Ukraine brought a significant influx of more than 654’000 people to Armenia from January to August 2022. While 615,808 left, about 39,000 people remain in the country. The waves of migrants included people fleeing their home countries for different reasons, including financial-economical motives, avoidance of military mobilization, but also ethical-political reasons. Many Russian creatives rejected their government and the war, seeking a safe space for exercising inventiveness, arts and liberty of expression.

Describing and reflecting the "Reality Brought on by War", the documentary photographers Nazik Armenakyan, Piruza Khalapyan, and Vaghinak Ghazaryan created photo and video essays, documenting the new Armenian reality that emerged as a consequence of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Presenting their work on 23 November 2022, at the Mirzoyan Library, the photographers guided the audience through the relocation journeys of young artists, entrepreneurs, and others, documenting also the current reality they live in now. We, the audience, got the insights on how geopolitical tensions and armed conflicts affect the lives of ordinary people and citizens of war-affected countries.

The photo and video essays by the three documentary photographers will soon be available on the website of the 4 Plus Documentary Photography Center in Armenian, English and Russian languages. Stay tuned by following the Embassy’s FB page and the organization’s website.

"Strangers in the Room"

Attendants discuss sculptures at the "Strangers in the Room" exhibition by Gohar Sargsyan
Attendants discuss sculptures at the "Strangers in the Room" exhibition by Gohar Sargsyan © SCO South Caucasus

Implementing partner: Gohar Sargsyan, Artist

The opening ceremony of Gohar Sargsyan’s exhibition "Strangers in the Room" took place on 19 October 2022, at the National Library of Armenia.

"Gohar’s art deals with us as human beings. What drives her is compassion. She is not interested in countries, politics but in humanity as such. She does not distinguish between friends and foes, country fellows and enemies. Her art therefore crosses borders, contact lines, front lines. This message is obviously highly topical and needed more than ever in the South Caucasus," says Werner Thut, the Chargé d’affaires à.i. of Switzerland in Armenia, and equally the Deputy Regional Director of Swiss Cooperation South Caucasus.

Through her art, using drawing, sculpture, and animation, Gohar emphasizes the emotions of people who have experienced the difficulties of pandemics and wars.

"I started painting this series to capture people's emotions, feelings, and experiences," the artist says. "The series is called "Strangers" because the main characters in this project are people I encountered in my daily life, on the streets, in cafes, shops, at events, and elsewhere. To create the main characters, I relied on my memory and on my own impressions".

This project by Gohar Sargsyan highlights a time when the Armenian population was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 war with all their consequences. A time when people were overwhelmed by an equally terrible epidemic: the psychological epidemic of loneliness and alienation. 

PechaKucha Night Yerevan

Photographer Vahan Stepanyan delivers a presentation at the "Pecha Kucha Night Yerevan 2022"
Photographer Vahan Stepanyan delivers a presentation at the "Pecha Kucha Night Yerevan 2022" © SCO South Caucasus

Implementing partner: PROPER Creative Agency

The theme of PechaKucha Yerevan's recent Swiss-funded event was art.  Art as a response. A response to the villager beyond the mountains, to the burning house and constrained movement. Art as a response and confrontation to the crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent wars. 

About 200 participants listened to the stories of artists, creators and curators in the fields of photography, music, dance, letters, painting and innovative technologies.  

"Theatrical Posters"

Over a 100 people visited the opening ceremony of the "Theatrical Posters" festival
Over a 100 people visited the opening ceremony of the "Theatrical Posters" festival © SCO South Caucasus

Implementing partner: ACT Cultural NGO

The opening ceremony of the “Theatrical Posters” international festival-competition and exhibition took place on 28 September 2022, at the Gabriel Sundukyan National Academic Theatre of Armenia in the framework of its 100th anniversary, co-organized by the Theatre and ACT Cultural NGO.

"The goal of the "Theatrical Posters" international festival-competition was to acquaint the Armenian art-loving public with the current international trends of theater posters. The festival’s goal was to contribute to the increase of interest in posters, to become a bridge of dialogue between Armenian and foreign artists.

177 authors from 29 countries submitted applications for participation in the festival with 406 works. As a result of the preliminary selection, 95 works of 70 authors from 21 countries including Switzerland, Armenia, Poland, Iran, and more entered the competition stage.