The project is based on the assumption that artistic activities provide people in conflict-affected regions with a valuable space for expressing not only their fears, but also their wishes and visions. Involved in creative work, they create a kind of shelter for their emotional needs. In regions far from the capital cities, in villages or small towns, art lessons at school are an important and often the only access to artistic activity. Art teachers are therefore of great importance, an importance that often does not correspond to the position of the subject in relation to other school subjects.
Schools in the border villages of Armenia, which are affected by the war, are confronted with a severe shortage of teachers and an aging of the teaching staff. Through great personal commitment, they try to make up for these structural difficulties. Often history or mathematics teachers are the ones who also teach art. In some small towns, there is also the tradition of afternoon schools, so-called ‚clubs‘ for art, which dates back to the Soviet era. They are highly frequented as one of the few leisure activities for children and young people, but many of their teachers were trained more than thirty years ago.
Against this backdrop, the exchange of ideas between artasfoundation and the Armenian State Pedagogical University (the country’s only institution responsible for teacher education) led us to design and offer professional training for practicing art teachers from peripheral regions of Armenia: the first such programme for teachers of art education in the country. The Pedagogical University supports it by informing the school authorities of the regions, organising the selection and training-leave of the teachers, and providing a course house in the countryside as a venue for two one-week workshops. artasfoundation is responsible for the curriculum; it invites artists and pedagogues from Armenia and Switzerland as lecturers, and pays their salaries and all other costs of the project.
In the summer and fall of 2022, the course was held for the first time. A group of accompanying experts as well as a retrospective evaluation at the schools of the course participants confirmed its success. A second edition of the course is being prepared for 2023.
Teachers' Training I
37 teachers who teach art in schools in Armenia’s border region with Azerbaijan met in late August for the first part of the two one-week trainings in the course house in Aghavnadzor. They had been selected from almost eighty applicants. The initially somewhat tense atmosphere – for many of them it was their first week away from their family – quickly dissolved as people began to do practical artistic work in small groups under the guidance of five lecturers. Each lecturer had prepared a one-and-a-half-day programme on a different topic, and the participants were able to choose and switch between these options three times during the course. For example, there was a programme on the topic of colour and mixing colours, a programme on sculpting and drawing with a variety of materials, a classic programme on drawing techniques, one on free artistic self-expression, and one on artistic work inspired by bird feathers. After the participants had tried out everything by themselves, the application of the working methods in the classroom was discussed. A lecture on curriculum reform in Armenia and a full day on teaching media literacy complemented the practice-centred work. The course week ended with an exhibition of all the works created. Everyone was amazed and also a little proud of what had been achieved here!
The second week of the training was scheduled for mid-October, but in September the war with Azerbaijan flared up again. Would the participants now be able to devote themselves to art for a week? In the end, 36 of 37 participants decided to come (‚We want to live as normal a life as possible, even in this difficult situation.‘) and we were able to continue the course as planned: with new content (graphic design, making fanzines, designing masks, working with mandalas) and also with artistic work in nature. It was always important to use working materials that are also available to teachers at their schools. The theoretical part of the course dealt with curricular issues, as well as with possibilities of psychological support for young people in the classroom.
In the course of the week, more and more works were created. Supplemented with works that had been produced as ‚homework‘ since the first course, they formed the rich final exhibition, an adequate setting for the presentation of diplomas to all graduates of the course.
Place and year
Gayane Ananyan, Margarit Ananyan, Margarit Avetisyan, Melanya Avetisyan, Nairi Balabekyan, Nvard Chilingaryan, Eleonora Dallakyan, Azganush Danielyan, Arusyak Grigoryan, Narine Grigoryan, Karine Gzghoyan, Norayr Hambard, Ruzan Israyelyan, Tehmina Karapetyan, Gayane Karapetyan, Margo Manasyan, Gohar Maralchyan, Gevorg Matinyan, Artur Melkonyan, Gayane Navasardyan, Azniv Nersisyan, Pavlik Nersisyan, Nazik Paranyan, Ruzan Petrosyan, Tamara Poghosyan, Anahit Rustamyan, Haykush Sargsyan, Susambar Sargsyan, Naira Sargsyan, Parandzem Shahinyan, Milena Siradzeghyan, Meline Tamamyan, Nune Tamrazyan, Aida Vardanyan, Novik Yeritsyan, Arpine Zakharyan
Shoghakat Mlke-Galstyan, Yerevan
Dagmar Reichert (artasfoundation)
Julien Fehlmann (artasfoundation)
Marianna Harutyunyan and Anahit Panosyan, ASPU Yerevan
Anahit Panosyan, Stella Loretsyan, Samvel Aslanyan, Shushan Minasarian, Taguhi Adamyan, Viktorya Varosyan
Janna Khachatryan, Artur Martirosyan, Naira Mkhitaryan, Lems Nersisyan
Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU)