In 6 communities across three regions of Armenia (Kotayk, Gegharkunik and Shirak) generations of the young and old have come together to learn from each other, to use tradition and innovation to better represent their communities. From teaching how to make Armenian homemade pasta in Kotayk region, to collecting regional songs and doing their rock re-works in Gegharkunik, to showcasing the culture, nature and lifestyle of a distant community in Shirak, a series of concerts, master classes, quizzes, and other events were held in September-November to feature these communities and their people.
How was this possible? Great ideas emerge when creative and committed people combine their great minds. This time, it was through a very innovative online festival organized by DVV International. Called “ՑանցԱռ Սարդ” (“Tzantzar Sard”), the festival took place over the period of 6 days, starting on August 4 and ending on August 10. It would be a futile effort to try to translate its title into English. Suffice it to say that Սարդ (“Sard”) is the Armenian for Spider and the spider symbolized both the network of CSOs and was used as an abbreviation for Innovative, Creative Ideas. Participating in the event were over 20 partner CSOs, members of Adult Education Network and those involved in the EU4Culture: Stronger Communities and Initiatives Project.
The first day was the so called “motivational prototype” day when 6 speakers representing different organizations and platforms spoke about events and festivals they traditionally organize and that are well known in Armenia. They all presented the event itself, but each had a focus on different aspects of the event such as community involvement, innovation as part of the event, guest management and volunteerism and many others.
The real work began during the second day when CSO representatives, experts and project team met in zoom rooms for moderated idea generation and selection for innovative grants. To succeed, they should have met such criteria as outdoor or online events promoting the region or the cluster of communities as tourism destinations, are creative and innovative in nature and have adult education component. In an extremely competitive and exciting session each regional group came up with several ideas and then narrowed them down to two or three that were developed for a video pitch in the next two days.
On August 9 the jury members met to assess the ideas and make a decision on winners, while on August 10 the online pitches for participants happened giving them an opportunity to support their favorite idea and promote it. As principle, the participants from a region did not vote for ideas from that region.
When all the excitement of idea generation and selection settled down, three distinct ideas favored by the jury and participants were selected for implementation. In September-November the winning CSOs and the community activists rolled their sleeves to make their ideas a reality and they did despite the many challenges of current situation. From teaching how to make Armenian homemade pasta in Kotayk region, to collecting regional songs and doing their rock re-works in Gegharkunik, to showcasing the culture, nature and lifestyle of a distant community in Shirak, a series of concerts, master classes, quizzes, and other events were held to feature these communities and their people.
- September 26. Sevan (Gegharkunik): Sevan youth club held an open-air concert fundraiser entitled “Update” on the new stage of Sevan City Park. The concert was the first event to take place here, symbolizing cultural rebirth in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic situation. It was open to public, and featured performances by three rock bands that presented their re-works of region’s folk songs that they collected from rural communities in the weeks prior to the concert. Beautification of the park also proceeded the concert with master classes on street art and a community effort to clean the space. The concert also embraced a fundraiser event and donations made to a dedicated bank account will be used for further upgrades of this important urban space.
- September 23-27 to October 25, a series of events were held in Shirak (Arpi community and city of Gyumri) in support of popularizing Arpi community as a tourism destination. On September 23-27 the Herbs and Honey café in Gyumri turned into a promoter of Arpi through a 5-day long event series. It included a photo exhibition, a master class on making herbal tea and quilting, a quiz on Shirak region and Arpi and a hiking trip to Arpi Lake. Throughout October, each weekend young students from Gyumri and Tsakhkut community members came together in a community beautification project adding color and charm to this village in a picturesque natural setting but with little aesthetic appeal. DVV partners “Khachmeruk” AE Center and Alvan Tsaghik NGO were the co-implementers of this initiative.
- October 25-November 8, Kotayk: A series of arishta (Armenan traditional homemade pasta) making master classes were held in three communities, during which the generation of middle-aged to older women taught their community youth not only the secrets of pasta making and their special recipes, but also traditional songs and dances accompanying arishta making, stories about arishta’s origin and anecdotes.