COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Currently, state financial support and volumes of film-making are increasing, although the sector still faces many challenges.

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Armenia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and debates  

4.2.1 Conceptual issues of policies for the arts

Art education

In 2004, a Concept on Art Education, developed by the Ministry of Culture, was accepted by the government of Armenia. It comprises the following main principles:

  • formation and development of aesthetic needs and demands of all social and age groups of population;
  • creation of aesthetically sophisticated and interested audiences;
  • preparation of professionals in arts and culture for creative and pedagogical activities;
  • identification of talented children and youth and supplying them with corresponding facilities for education and creativity development;
  • involvement of all social groups in the creativity processes starting from basic pre-school and school levels;
  • active promotion and introduction of art education;
  • using art education as a tool for social and cultural adaptation and socialisation processes.; and
  • providing access to national and foreign cultural values.

To bring this concept to life, a complex programme for preparation and training of professionals in the art and culture spheres was developed and approved by the Government of RA on 14 January 2010.

State policy in the art education sphere is being developed and implemented by two main agencies, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Science. It is aimed at improvement of the legal environment for development of art education and creation of facilities for the growth of talented children and youth creativity.

In 2008, a Foundation for Support of Art Education was established.

One of the important parts of art education policy is publication of art books and music pieces of Armenian composers (70 have been published).

Currently, the state policy development process is focused on the following tasks and unresolved issues:

  • creation of resources for stable financial and technical support for art education;
  • regulation of education fees;
  • support to traditional arts and performances; and
  • development of effective mechanisms of art education for children with disabilities or from socially vulnerable layers of the population.

Visual art

The visual arts include painting, sculpture, graphics, and photography. There are more than 1 000 professionals in the sphere of visual arts in Armenia. After the collapse of the Soviet system of state protectionism of arts, many artists and artisans found themselves in a rather difficult situation being bereft of state support and unfamiliar with the new ways of marketing their art. "Marketisation" of art resulted in drastic changes for the whole sphere. A comparatively favourable situation was created for artisanry and handicrafts which quickly found their niche in the tourism consumption market. The most negative impact was imposed by the rupture of all old links and connections of institutions and individuals representing the Armenian Art with their foreign colleagues and counterparts, caused by the lack of financial capacities and lack of higher professionals. Armenian artists lost their privileged status and state support. Currently, arts are promoted and marketed through private galleries (10) and interested individuals, which nevertheless have rather limited capacities. In the absence of targeted state support in technical, financial and other issues, very few of the Armenian artists are able to reach international recognition, though many of them are really talented and deserve to be represented at the highest levels of the international art market. Another issue is preservation and continuity of the Armenian traditions of visual art from the Middle-Ages, and 19-20th centuries. The State Strategy plan for 2007-2011 in the sphere of visual arts was focused on the following issues:

  • development of art education improvement programmes (see Art education);
  • development or rehabilitation of art infrastructures (galleries, art schools, art centres, etc);
  • activation of cultural dialogue with the outer world through the organisation of exhibitions and festivals;
  • promotion of  arts through access to art education and art pieces by all layers of the population;
  • promotion and marketing of works of contemporary Armenian artists and artisans abroad;
  • increase in publishing activities;
  • targeted support and encouragement of artists living in regions, organisations of their exhibitions in the capital;
  • promotion of Armenia as an art promoting country through organisation of art events, exhibitions, biennale, festivals, and symposia in Armenia with participation of foreign artists and art businesses;
  • restoration of mobile art studios;
  • individual or institutional support of creative activities; and
  • resuming practices of honouring artists.

In 2008-2009, a number of policies and procedures were established in support of proportional development of all types of arts, which emphasised support of young artists. 

Music

The main policy trends in the sphere of music developed in a framework of the general strategy 2007-2011 are as follows:

  • Rehabilitation of technical capacities for development of music art in Armenia through renovation and equipping of concert halls, institutions of music education, and provision of musical instruments of high quality.
  • Improvement of standards of music education through an increase in the number of music schools and better supply of methodological and musical literature. In the framework of this policy goal, a "Fund for Music Education" was established to support students and teachers of music schools and methodological centres. More than 30 items of methodological and musical literature were published by means of this Fund.
  • Development of audiences for high culture, and cultural demands and needs of the population through promotion and provision of better access to high quality music and music education to all social layers of the population, with a focus on disabled people and socially vulnerable families. More than 100 disabled people and socially vulnerable children were offered financial and other types of assistance in this field.
  • Decentralised access to music is being promoted through organisation of master classes, concerts, festivals, and establishing basic schools of music education (33 schools) in regions. Special focus is placed on supporting talented children from regions that have no access to high quality music education and performances (currently more than 485 children have benefited from this programme).
  • Promotion of traditional Armenian music instruments through prioritising their development in terms of subsidising music education and provision of guaranteed music places, and promotion and advertising of Armenian music instruments at world-wide level. One of the recent achievements in this field is the inclusion of the Armenian duduk in the UNESCO list of masterpieces of human intangible heritage.

Theatre and performances

There are 34 theatres in Armenia, 21 of which are state managed and operated under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture; 3 belong to the Yerevan municipality; 2 are of regional subordination; 7 are supported by municipalities; and 6 belong to other organisations.

Theatres in Armenia are only able to cover 15-25% of their expenses. The rest is obtained from state, municipal or other sources. Currently, theatres are in a rather critical institutional situation and so far, there are no real solutions. Theatres are not self-sustainable and will not become so the near future. In the absence of any mechanisms of critique and other feedback from society, theatres seem to have lost their vivid connection with the audience. Besides, most regional populations have no access to theatres in their areas. Within the framework of Culture Development Strategy for 2007-2011 the following tasks are prioritised for theatres in Armenia:

  • improving the quality of repertoire and performances;
  • attracting larger audiences;
  • developing new, more effective mechanisms of financial support for theatres; and
  • improving managerial skills and practices for theatre professionals.

In view of these tasks, the Ministry of Culture of RA has worked out some principles of theatre related policy development:

  • classifying all theatres according to their functional, financial and property status (national theatres, genre theatres, state, municipal, and private theatres);
  • each type is to benefit from particular privileges, limitations and opportunities, and will have different access to state funds and will be controlled differently by the state; and
  • development of funding and monitoring principles that would be based on a parity approach for financial support to theatres (competitions, orders, etc.)

Within the strategy of development for theatres for 2007-2011 the government of Armenia also prioritises the improvement of technical facilities (renovation of theatres, providing them with contemporary technical facilities, etc); decentralisation of access to theatres (organisations of theatre programmes in regions, regional festivals and competitions); and support for group and individual creativity through grants and individual support programmes. Particular attention is drawn to the improvement of the legal field relating to theatre development. The draft Law on Theatres was prepared and submitted to the National Assembly in 2010. Other priorities are more active involvement of youth in the creativity processes and creation of more competitive art production. The overall number of state-supported theatrical productions is increasing annually. In 2011, 20 performances and theatre projects were supported.

Particular attention is paid to seeking more opportunities for creativeness, international exchange of ideas and skills, partnership projects and promotion of theatre art through the organisation of festivals and other events. Some festivals have already become periodical and internationally recognised ("Highfest", "Pomegranate seed", "Shakespeare festival", "Armmono").

Cinema

In Armenia, currently there are four state-governed cinema related institutions - the National Cinema Centre of Armenia, "Hayk" Film Studio, Armenian Public TV 1 and the Armenian National Cinema Centre, and nine independent film studios ("Haifilm" (Armenfilm) film studio, "Aysor Plus Film Productions", Armenia film studios CJSC, Bars Media Documentary Film Studio, Paradise Ltd, Sharm Holding, Karen Gevorgyan Studio, Internews Armenia, KassArt Studio). However, the cinematography sphere is mostly unself-sustainable in Armenia and there is still a strong need for state support. Therefore appropriate policies have been developed to support and stimulate cinematography development in Armenia for 2007-2011. One of the ways in which this is done is to encourage the film industry and art by the organisation of film and animation festivals ("Golden Apricot", "I am", "Kin", "Kinoashun", "Animania"), which promote Armenian and foreign cinematography. Another way is to make Armenia attractive for foreign film production through the creation of an appropriate business environment, professional resources and infrastructures.

The Armenian film-making industry still strongly relies on state support. Film-making and distribution / screening have significantly changed since the Soviet Union collapsed. Since then the industry has been privatised and has drastically reduced its capacity. Within the period 1991-2006, only about 30 live-action movies were made in Armenia. Some of these films were presented at festivals and were even awarded prizes, but almost none reached an Armenian audience. Currently, state financial support and volumes of film-making are increasing. Thus, in 2011, 9 full-length, 5 short-length, 5 animation and 14 documentary films were shot in Armenia.

Therefore, the policy development process in the cinematography sphere is based on the following principles:

  • improvement of legal and taxation fields for cinema related industries;
  • enlargement of the network of cinema theatres in regions;
  • working out a flexible system of financial support allotted to state and private companies;
  • emphasis on low budget films;
  • development of contacts and cooperation with foreign companies;
  • training and re-training of professionals in the field;
  • special support to youth through the grant-making system;
  • introduction of the project of "mobile cinema theatres" in the regions of Armenia;
  • continuous support to film festivals;
  • digitalisation of the Armenian cinema heritage;
  • familiarising audiences with the Armenian cinema industry through TV; and
  • presentation of the Armenian cinema heritage to a wider audience.

During recent two years, 10 films have been supported by the state and this figure is going to increase.

Cinema theatres recently became a subject of public debate. Privatisation of cinema theatres and poor strategic thinking by state officials responsible for cultural issues have resulted in a situation where only two cinema theatres are currently operating in Yerevan (one of them was reopened just recently, in 2012) and one in Gyumri, the second city of Armenia. The seriousness of the problem was magnified in the summers of 2011 and 2012 when the lack of venues jeopardised the success of the "Golden Apricot" annual film festival. Organisers of the festival activities publicised the issue and called on the Armenian authorities to find a solution. Due to this, the second cinema hall "Nairi" was rented back by the National Cinema Centre of Armenia and transformed into a National Cinema Centre. However, this cannot be considered a final solution to the problem and further development of appropriate policies and government intermediation are expected.

Another issue of public discussions and discontent is insufficient support provided to the young generation of cinematographers. Protectionism and nepotism, obsolete structures of Unions, unequal distribution of financial resources and the poorly developed market of the elitist cultural production all hinder the development of the film-making sphere and challenge cultural policy makers in Armenia.


Chapter published: 22-05-2015

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