COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Armenia/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture

Of 200 formerly existing handicrafts in Armenia, only 14 are practiced today, increasing to 50 when their subtypes are considered. Groups studying folk art attend separate schools and centres under the jurisdiction of communities ("Hayordyats" houses - centres for intellectual development, and cultural clubs). However, there is no special policy relating to folk art education and there are no funds to support workers in this field either. The Yerevan Museum on Folk Art maintains interactive communication with craftspeople, stimulating continuity of handicrafts and supporting the emergence and development of new forms of amateur arts. The priority task in this field is to ensure a large market and connecting link with the world market.

Aesthetic centres and cultural houses functioning in Armenia contribute to the development of amateur arts. There are hobby groups of singing and dancing, handicrafts, theatre, circus, fine arts, arts and crafts, music, etc. However, most of attendees of those groups are children and youth, except for traditional "women's" crafts like embroidery, carpet-making, knitting, etc. There are some objective reasons for the reduction of adults involved in the amateur arts. Firstly, strong traditions of children's art education in Armenia is rooted back to the Soviet times when a commonly-shared perception of amateur arts existed (especially performances: music, theatre) as children's and youth sphere and part of their cultural education. Secondly, low salaries force people to look for additional sources of income, which means a heavy daily workloads and a lack of leisure time that might be used for amateur arts. There is also no state strategy for the involvement of adults in amateur arts; no municipality actually thinks about it. Unlike the Soviet times, there is no need to control people's leisure, therefore no need to have mechanisms to organise and manage it. A poorly developed tourism industry in the regions also fails to support more active participation of adults in amateur arts. All these issues should be considered when planning in this particular sphere.

However, since 2011 amateur, but de-facto professional folk dance and music groups have made remarkable efforts to popularise Armenian folk dances among the population and tourists. Free public lessons in Armenian Dance are delivered to all interested persons at one of the central squares of Yerevan from time to time. This might be considered as a first step toward the new perception of amateur arts' functional role in the cultural sector. 

Many individuals have made crafts an additional, if not main, source of income. The samples of amateur arts and folk crafts are exhibited and sold at fairs and craft shops in Yerevan and in souvenir shops at the tourist sites throughout Armenia, where the works of individual creators are displayed. The "Vernissage", a fair of folk crafts has become one of the prominent touristic and cultural places of Yerevan. Besides, the municipalities of Yerevan and other cities of Armenia try to promote crafts and amateur arts during celebrations of national holidays or local feasts through exhibitions, street concerts, theatrical shows, and festival fairs. The overwhelming majority of participants are children and youth.

According to the Law on Export of Cultural Values, there is no prohibition for export of cultural values created during the past 50 years.


Chapter published: 22-05-2015

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