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Armenia/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.2 Cultural houses and community cultural clubs

Cultural houses and clubs, inherited from Soviet times, continue their activities, with some restrictions. Cultural houses and centres function mainly under the jurisdiction of communities. Their functions and activities depend on the individual communities and vary from just being a venue for community events to multi-functional cultural centres. Typically, the cultural centres include different hobby groups for music, dance, visual arts, crafts, some sports, chess, children's theatre, poetry etc. In villages, they also host libraries. Most of groups are not free of charge, but the fee is moderate (from 3 000 to 10 000 AMD (USD 7-26 a month). However, not all cultural houses inherited from the Soviet times are in use because of poor conditions or lack of professionals. Unfortunately, there is no statistical data on how many culture houses remain out of use or are using a minimum of their capacity.   

Preservation and reconstruction of cultural houses is considered to be a priority task among the cultural organisations of the Marzes, because in the rural communities they have different functions (i.e. library, leisure centres etc), and, in general, they are the main places for organising cultural and public activities. There is an urgent need to reconstruct cultural houses of the frontier villages, because they will contribute to the resolution of some tasks, i.e. opening of new workplaces, reduction of the population flow, and promotion of national-traditional cultural values among the youth.

By order of the Ministry of Urban Development in 2003-2006, repairs to 21 cultural organisations was carried out (14 of them in the Marzes), totalling 1 456 300 000 AMD (3 066 000 EUR). In 2008 the total budget for renovation of cultural institutions was 1 525 569 000 AMD (3 100 750 EUR). In the last two years, the budget for cultural houses and clubs was significantly decreased (by 342 959 in 2010, and 603 972 in 2011), due to the financial crisis and diminished renovation needs.

Under the Social Investments Fund of Armenia, from 2003-2006, 17 cultural organisations in the Marzes were repaired or constructed, totalling 600 675 000 AMD (1 265 000 EUR), and in 2007-2008, it is anticipated to reconstruct and repair 9 cultural organisations, with a total budget of 748 664 100 AMD (1 576 000 EUR).

The existence of cultural houses in the Marzes remains important, because they are a conduit for implementation of cultural policy. On 5 April 2007, by Decree N589, a programme on cultural development in the Marzes was approved, by which it is anticipated not only to establish cultural centres, but also to establish basic centres for art education.

The allocation of cultural houses in the Marzes and by population is shown in the Figure below.

Figure 1:    Allocation of cultural houses, % of Marzes and population, 2012

Source:     Department of Art and Folk Art of the Ministry of Culture of RA, 2012.

There is no data relating to Yerevan in the above-mentioned table as the cultural houses in Yerevan have been closed or privatised. Some of them were transformed into the "Hayordyats Tner" (cultural centres acting under the protection and control of the Armenian Apostolic Church), and many of them still function as before. Instead, numerous private organisations provide art education services for children and youth and are available to the large layers of the population.

The Centre of Children's Aesthetic Education, which involves visual arts and crafts groups, children's theatre, and a Children's Art Gallery, has been functioning in Yerevan since Soviet times. Currently, it has reduced its space and capacities but still does a good job in the promotion and development of amateur arts among children and adolescents.

As a whole, the attendance at amateur art groups and cultural centres has been increasing since the early 1900s when it had experienced a drastic collapse. The tradition of providing out-of-school art education to children seems to be rising.

Chapter published: 22-05-2015

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