President Armen Sarkissian met with a group of heads of cultural institutions: material difficulties are manageable but it is impossible to live without culture
On August 26, President Armen Sarkissian met with a group of heads of cultural institutions. Present at the meeting were the Creative Director and Chief Conductor of Armenia’s National Philharmonic Orchestra Eduard Topchian, Creative Director and Chief Conductor of Armenia’s State Symphonic Orchestra Sergei Smbatian, Director of Armenia’s Chamber Music Choir Robert Mlkeyan, Conductor and Creative Director of Armenia’s Little Singers musical group Tigran Hekekian, Director of G. Sundukian National Academic Theater Vartan Mkrtchian, Creative Director of the same theater Armen Elbakian, Chief Director of the H. Paronian State Theater of Musical Comedy Hakop Ghazanchian, who is also the Chairman of the Armenian Union of Theater Workers, Creative Director of H. Ghaplanian Drama Theater Armen Khandikian, Creative Director of H. Tumanian State Puppet Theater Rouben Babayan, Deputy Director of the A. Spendiarian National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet Karine Kirakossian, Creative Director of the State Theater of Pantomime Zhirayr Dadasian, Creative Director of Sos Sargsyan National Theater Narine Grigorian, Director of the Theater of Young Viewers Emin Torossian, Director of K. Stanislavsky Russian Drama Theater Marianna Mkhitarian, Head of the G. Gyurjiev Folk Music Group Levon Iskenian, Director of Karin Traditional Dance and Song Musical Group Gagik Ginosian.
The participants of the meeting noted that conditioned by the coronavirus pandemic, when the cultural life has been forced into a standstill, they are trying to be flexible and find solutions. Theaters and musical groups have carried out online broadcasting and performances and came up with a number of proposals, trying to maintain their contact with the audiences. Some have initiated outdoor performances but not every theater has this opportunity. Noting that theater is a living art and can exist only in contact with the audience, the heads of theaters stressed the importance of setting clear guidelines for their activities.
President Sarkissian noted that “culture, which because of the coronavirus pandemic has appeared in difficult situation along with the so called “material areas”, is very important because with all negativity of the recent months, the fight against the pandemic resulted in a significant conclusion – bread is not enough for living. Today, many have depressive, negative emotions because an important part of their life has disappeared. The part that disappeared is linked to real culture. Certainly, there is virtual culture, too: one can turn on TV and watch something on computer, virtual concerts are taking place. But it’s not the same as a life concert, the contact. This is a big problem not only for Armenia but for the world at large.” The President said that in many cases people can manage financial problems but if the cultural life is limited or non-existent, it’s almost impossible to live. “I often recall the beginning of 1990s,” the President said. “It was cold and dark, the ongoing war, times were very difficult. But I remember that majority of the people didn’t lose their energy, vigor, didn’t change their attitude for life because hope was there, people were living with hope, were going to concerts, were confident that they would overcome all difficulties.”
How the presidential institute and president can help, be useful in the current difficult situation. Addressing this question to the participants of the meeting with the anticipation of cooperation, the President offered the heads of cultural institutions to use temporarily the premise of the Presidential Palace and its outdoor opportunities for the implementation of their projects.
During a candid and frank conversation, discussed were problems facing the cultural establishments, cultural policy, necessity to make structural changes in the area of culture. Responding to the questions raised by the participants of the meeting, President Sarkissian noted, “We have a problem: we, unfortunately, personalize everything. Very often individuals of high state standing believe that they have inherited that position and act and work accordingly. We need to do everything possible to move from personalized approach to a structural, institutional one. Creation of institutes in all areas is critical for us, starting from education, Academy, industry.
Along with personalizing, there is another phenomenon in our culture which should be eliminated, it is important, too. It is called pretending. We pretend to have many things which we actually don’t have. Hence, in many areas of our activities we need an audit, meaning, the reassessment on what we have in reality, so that we are able to make the next step.”
Speaking of state assistance, President Sarkissian said in particular, “I believe that the state, within the scope of its capabilities, should do more. We are not in a position when you can survive alone. Let’s assess what the state is doing and let’s do everything to carry on with state financing, increase it, because now we are in the transition period. We have no culture of sponsoring arts. There are individual benefactors but we possess no legal mechanisms to support that institute. It is important that we invest energy, vigor and time into the development of this second element. There are many models on doing it, and we have a road to pass here. I am ready to support you if you are ready to support me in return to be able to change certain things.”
In conclusion, the President of Armenia once again expressed his readiness to cooperate. “We all have common problems and difficulties. I suggest this: let’s try to cooperate. I am willing to change also certain things in our culture, and if I succeed, I will be happy,” President Armen Sarkissian said.