YEREVAN — Art is inclusive. Creativity, that uniquely human characteristic, is by definition universal. No matter what age or sex, from what culture or geographical region, every human being is endowed with the ability to create, and art is the way we celebrate that capacity.
Nowhere is this more evident than in cultural events featuring youngsters with disabilities. In Yerevan earlier this month, the «ԿՈՂՔ ԿՈՂՔԻ» “Side by Side” State Musical Inclusive Art Festival took place, presenting both the visual and performing arts. Financed by a grant provided by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Republic of Armenia in August, the project goes under the name of Inclusive Programs and Projects in the Sphere of Contemporary Art. The applicant is the Autism National Foundation, and the founder and director of the festival itself is Naira Sargsyan, who is the Music Therapist at the Foundation’s MY WAY Educational, Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Center for people with autism.
The festival took place on October 1 and 4, at the Hovhannes Tumanyan State Puppet Theatre, small and large concert halls respectively. The foyer of the theater hosted an exhibition of art works, handmade souvenirs and crafts, which students from all the participant specialized centers had created. And in the halls, the musical programs were performed, by students of all ages.
Nationwide Participants, Unified Concept
Preparations for the festival were extensive and intensive. Eleven specialized centers from all over Armenia came on board, and communicated both online and in person. They united around one idea: to create the means for the children and youngsters to be able to demonstrate their talents to society, in the name of development and inclusion in the field of arts. The centers included MY WAY Educational, Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Day Care Center, Source House Development Center, LUSE Social-Rehabilitation Center, Arev-Erekhaner Children with Down Syndrome Health and Development Center, Emili Aregak Rehabilitation Center of Gyumri, Regional Pedagogical-Psychological Support Center of Spitak, Mayri Center of Curative Pedagogy and Social Therapy, Kharbert Specialized Children’s Home, Zatik Child Assistance Center, Yerevan MANKAN TUN Orphanage and Sevan Children Rehabilitation Center. Students from the Aregnazan School, which is not a specialized school but inclusive, and the Sevan-based Music School named after Valery Sargsyan, also took part in the event.
Once a program had been developed, each musical number had to be learned and rehearsed. Fourteen professional musicians and musical collectives were engaged in joint numbers with the students with special needs, and conducted more than 30 rehearsals in specialized premises. In addition to the 10 people directly engaged in project execution, 40 volunteers and 40 specialists aided in the festival preparations and implementation.