From left, Tatevik Ohanyan, Aren Hovhannisyan, Katherine Hovhannisyan, Sewan Zincircioglu, Kayane Haroutunian, Elena Anagnostaki, Lusine Gasparyan, Malia-Sophie Krostewitz, Soffia Telva, Sofia Shabasyan

Creative Challenges for Aspiring Young Artists

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What better way to honor a great artist than to foster development of art in youngsters? That is the idea behind the International Art Festival and Competition hosted by the Armenian Cultural Society in Hessen (Armenische Kulturverein in Hessen AKV) at the end of 2023. On December 9, the AKV celebrated the 95th birthday of renowned Armenian artist Minas Avestiyan (1928-1975), and at the same time the 55th anniversary of the founding of the AKV itself (1968-2023). They marked the double jubilee with an exhibition and a contest.

The competition, “Painting beyond Borders,” was open to children and youngsters in two age groups, 6-12 and 12-18 years old. The motto was: “Painting is like magic: with paint and brush you lend wings to your imagination.” And the contest translated this motto into practice. Each participant had to paint a picture illustrating an episode or a character in an Armenian or German fairy tale, from a selection of eight, by Hovhaness Tumanyan and the Brothers Grimm. The contestants received texts of the fables in both languages. The selections included “A Drop of Honey” and “The Dog and the Cat,” by Tumanyan, and “The Wolf and Seven Little Kids” and “Cat and Mouse in Partnership,” by the Grimms. In addition to an illustration, each young artist had to submit a brief text, explaining what made that particular fable special, why the child chose the subject, and what the child learned from the story.

The paintings were due by November 11, and the jury selected the best 36 submissions. These were exhibited in the meeting hall (without the artists’ names) and it was up to the guests to select the three best from each age group. These six finalists then had to produce a new work of art — on the spot — and on a new theme. They were allotted 90 minutes to work, and were provided everything they needed — paints, easels, pencils, paper, etc. In the end, three young artists were selected from each age group, for the first, second, and third prize.

Shushan Tumanyan, co-chair of the AKV, opened the festival by presenting the Society’s work, the jury members, and the leading sponsor, the House of Resources (HoR). The HoR, a model project financed since 2016 by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), is dedicated to fostering social participation and integration through cultural, educational, and civil society activities with various clubs and associations. Tumanyan also welcomed the sponsor of the prizes for first place, the Central Council of Armenians (Zentralrat der Armenier in Deutschland, ZAD), as well as board members of the AKV’s sister organizations, the Armenian Community of Aschaffenburg and of Wiesbaden.

Fables illustrated, including The Dog and the Cat, Cat and Mouse in Partnership

About 80 paintings in total were on display, all by participants between 6 and 18 years of age. As prescribed in the competition, the finalists then had to take up brush and paints to create their ultimate entries. After separate deliberations, jury president Ishkhan Nazaryan announced the names of the winners, and the artists were awarded their prizes. In the younger group, 6-12 years old, Gayane Avetisyan took first prize, Kayane Haroutunian, second, and Sofia Shabazyan, third. The winners of the older group, age 13-18, Sewan Zincircioglu won the first prize, followed by Lusine Gasparyan, second, and Katharine Hovhannisyan, third. Encouragement prizes were given to Malia Barynovska, Elena Anagnostaki, Aren Hovhannisyan, Malia-Sophie Krostewitz, Soffia Telva, and Tatevik Ohanyan. All the contestants received a certificate for having taken part, as well as “artistically fashioned” chocolates.

Before the buffet and during the jury’s absence, the guests had an opportunity to visit the exhibition of works by Minas Avetisyan, and to taste the delicacies offered from the Armenian and international cuisine. Interspersed throughout the program, members of the AKV Saturday school performed music on the flute (Arpi Nazaryan), guitar (Sewan Harutyunyan), saxophone (Arevik Petrosyan), duduk (Mane Harutyunyan), and violin (Gevorg Nahapetian).

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