In 2017, an idea was born around the issue of developing art education in Armenia, while also building interest among the youth of today. Lamenting the fact that museums are no longer considered a “cool” hangout location, Eiva Arts Foundation came up with a new resource to battle the fact that the youth are more knowledgeable about international culture, but Armenian art history is lost to many.
Over the first 18 months of its existence, Arvest has become an interesting precedent for bridging the gaps between city and village, Armenian local and diasporan, Eastern and Western, art lover and game lover, etc. In doing so, it has become invaluable for many communities. Here are some reasons to attest to Arvest’s increasing popularity.
1. Arvest is a game for anyone, learning about genres, artists, art pieces, as well as understanding the background of each piece, analyzing the art, differentiating color palettes, etc. It was created to bring the fun into education, while also honing special skills. No previous knowledge or special understanding is required to play.
2. Each game created over the course of a year and was the result of extensive testing with different groups of children, as well as the elaboration of game concept, selection of artwork, gathering all relevant information, etc. Each game should develop a skill, add to one’s knowledge, derived from interest. The game focuses on the whole as well as fragments, picked specifically to enhance specific skills. It is easier for children to play than for adults, according to the data gathered, simply because they can absorb the information quicker than their adult counterparts.
3. Arvest is an educational board game without appearing to be one from the start. There is a booklet included with graphics, offering five different types of game ideas to play. It also includes interesting information that does now follow your typical Wikipedia format, instead opting for bite-sized morsels of more unforgettable material. For example, you learn Ayvazovsky was also a violinist. It matters not if you know where he was born in this case, since you know something of greater value and far more appealing to share.
4. The game is available in two languages at the moment, Armenian and English. That is further divided into Western and Eastern Armenian, allowing for a larger target audience. Through many contacts and with the support and approval of the Ministry of Education as dedicated educational material, Arvest is available in schools throughout the world, allowing teachers to utilize the content in their curricula.
5. “Տարածիր Արվեստ” or “Share Art” is a program with Teach for Armenia, bringing art education through play to six provinces, to be included in their classes. About 11000 students in 85 schools are exposed to this because of the initiative. With Teach for Armenia’s reach expanding year-on-year, those in the most remote villages will have the same knowledge in this area as those within the city, effectively reducing the gaps. According to a story the founder tells, one village with a school of only 20 students had a teacher who taught language among other things using Arvest. The children all knew so much through it and it was a shocking sight, as well as a moment of pure joy.
6. Discussions are underway with a few organizations operating out of the regions, increasing the outreach to the borders, the smaller and less densely populated villages, as well as those in the most impoverished states. Collaborations such as these ensure no child is left without a form of art education that increases love for country and pride in culture.
7. In order to increase interest in museums, many of the images chosen are from the museums themselves. This means that by playing the game, children are already exposed to the art forms, the artists, and the history behind it. This sparks their interest when they are face-to-face with the originals, taking pride in their knowledge. This is more interactive and allows for children of all interests, whether they are art enthusiasts or sports, whether they prefer modern rock or classical Komitas, to really appreciate culture as they play a game for simple fun. It is similar to how children enjoy playing with Legos at any age; Arvest is made to appeal to all without forcing a certain narrative on them. Even if the child never tells his/her mother to take him to the museum, when passing by, he/she will know who that artist was. It increases one’s sense of pride.
8. The game has been picked up by teachers all over the world at this point and used in lesson plans as well as to help develop teaching methodologies. Because the team is in constant contact with 101 Teach for Armenia teachers as well as several from the diaspora on a daily basis, development to the project is made based on classroom needs. Currently, they are analyzing how the game is being used in smaller vs larger groups, in language lessons as well as other subjects, and will be basing future developments on the data gathered now.
9. The Ministry of Education not only approves of the game’s use in schools but encourages it, opening many doors for the Arvest creators. Future collaborations are to be expected in this area. Bridging the gap between the local and diaspora, Arvest has found itself invited to Istanbul by the Hrant Dink Foundation, where it became blatantly clear that the children are in need of such endeavors. Citing an extremely emotional trip, the importance of Arvest has been verified, particularly in the realm of cultural preservation.
10. The game is available in several major bookstores and museums, both in Armenia and around the world, and will see increased play as more and more groups are exposed both to the idea and the fun to be had with a box of Arvest.
Interview by Rima Yeghiazarian
Written by Tamar Najarian