Hartak Festival 2.0: What’s New in 2016

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“I don’t want to go to heaven. I don’t need it. Everyone’s going there. I want to go to hell: no people, lots of space, and calmness.” This is one of the many unusual conversations with a participant of Armenia’s Hartak Festival, this year in its second iteration. The Hartak experience-sharing festival that last year gathered craftivists and travelers, food magicians, and photographers, movie directors, and sportsmen will kick off for the second time this weekend in Yerevan.

What’s new in 2016

Last year, people from different walks of life explored calligraphy, learned how to travel without money, and got the basics about how to build a company. This year’s Hartak plans to place the focus on how to lead a healthy and sustainable life. New speakers, from Armenia and abroad, will join speakers from  last year to bring new and thought-provoking sessions to this year’s experience-sharing festival. For 2 two days people can choose to attend from around 60 workshops that fall into 4 thematic blocks: art and tech, food, body and soul, and DIY.

The blocks will include sessions on how to choose a photo camera and edit photos, conquer Instagram, experiment with music and color pigments, do some outdoor activities like tai chi, capoeira, and zipline, or make seed  bombs with local guerrilla gardeners among others; most of the workshops are free of charge. The Behind the Curtains series of The Armenite will allow you get a closer look at this year’s speakers and what to expect from the workshops.

The people behind Hartak

Carine Aroyan, Manushak Vahramyan, and Christina Arutyunova are the driving energy behind Hartak.

All came to realize the importance of workshops and non-formal education through different life experiences. For Vahramyan, an economist by profession and co-founder of Aeon anti-cafe, it was her experience with non-formal education in Wales, in the United Kingdom. The program featured activities and workshops on arts and crafts, theater club, mud pools, rock climbing, and jumping off waterfalls. It helped to reveal the hidden talents of school drop-outs, people who couldn’t afford higher education, or just people who wanted to learn something new.

The idea to popularize non-formal education in Armenia and fill in the knowledge gap, particularly with vocational education, came to Arutyunova after her return to Armenia from Europe, when Aeon hosted her workshop on food photography. An economist by education and a person who transformed her passion in photography to a profession, she could see that people who restrain themselves to a 9 to 5 work routine rarely get to learn about their hidden talents.

As for Aroyan, Aeon, which she co-founded, had been around for a year when she saw the potential of the Aeon experience sharing hours, platform for culture, entertainment, discussions and business-oriented projects, to work as a prototype for a workshop festival. Aroyan is a journalist by profession but has preferred to dive deeper into world of animation, documentary movies, audiovisuals, and painting, and can see that people nowadays change their interests several times per year. According to her, life has sped up and changing a profession or a sphere of interest requires the ability to learn fast.

According to Aroyan, one of the reasons why Hartak is up-to-date and necessary is that “it’s a great opportunity to try [new things]and reorient yourself. Hartak speakers are often renowned and established experts. But one of our goals is to provide a platform to talented people, who by sharing their experience can meet like-minded people and find new opportunities.”

Hartak’s origins

First, Hartak was a pilot project. It was large-scale with around 70 workshops during three days. The first year allowed Hartak team to test what worked for the audience and what needed to be improved. Based on this experience, new elements were adopted from more traditional festivals; for example, an open call was announced for the speakers, whereas last year the organizers hand-picked each presenter. The success of the first experience-sharing festival in Armenia led to enough word-of-mouth marketing that they received numerous applications. The team, as well, has grown from 13 last year to 70 this year.

Starting this year, Hartak will have an annual theme and this one’s will be environmental protection.  Along with numerous discussions and presentations, there will be practical elements like educating people on how to minimize their ecological footprint and how to recycle.

“It’s one thing to know that environmental protection is important and another thing is to learn the facts and numbers,” says Aroyan. Besides trying to increase the feeling of responsibility,  Hartak tries to show people that it’s possible to break free of the work-home cycle, learn new things about themselves, develop new talents and skills, and meet new people.

For more information about the Hartak Festival, visit hartakyerevan.com.

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