The world’s first children’s gallery was opened in Yerevan on March 13th, 1970, which later was renamed to Children’s Art Museum. Art critic Henrik Igityan and pedagogue Zhanna Aghamiryan were the founders. The opening of the gallery was a significant event not only in the art life of Armenia, but also in the whole Soviet Union. There was no such other children’s institution in the world.
The Children’s Art Museum in Armenia, which initially operated as a gallery with a small exhibition, later acquired a large permanent collection including 150,000 works from Armenia and 120 countries around the world. Individual, group, nationwide, all-union, and international exhibitions have been organized in the museum with great success. Numerous paintings by Armenian children have been observed with interest in many countries ever since.
Later, the Children’s Gallery served as the basis for the establishment of the National Centre for Aesthetics. The Aesthetic Centre for Armenia was established by the government’s decision on October 18th, 1978. It later became known as National Centre for Aesthetics (NCA), which was one of a kind in the world.
From the get-go, NCA became an institution geared toward familiarizing Armenian children and the youth with all branches of art and culture in general, as well as discovering and developing their creative talents and preferences. Together with its regional branches, it remained the only one carrying out this mission for many years. Many of representatives of Armenia’s cultural and intellectual realm received their education in this Centre.
NCA’s activities have always involved open-minded and highly qualified artists-lecturers, experts, cultural and art figures. For fifty years, they have been educating and mentoring their students therefore contributing not only to the development of cultural literacy and aesthetic taste of children and the youth, but also to the current and further formation and full accomplishment of the Armenian cultural realm. From the beginning, the Centre categorically rejected all dogmatic methodological manuals and programs that had nothing to do with children and real art. The institution was created and continues to operate as an experimental laboratory, fulfilling its high mission.
As a specialized centre for children, through educational-cultural teaching NCA’s mission has always been developing an aesthetic taste among Armenia’s children, discovering, and enhancing their creative skills, nurturing a generation that appreciates art, and establishing a relevant international network.
The National Centre for Aesthetics provides free education annually to more than 1600 children throughout the country in various branches of art.
NCA is home to:
- NCA Museum;
- Small Theatre;
- “Metro” theater-studio;
- Children’s Philharmonic;
- 7-year school of National Instruments, which is one of its kind in the country (1982).
Since the day of its establishment, NCA has galvanized Armenia’s cultural life with its activities. The results of the work of different subdivisions of NCA are as follow:
- Regularly organized exhibitions presenting children’s art works in Armenia and abroad (symposium and exhibition in New York dedicated to aesthetic nurturing in Armenia (1991); exhibition of Armenian children’s art works at the World Bank in Washington (1999-2000); exhibition in Strasbourg, Parliament of the Council of Europe (2000), exhibition in Rome (2000), traveling exhibition in New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee dedicated to the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the state religion in Armenia (2001-2002)’ exhibition pertaining to Biblical topics in Marseille in the framework of the project “Year of Armenia in France” (2007), etc.),
- Innovative performances stand out in the Armenian theatrical realm with their different set-ups. The Small Theater has received the Armenian Theatrical Award “Artavazd” (“The Diary of a Madman” (2007), “Ophelia’s Shadow Theater” (2008), “Ne me quitte pas / Don’t Leave Me” (2015)) and has participated in several reputable international festivals of performing arts where it has received multiple awards. The performances have been presented in different countries.
- Quality publications which brought to life popular books with illustrations for children (“Bible”, “David of Sassoun”, “Hovhannes Tumanyan: Armenian fairy tales”, etc.); for the first time references have been made to different Armenian artists (Minas, Vruyr, Emil Gazaz, etc.); number of books with illustrations have been published presenting NCA’s major projects and collaborations (“Japan Through the Eyes of Armenian Children” (2011), “Space” (2012), “Henrik Igityan: Creator of the Planet” (2012), “The Power of Love is Invincible” (2012-2016), etc.).
- Organized concerts which contribute to the promotion of national musical instruments, songs, and dance both in Armenia and abroad (in different years the groups of the Children’s Philharmonic Orchestra have performed in the USA, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and other countries).
NCA carries out its activities in the capital Yerevan, as well as in different regions (Gyumri, Sevan, Goris, Meghri, Vanadzor) of the republic offering art education to local children and teenagers further enriching their cultural life.
Summing up its operations of 50 years in 2020, NCA restarted its work with a new strategy and vision. Vahan Badalyan, an Honored Art Worker of the Republic of Armenia and an Artistic Director of the NCA’s Small Theater, has been appointed director of NCA. By adhering to Igityan’s vision as well as adopting the approaches of the modern world, the Centre has expanded the scope of its activities to become more inclusive. As such, the services will be available not only to children exclusively, but to anyone interested in art. The Centre pays a great attention to introduction of contemporary art in cultural-educational programs as well as in all its activities in general.
For this purpose, the Children’s Art Museum was formerly renamed the NCA Museum, becoming a multi-profile art platform. In parallel with the permanent exhibition, temporary, traveling, children’s, regional (reporting), international, jubilee exhibitions will be held here throughout the year. The museum will be an open platform for young artists, it will become an active meeting venue for culturologists, art critics, and publicists.
NCA, represented by the Small Theatre, has always focused on the issue of inclusiveness. The introduction of inclusiveness will be emphasized more than ever in all directions of NCA’s upcoming activities such as museum, main education projects, art platforms, etc. Inclusiveness will be incorporated into NCA based on the international experience and the cooperation with partners developed over the years. As such, the next steps will include establishing a dance training centre in Yerevan for people with different skills as the best format for the development of inclusive art in Armenia.
The works to create the Metro Performing Art Centre are also in process. With its architectural solutions, the Centre will become the first institution to be fully available to people with disabilities. Apart from being part of the audience without any difficulties, the latter will have an opportunity to perform as well. All the theatrical directions will be presented in Metro Performing Art Centre. It will become a venue for young artists with a say but no platform to develop and present it. Inclusive training centre will be established based on the experience of Small Theatre. Artists with or without disabilities will perform here on equal terms.
NCA values the international cooperation, professional communication, and the exchange of experience of famous Armenian specialists with their foreign counterparts. In this regard, with its various educational and creative branches NCA will become an active platform to hold meetings for students, Armenian and foreign artists, as well as organize master classes.