Spotlight: HAYP Co-Founder Anna Gargarian

By: Rachel Nersesian 

Over the last year and a half, HAYP Pop Up Gallery has been “popping up” in various locations throughout Armenia. Each HAYP exhibit lasts for ten days and features the works of local Armenian and international artists. We caught up with Anna Gargarian, HAYP’s Co-Founder, Manager, and Creative Director, to find out what the “hype” is all about. Check out when and where HAYP will next “pop up” at haypopup.com.

I first met Anna while living in Yerevan after attending the first HAYP Pop Up Gallery in

Anna_PHOTOCRED_Sasha Maddah Photography

Photo of Anna Gargarian by Sasha Maddah Photography

2014. I then worked with Anna on HAYP’s second gallery installment, “ANKAP-ital” in Spring 2015. After our first meeting, it was immediately apparent that Anna is not only extremely knowledgeable about what it takes to put together an engaging exhibition, but she is truly dedicated to creating lasting impact through art. HAYP’s unique focus on hosting events in the gallery space that highlight local organizations (such as Women’s Support Center) really sets the gallery apart and reinforces the connection between art and community engagement. Moreover, Anna and the HAYP team always choose an exhibit theme that resonates with the community and attracts many artists eager to participate, which truly highlights HAYP’s impact on the community. Anna and her team are continuously exploring and finding inspiration for the next gallery installment, and I can’t wait to see what the next pop up holds in store!

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Anna. What is your profession and what is your connection to Armenia?

Generally, I consider myself a creative and enthusiastic person. I’m passionate about art, people, and travel. I love to discover new cultures – through music, food, travel, language, and art. This is what I always found most fascinating about art history, through image culture, we discover how a society sees the world, themselves, and how they want to be perceived by others. These are subtle nuances. You can understand the politics, religion, and various social dynamics of a culture through their creative output.

I consider myself a curator and cultural project manager. My academic background is in art history and painting conservation, which I studied respectively at NYU and at the Spinelli Restoration Institute (Florence, Italy). I love what I do- curating is a creative process. To a certain extent, it’s very authorial, especially when working with contemporary artists. We co-design works together, or rather I may guide an artist in one direction or another. Often times, and especially in Armenia, curating is confused with organizing. “Ah, you’re the organizer!” people tell me. Although curating does require good organizational skills, for me it’s especially about creating meaningful environments for the artworks and the person(s) experiencing them. Artworks are placed in conversation with one another, and their placement always considers the position and state of the viewer (or participant in the case of interactive works). It’s about building meaning, and it’s a lot of fun.

My connection to Armenia is on many levels. I was born and raised in the United States, but my parents are Armenian. I first visited Armenia when I was 13, and then a second time for a longer period of time when I was 18. I moved to Armenia in September of 2014 when I was offered a position by the Ministry of Culture of RA [Republic of Armenia] to curate and coordinate the Armenian pavilion at the 2015 Beijing International Art Biennale (BIAB). I have been living in Yerevan ever since.

  1. What is HAYP Pop Up Gallery and why were you inspired to start it?

HAYP is a nomadic (or “pop up”) art gallery that exhibits contemporary art in unexpected spaces for ten days at a time. While meeting artists in preparation for BIAB, I was surprised by how few exhibition spaces were available in comparison to how much great creative talent we have in Armenia. There are a couple of active art spaces, among which the most contemporary and dynamic is NPAK (or the ACCEA – Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art). At the same time, there is a construction boom right now, and many new (yet uninhabited) buildings have appeared in the Yerevan skyline. These circumstances – plenty of artists, not enough galleries, and lots of empty space – created an ideal situation for an alternative “pop up” art gallery. My cousin and business partner, Charlotte Poulain, was vital to spearheading the project. Anna&CharlotteAfter sharing my idea with her, she was very enthusiastic, organized, and visionary in how to crowdfund the project and get it running off the ground.

Each project has been exciting in its own way. To-date, we’ve put on six exhibitions and over 30 events. Each exhibit is accompanied by its own “event week” which allows us to present the performing arts as well like theater, dance, and experimental shows. It also allows us to host various educational events like workshops, panel discussions, talks etc. They’re always related to our main exhibition theme.

  1. How is HAYP having an impact on the Armenian community?

Measuring impact is a difficult question, and one of our challenges. Attendance to all of our events and exhibitions has always been high- which is very inspiring and encouraging for Charlotte and I as the founders, organizers, and motors moving this project along. We receive emails and Facebook messages form visitors thanking us for the projects, and interested volunteers who want to be a part of HAYP in some way. Recently, a group of talented artists and designers met with me for advice on how to start their own pop up “Design Week” in Yerevan. This is very exciting to me. I hope that the Pop Up model will catch on, and that other creatives will feel empowered enough to open up their own spaces. Financial support is always the main concern, but you’d be surprised by how willing people are to sponsor services and tools that are a huge part of the budget. You can get going with very little. Of course, long-term sustainability is another issue.

  1. What are some upcoming events and how can people living outside of Armenia get involved? 

We are always open to collaborate, either with artists who have a project that they want to make happen, or with potential sponsors who may have a new space that they want to introduce to the public through a dynamic cultural event.

We have a few projects in the works, the location and dates will be determined by funding. This Fall we’re co-curating a workshop and exhibition with Boston-based artist Susanna Baum. Susanna is both a journalist and artist, specialized in bookmaking. The project, “Codex: Illuminating Women’s Stories in Contemporary Manuscripts” consists of a workshop with women artists in Gyumri, Armenia, followed by a multi-media exhibition that will feature the resulting books, poems, and illustrations, in addition to the workshop documentation. This is a collaborative project also involving 4Plus, a group of local women photographers who aim to empower women and develop documentary photography. We’re excited about this collaboration, as it presents a coherent follow-up to our last exhibit (that also focused on women’s issues in Armenia) via a historically and culturally significant medium, the manuscript.

This winter, we hope to implement a project in an Armenian prison by artist Sam Saga. It’s the sequel to a first edition that took place in 2014, that examines the justice system in Armenia from a constructive critical perspective. For next spring, we’re collaborating with the Swiss Embassy of Armenia in order to bring over an international renowned artist whose name I won’t disclose yet. We also have a multi-media installation we’re working on with a Berlin-based artist, Luis Mejia for next April. That’s just a taste of upcoming projects. In general our goal is to bring art to unexpected communities, and engage with those publics.

For those interested in getting involved, you can contact us at our email: info.hayp@gmail.com. For donations, our N.G.O. is not a registered 501(c)(3), but we do have partners, such as AIWA-SF, who would happily accept earmarked donations on our behalf in order to award donors that financial benefit.

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To learn more about AIWA, please visit www.aiwainternational.org.  To get involved with the AIWA SF affiliate, please visit www.aiwasanfrancisco.com or send an email to aiwasanfrancisco@gmail.com.

Photos of HAYP Pop Up Gallery by Gabriel Ouzounian.

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