STIGMA PROJECT BY INTRA MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE AND SAMVEL SAGHATELYAN
ARMENIA ART FAIR SERIES

STIGMA PROJECT BY INTRA MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE AND SAMVEL SAGHATELYAN

The opening ceremony of the second annual Armenia Art Fair took place in Yerevan Expo Center on May 31. 35 galleries and curators exhibited contemporary artists from Armenia, Iran, Belarus, Ukraine, Israel, USA, Spain and UK during the four days of the fair. From May 25 to June 2 Art Week was first introduced, a new format which stands for series of discussions on the topics of new art markets, the connection between art and new technologies, art and data. 

 

“Anti Stigma Anti Straitjacket” multimedia installation was introduced during the fair. The project was brought to life by Seda Ghazarian Mental Health Foundation’s “Intra Mental Health Center” in collaboration with artist Samvel Saghatelian. The project aims to eliminate the common misconceptions about people with mental issues using art as a tool which keeps away people from stigmatizing everyone and themselves, at the first place. The Executive Director of the centre Meline Tovmasian talked with Regional Post about the key points and the essence of the project.

Before starting her work as an Executive Director at “Intra Mental Health Center,” Ms. Tovmasian herself assumed that once person has a mental issue it’s verdict, but later on she realized that these people have a huge potential of upscaling the quality of their life if they are motivated and have enough support.

The center uses different arts as a part of group activities. Previously, they had dance classes and currently, they work with a ceramist. However, at some point it became clear that the members of these groups who attend the centre for a long time have a need for a larger socialization. The scale which would previously satisfy them was no longer enough. In the frame of the Armenian Art Fair the center was offered an opportunity to participate as a social project. They involved Samvel Saghatelyan as the artistic curator, developed a concept of a project with him and the group members implemented it. They also worked with artists Vahagn Hamalbashian, David Kochunts, and Lilit Soghomonian.

“At the initial stage, we thought that one part will be implemented by several painters, the other part by our group members but when the painters saw what a free and authentic process this is for our centre visitors, they stepped back and suggested to simply support them,” remembers Ms. Tovmasian.

The whole idea of the project is the concept of stigma. The use of this concept as a major theme of the project was interesting to the artists as well, as each of them has his/her own vision of this idea. The experience of the specialists at the center illustrated that the stronger is the stigma among people with mental issues, harder it becomes to win the battle with the problem. “The project is about the stigmas inside us and the masks we carry,” implied Ms. Tovmasian, “this is why we chose masks as the main artwork depicted in the installation.”

The specialists of the center actively work with the families of these people and the topic of stigma was around for a long time. The center also had a mission of raising awareness about this topic and Armenian Art Fair was another opportunity for it. The center plans to have series of talks with the group members and the painters involved on what is stigma, how they feel it, about the correlation between the individual and the society.

“Here, at the fair, you can see the end result but the process was equally beautiful,” concluded Ms. Tovmasian