As part of its longstanding nation-building efforts in Armenia, AGBU has joined forces with the European Union to help reimagine Armenia’s creative economy and transform it into a key strategic sector for advancing national and economic development.
Earlier this July, AGBU organized a press conference and public event in Yerevan to introduce the Katapult Creative Accelerator Program—a three-year EU-funded initiative to be co-implemented by AGBU Armenia and Creative Armenia. Its core activities are designed to harness the collective intelligence of the creative and cultural communities of the country which include members of the performing arts, sound recording, dance, theater, opera, ballet, live music, cinema, and filmmaking disciplines. Visual arts encompasses museums, photography, fine arts, graphic design, and other two-and-three dimensional art forms. Also included is publishing—digital and traditional–as well as video game developing, retailing, advertising, architecture, and all media delivery platforms: radio broadcasting; TV programing/production; and social media.
Through strategic programs, investments, and policy development, Katapult will promote, connect, and empower Armenia’s rich and varied talent pool which has been markedly underutilized in Armenia for far too long. In tackling key issues plaguing this sector, especially infrastructural services, Katapult envisions a well-deserved boost in market share for a sector credited as the third largest employer in the EU.
Highlighting the importance of the Cultural and Creative industries, Frank Hess, the head of Cooperation, EU Delegation to Armenia, stressed Armenia’s potential economic gains from the sector, citing the impressive turnovers the EU realizes from its investments. “In the EU, the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) generate around €509 billion per year, representing 5.3 percent of the EU’s total GDP and employs 12 million full-time jobs, which constitutes 7.5 percent of the EU’s employment and the third largest employer sector in the EU.”
Katapult encompasses three of AGBU’s four pillars of activity—education, culture, and socio-economic development. AGBU Armenia believes that by investing in these areas, there is a real potential for job creation and innovation, which will serve as a primary driver of innovation and entrepreneurship. The program, which takes a full cycle approach from creative ideation through production to market distribution will promote creative talent and products through media partnerships, marketplace events and talk series. Katapult will also connect partnerships and promote networking across other economic sectors in addition to the worldwide Armenian diaspora.
“We want to create sustainable livelihoods, drive the economy, and help position Armenia on the world map of creative ideas, products and talents,” AGBU Armenia President Vasken Yacoubian stated, adding that AGBU respects the knowledge and experience of the creative community in Armenia. The end goal of the program, he explained, is to build an industry that generates socio-economic vitality and affirms a strong civic identity, rooted in culture, for nation building.
The launch event featured the official signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between Armenia’s Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Ministry of Economy, and Ministry of Technology, European Union’s Delegation to Armenia and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. Signatory parties committed to cooperate within the scope of the Katapult Creative Accelerator Program.
Katapult is a three-year commitment by the EU, but AGBU and Creative Armenia are resolved to implement long-term projects with systemic impact to make fundamental changes to the creative ecosystem.
In order to set the tone for the systemic change to come, Katapult’s public launch included an open summit of international experts sharing their experience on system-building from the perspectives of education, business, regional exchange, IT and cultural policy. Guest speakers included Jaqueline Karaaslanian (LearningLearning Architects, MIT Media Lab), Thomai Serdari (Luxe Brands, NYU Stern school of business), Tamara Janashia (CUMA Labs Georgia), Narek Vardanyan (The Crowd Funding Formula), and Pat Cooke (University College Dublin, the Irish Arts Council).
By 2025, Katapult aims to incubate 135 creative businesses and projects via Creative Armenia’s Artbox, and support ten cultural institutions across the country through technical investments, international mentorship, and capacity building. Through Katapult Pavilion, Armenian designers, artists and musicians will exhibit their products to international markets at world renowned expos. Annual Katapult Talks will provide virtual and physical platforms for dialogue to connect global creative communities, and share experience on developing creative industries. Katapult research and the founding of a Creative and Cultural Industries Council will advocate for policy changes to incentivize support and investments in culture in the long term.
More information on Katapult can be obtained online. Details about the Artbox incubator for culture can be found at Creative Armenia, a global arts foundation for the Armenian people that discovers, develops, and champions innovative talent across the arts.