Montreal Repatriate Araz Artinian Raises $250,000 for Yerevan Schools

YEREVAN—You may know Araz Artinian as a noted Canadian videographer whose films have gained a vast degree of international notoriety.

The 35-year-old repatriate left her roots in Montreal three years ago after completing a tour with “The Genocide in Me,” an angry, tender, and funny work that deals with her father’s passionate commitment to Diasporan Armenians and her own personal needs.

Araz Artinian checks out the merchandise at Artbridge Bookstore and Café in Yerevan which she frequents regularly when not collecting money for Armenian schools. (Photo: Tom Vartabedian)
Araz Artinian checks out the merchandise at Artbridge Bookstore and Café in Yerevan which she frequents regularly when not collecting money for Armenian schools. (Photo: Tom Vartabedian)

The video landed her a Golden Apricot Award in Armenia and was ultimately shown in 47 cities throughout 10 countries.

Prior to that, another film called “Twenty Voices” provided testimonies from 20 survivors representing different provinces in Armenia—a commitment that extended four years (2001-05) and ran parallel with “The Genocide in Me.”

“Very few ever got to see the final product and none are alive today,” she said. “I look at people like Rev. Vartan Hartunian and Armine Dedekian and how they provided my inner strength. They were my inspiration and this was their legacy.”

These days, Artinian is living in Yerevan with a different mission. She’s raised $250,000  to benefit 50 different art and music schools throughout the capital city. Also visible is an ambitious website project designed to promote history, which is running jointly with the humanitarian work.

Her quest is a necessary one, looking to renovate all the toilet facilities in these institutions that have been virtually untouched over the past four decades, together with the purchase of new instruments, uniforms for dance ensembles, as well as the renovation of classrooms and music halls.

Already opened is a new department in the Method Center at the Yerevan Conservatory. Many grand pianos have also been restored.

Artinian raised the money in six months time, much of it through Vivacell, a cellular phone company, and through the generosity of the Hrair and Anna Hovnanian Family Foundation.

“People in Yerevan know how awful the condition of all the music and art schools remains in Armenia,” she said. “The students and instructors deserve better. If it continues, art will disappear.  It gives me more of a satisfaction in helping others with their art than myself.”

That brings Araz to a second project. She’s launched a website project (, which stands for “awakening,” in an effort to get the word out and elucidate the cultural population. Keeping tabs on all 50 schools with periodical visits and constant updates makes for one busy schedule. Her cell phone is always on call.

On her website, you’ll tour 21 centuries of Armenian culture. Thirty different children between the ages of 11-17 have been recruited from 12 different districts of Yerevan. Each child will represent a specific art form.

Artinian visited 400 churches in Armenia to select 21 shooting locations she deemed worthy for the project. Research was done at the Madenataran. Artinian recruited the help of Suzanna Baghsaryan who designed and made the costumes.  Karen Mirzoyan was commissioned to shoot the website photography.

Artinian expects the work to be completed sometime next year, a project that runs an additional $100,000. Of that, $50,000 has already been exhausted, including $30,000 from Canada.

There appears no rest for the weary when it comes to both endeavors—the website and the schools. Both are critical in this repatriate’s mind.

“Yerevan is home to 22 music schools and 28 art schools,” she points out. “Teachers average $100 a month and principals get $140. There are no decent instruments left and the government sadly won’t help. It’s $10 a month to send a child to music school and there are parents who cannot afford even that. No student should be deprived of an education because of a shortage of money or desperate conditions.”

In 2008, Artinian spent seven months writing a $3 million proposal to install heating and new windows in the music schools.

“They don’t have heating in Yerevan,” she confirms.

When the money didn’t come through, she took matters into her own hands, a relentless mission that often robbed her of sleep and a viable social life. It also led to an imminent book of poetry called “Philophobia,” detailing her personal relations and the fear of falling in love.

“When I was young, I hated Armenian history,” Artinian revealed. “It was far too complicated for me. I want kids to look at these 21 centuries and get a better appreciation for history. I want to raise awareness.” 

About Araz Artinian

Canadian-Armenian Araz Artinian spent 27 years trying to comprehend her father’s obsession with his nationality.

She spent the next four years with growing degrees of that same “Armenianness” entering her blood. For the filmmaker, understanding came around the family table in Montreal, through the lens of a camera in Turkey, through the voices of survivors in North America of the very genocide that has been the theme of her home life.

The passion continued with the making of a film titled “Twenty Voices,” in which she documented the eyewitness accounts of 20 survivors.

That was later followed by the award-winning film “The Genocide In Me,” which thrust the 35-year-old into the spotlight as a film artist.

Dr. Henry Theriault, associate professor of philosophy at Worcester State College, says of Artinian’s work, “There exists just a small initial literature on such topics as the intergenerational transfer of genocide trauma. If only for its documentation of these survivors, the work is of historical significance.”

Artinian was the recipient of numerous awards for “The Genocide In Me,” which was produced in 2005 and given the full tour universally by the artist.

She also worked with Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan as head researcher for the feature film “Ararat.”

Today, Artinian lives in Yerevan raising money for music and art schools throughout the region.


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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  1. What a great work! Chapeau to the lady.Same needs to be done to all schools.Conditions are worse than terrible.Visited one school in Yerevan and was shocked… no windows and what toilettes!!

  2. I met Araz in 2006 at her premiere of “The Genocide in Me” in Yerevan and was floored by her film which exposed the similarity that we all have as children of this dedicated and dispossesed nation searching to understand why we are who we are.
    Armenia lives though the Araz’s of the the diaspora.
    Persevere Araz.

  3. Araz jon!
    You are amazing and I admire you for your accomplishments! More power to you!
    You are A true patriot, A valuable artist and role model!
    Sending you a LOUD hurahhh and a BIG hug!
    Parik Nazarian
    Los Angels
    July 6, 2009

  4. Finally, Araz found her roots where she belongs; from a confused young talented person she grew up to become a mature person who realizes that in life we need to aspire for a noble ideal; what better ideal than to serve ones own nation that desperately needs help, a nation subjected to the worst abuses and neglect by the world at large.
    Araz, with your new dedication you epitomize the best role model every Armenian should follow, you have become the source of inspiration to all of us, bravo !!! I am confident that many will join you or even help you financially, do not despair go for it.

    I am sure your film making exceptional talent will grow even stronger and I hope you will continue the film productions and partially contribute with it to the cause of the Armenian nation.

    After all, your parents’ efforts in inculcating in you awareness of your Armenianness was not in vain; thus their indispensible work should be appreciated.

  5. Gegeckuhi? ashxataser u tagandavor ARAZ ARTUNYANIN im xorin harganq#
    Es kcankanayi hayatar “MTORUM” handesum hratarakel hargarjan Arazi masin ogtvelov Dzer kygmic nerkgyacvats nkaric: Ete me hasner nra mi qani xosq3 menq met hachuyqov khratarakenq:
    Haytneq nra elektronayin kam postayin hascen, vor menq imananq te mer vor gotser# hacheli klinen nra srti larerin:

    Shnorhakalutyun Jabarvanin ARAZ ARTUNYANI patker# mez ugarkelu hamar:

    Urax kyanq bolorid:

  6. I bow for Araz and for her holly work. I would like to be on her mailing list for contribution in her future projects.

    Armenia Live For Ever!

  7. Arden 2 angam tesel em Arazi nkarahantas filmy ev uzum em shnorhakalutyun haytnem irenic, vor aprelov  Hayastanic heru , bayc aydqan hayrenaser hayuhi e. Es qez shat sirum em:

  8. Dear  Araz,
    Your efforts for Armenidad-Armenity are  phenomenal.Kudos  to you.
    Dear Araz, I have been an Armenian activist in Europe, now  residing  in U.S. and also at least  once a year  in Yerevan,RA.Am to be in Yerevan for over a month-12th or 13th time-to memorialize   my grandson´s legacy.Am to publish  his  poems in three idoms, his Music album  of  7 songs/tunes  to be  reproduced  in qty etc., Would very much like to meet with you abou  my other major projects  …on which have  being working..I shall try to enter  MDORUM  periodical  to get  your  phone  No. or  e-mail address.
    Gaytzag  Palandjian

  9. Addendum,
    I now and then -rarely- visit  the Artbridge books are  on sale  there-proceeds  to a handicapped childrens´centre -as published  on back cover. I shall also ask for  you there, or just  meet  you there, as Saroyan´s  ¨Chance  Meetings¨¨

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