By Noel Mazmanian and Sanan Gueyikian
AYF Camp Haiastan is a place for campers to come and celebrate being Armenian. One way they can do that is through the arts. Art has served as the ultimate form of expression, and as an Armenian, it works as a catalyst to share our culture with others. Art gives campers a medium to celebrate their cultural identity as Armenians and grow closer together in this expression. The arts and crafts room is a safe place for campers to work collaboratively to create beautiful work that they are then able to display to the rest of the community. This creative process allows campers to make their Armenian pride tangible so that it can be enjoyed by all.
These past four weeks, the arts team organized a variety of fun and unique projects that each illustrated a different aspect of Armenian heritage. During Teen Session, campers worked together to craft a traditional oriental rug. Each camper was given a different portion of the rug to color and design in their own way. Then, campers put all the pieces together in a collage to produce one cohesive rug. Campers in the first session participated in fashioning an “Armenian Flat Stanley” dressed in customary Armenian garments, or daraz. The male “Flat Stanlians,” as the kids called them, wore embroidered fabrics, caftans and trousers. The female attire consisted of long dresses, aprons (or mezars) and head-dresses.
We planned art activities for the Hye Talks, which included a Bob Ross-inspired Mt. Ararat painting tutorial, khachkar carvings out of clay and trchnakir, a form of Armenian calligraphy. This diverse collection of activities was thoroughly enjoyed by all the campers and staff. They all had so much fun working together, creating an overall memorable experience. Although some kids may have already discovered art as an outlet, Camp Haiastan has provided an opportunity to teach kids about a specific way to celebrate, create and express their Armenian pride. We look forward to continuing this artistic journey, for who knows, we may find the next Arshile Gorky here at Camp Haiastan.