December 27, 2022
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AGBU Launches Katapult Talks in Support of Creative Industries in Armenia

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    Katapult Speakers of the “Marketing & Creativity: Building Animation Capabilities for Stronger Industries” panel discussion
    Speakers of the “Marketing & Creativity: Building Animation Capabilities for Stronger Industries” panel discussion
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    Katapult, URVAKAN Festival 2022
    Courtesy of A. Nersisyan / URVAKAN Festival, International Festival for Advanced Music
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    Still from Aurora Sunrise: a film by Inna Sahakian. Courtesy of Bars Media Documentary Film Studio
    "Aurora Sunrise," a film by Inna Sahakian / Bars Media Documentary Film Studio

On December 6, 2022, the Katapult Creative Accelerator Program, an EU-funded program implemented by AGBU in partnership with Creative Armenia, launched its newest program for knowledge-sharing with Katapult Talks. This one-week virtual program, conducted twice a year, offers viewers and stakeholders deep-dive discussions with international panels of creative professionals about key development issues of the cultural and creative industries.

For their inaugural edition, discussants explored the theme “Investments in Creativity” with emphasis on industry sectors from education, technology, music, and animation. Panels featured three or four experts at a time, in conversation with a moderator. The one-hour sessions were structured around key topics like identifying essential ingredients for building industry, tips to share with emerging creatives trying to enter global markets, and experiences to share with investors who are trying to improve the creative infrastructure. The discussions were held in English with simultaneous interpretation in Armenian aimed to maximize outreach to Armenian creatives worldwide.

“The main goal of Katapult Talks is to share practical industry insights—that precious behind-the-scenes knowhow that is so rarely taught in learning institutions, whether you’re in Armenia or elsewhere,” explained Anna Gargarian, AGBU Project Lead for the Katapult initiative.

The conference kicked off the week with a discussion on “Industry & Education: Reality as Curriculum.” Experts from major global learning centers at the cutting edge of design, art, and technology described how they connect curriculum to industry. They touched upon trends in education and the need to teach multiple skillsets and adaptability for rapidly changing environments and technologies. While speakers highlighted the importance of practical, project-based learning, they also considered the challenge of balancing the short-term goals of industry with longer-term learner needs.

The following day, a panel of technological trailblazers addressed how technology is providing new models to democratize the art industry. Representing new platforms that empower artists to own and control their data (and their profits), were CEO/Founder of SensingPlaces, Flavia Sparacino, and CEO of The Creative Passport, Carlotta De Ninni. From the investor’s perspective, Raffi Festekjian, the co-founder at NuArca Technologies and tech VC, shared what inspires him about blockchain’s potential for investment beyond the glamor (and scandal) of NFTs. While panelists discussed the challenge of educating audiences to improve user adoption of their new technologies, they all expressed hope for the opportunities that blockchain technology presents for social and global equity.

From virtual constructs the panels moved on to explore the power of music, communal events, and urban spaces with “Music & Business Worldwide: Industry that Catalyzes Social Cohesion.” Among the panelists were Frank Klaffs from the Worldwide Music Expo (WOMEX), Linn Paravyan from Armenia’s new music festival URVAKAN, and Lucy Evans of In Place of War, an NGO that supports music makers in conflict zones.

Speakers discussed how the role of music agents and labels have changed from gate keepers to facilitators of collaboration. They shared advice on how to penetrate the global music market and addressed the challenges of developing industry in areas with geopolitical unrest. In particular, Paravyan shared URVAKAN’s strategy as a niche-festival and product for international audiences—one that successfully put Armenia on the map as a music tourism destination. Despite the recent cancellation of the festival’s second edition, due to Azeri aggression on Armenian borders, the conversation ended on a high note with Paravyan confirming plans for a 2023 festival.

The final panel focused on “Marketing & Creativity: Building Animation Capabilities for a Stronger Industry.” Among the panelists was Inna Sahakyan, the director of the recent award-winning sensation Aurora Sunrise. This animated documentary on Armenian Genocide survivor Aurora Martikanian is Armenia’s official submission to the Academy Awards 2023.

Sahakyan was joined by Aghvan Khachatryan, the founder and CEO of Gyumri-based Popok Animation Studios, and Jared Folkmann, co-founder at Funday Creative Agency (Armenia/Canada). The discussants characterized animation as “Armenia’s super power” and emphasized the importance of strategic planning for international success, whether for film distribution or client relations.

Reflecting on the value of the Katapult concept, AGBU Armenia President Vasken Yacoubian noted, “Prosperity for the global Armenian nation has been one of our core values at AGBU since our founding over a century ago. Today, we understand that a thriving national economy also correlates with the success of its creative industries. The Katapult Creative Accelerator Program is tapping into our global AGBU network in new ways to harness collective intelligence, as we saw in this first round of Katapult Talks.

Livestream recordings are available on the @AGBUArts Facebook. For more on upcoming Katapult programs and events follow #KatapultArmenia or #AGBUKatapult on @AGBUArts social media platforms and “Katapult Creative Accelerator Program” on LinkedIn. Subscribe to the Katapult Newsletter for monthly updates of news, open calls for creatives, and profiles of Armenian creative change-makers. The next line-up of Katapult Talks is slated for Spring 2023.