â€śA different language is a different vision of life.â€ť It was not by chance one is reminded of the words of Federico Fellini when thinking of AVCâ€™s virtual tours; it is due to these events through which AVC students not only learn Armenian but also feel and live Armenian reassessing their visions and viewpoints on life, traditions, culture and art.
During the academic term of Winter 2013 AGBU Armenian Virtual College gathered its students around two social events, the religious holiday and ritual of â€śBarekendan,â€ť and a journey into the life story of well known American Armenian artist Arshile Gorky. Designed to supplement the learning process with extra-curricular educational and entertaining programs, these events came to add the growing list of social activities that are conducted each academic term.
The event of â€śBarekendan,â€ť a pre-lent holiday of religious origin, created a very enthusiastic and amusing mood due to the special arrangements AVC online instructors made. Truthful to the spirit of rituals and celebrations that go with the holiday, the event was highly theatricalized. AVC online instructors and students met in a live group video conference in costumes and masks.
The instructors demonstrated the â€śAklatis,â€ť a puppet remade of onion and chicken feathers and resembling a scare-crow, shared with students the rhymes and songs of the holiday, as well as recipes of food and pastries typical of the holiday period. Nay El-Helou, an AVC Student from Lebanon noted, â€śBefore the tour Barekendan was a word I didnâ€™t understand. Through the tour I learned everything about this holiday. I hope I will be able to participate in it one day as it is really interesting and means Good Life.â€ť
The social event on Arhshile Gorky was very warmly received by students and raised their curiosity to find out more about the extraordinary life story and works of the great artist. Some students were surprised to find out that the founder of the Abstract Expressionist art movement in the post world war American painting was of Armenian origin.
The online instructors invited the students to look beyond the tones and colors of Gorkyâ€™s work. Gorkyâ€™s brushstrokes were inspired by his lost Armenian highlands, by the azure of Lake Van and by the picturesque nature of his homeland in historic Armenia. The event stole tears from some students so moved they were by the artistâ€™s extraordinary life story. Henry Israyelian, AVC Student from Russia, shared his impressions: â€śI was impressed by his great talent, by his capability to translate the Armenian soul into his paintings. The memory of the home land he was born in always lived in his heartâ€ť. Another student, William Luiz from USA spoke up of Gorkyâ€™s life and art in a very expressive way, â€śI was impressed by the extreme hardships that Arshile experienced growing up and getting past them. His dedication to his work and family was seen by never perfecting his painting The Artist and His Mother. Arshile lived an amazing life that was unfortunately cut short with his early passingâ€ť.
Past social activities at AVC include virtual tours to Armeniaâ€™s most prominent museums, sites of historical and cultural interest, virtual tours in the streets of Armeniaâ€™s capital Yerevan, and many others. In addition to enriching studentsâ€™ knowledge and understanding of the Armenian history and culture, past and present, these instances of virtual live socialization create an â€śon-campusâ€ť feeling among students who are otherwise confined to online learning environment. The list of events continues to grow under the careful assessment by AVC of studentsâ€™ learning needs and in consideration of studentsâ€™ expectations and demand for such events.