KAREN BABAYAN - Cumbrian Artist of the Year 2016

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C-Art Cumbrian Artist of the Year 2016 was awarded to Karen Babayan by a panel of Young Curators, 16 - 24yrs old, guided by two arts professionals. Karen spoke us about winning the award, and how she has developed as an artist since.

'Being awarded Artist of the Year for C-Art 2016 was a surprise and a turning point for me. Before then, I was mainly known by arts organisations and other artists in Cumbria as a curator, as I was working as Contemporary Craft Tour Officer for Highlights Rural Touring. Though only part-time the role was all encompassing and for a while, my own practice had taken a back seat. Winning the award was a sea-change: firstly in the way others saw me – that is, an artist with an established arts practice. Secondly, it gave me the confidence to finally take the plunge in 2018 and leave Highlights to pursue my own work on a full-time basis.

I am a multi-disciplinary artist, using text, performance, installation, paint, photography and print. My project, Swallows and Armenians, has been a passionate and personal one, that has brought to public attention, the Anglo-Armenian family from Aleppo who inspired Arthur Ransome to write his first book for children. I find it extremely pleasing that the very English Walker family from this very English landscape were in fact, Armenians from Syria. As an Anglo-Armenian from Iran, the project has given me a connection to this county.

Swallows and Armenians was launched in 2019 at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick. It included a book, an exhibition of wall-based text work, paintings, prints, objects and a performance piece with Young Company, TBTL's youth theatre. In 2020 Swallows and Armenians ‘flew the nest’ with an exhibition tour, audiobook and script for theatre, supported by a second project grant from Arts Council, England. After a successful start at The Old Fire Station, Carlisle, the remaining venues for exhibition tour are on hold until this autumn, but the audiobook will be launched in the next few weeks and the theatre script has been written, ready to go into the next phase of research and development at Guildford School of Acting in September.

Find out more about Karen's work here www.karenbabayan.com

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