Maral Mikidirtsian isn’t a fan of standing still. For her, if you’re not moving forward, you’re not moving. That mentality is what has led her to work in Beirut, South Korea, Barcelona, then back to Beirut and finally Yerevan. Maral’s trek to Yerevan took many years, productions, exhibitions, adventures and one particularly irresistible offer… But let’s go back to the beginning.
After studying communications arts with an emphasis on theater, Maral wrote and directed a play that got her invited to South Korea for a performance. From there, she returned to Beirut for a short teaching stint before she decided she needed a change of pace. So, she moved to Barcelona, as people who need a change of pace are won’t to do. While in Barcelona, Maral received her graduate degree in design and public spaces at Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering.
Upon graduating, she began organizing community-based art projects and exhibitions with the goal of using public space and art to meet local needs. After that, she returned to Beirut where she co-founded Studio Saffar, a graphic design company. The company soon became one of Beirut’s most successful studios and was even commissioned to work on the world-renowned Baalbek International Festival.
Despite having worked in interesting locations and creating a growing, successful business, something was missing for Maral. And then she got a phone call.
“Marie Lou called me and told me about the TUMO Studios project and I was immediately intrigued. Not only did it speak to all my interests, but I’ve also always been passionate about education. Plus, truth be told, at that point, I had heard so much about TUMO and was jealous of the students who learn there and the staff who works there. So, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it all.”
Maral is now the TUMO Studios Project Manager, meaning she handles everything from finding international and local professionals to lead ateliers to follow-through. And for those of you who have followed the news on the ateliers, you’ll notice a certain trend of using Armenian culture and history as inspiration to create modern and contemporary pieces, be it fashion, folk art or food. This is not an accident. (Is anything at TUMO ever an accident?) “Armenians have this huge cultural reserve to draw from and if we don’t take advantage of it, it can disappear. And I’m not talking about mimicking what’s already been created; if you just create the same thing that was made hundreds of years ago, you don’t move forward. The key is to add a fresh take to traditional elements, that’s what keeps it alive, that’s what keeps it interesting.”
Though Maral has moved around a lot, there is one thread that ties everything she’s worked on together: Using art as a tool to accomplish great things. “I want to focus the power of art so that it’s not made just for the sake of creating it, but to make things happen.” Looks like she may have found the right career path after all.
Don’t take Maral’s pens. Really. We mean that. Maral hates when people take her pens and don’t return them. “It gets under my skin and really bothers me because I love my pens and pick each one for different reasons.” So, we repeat, don’t take Maral’s pens. You’ve been warned.