SAFAA has two branches- in Gyumri and Dilijan that were established taking into consideration the demands of the region.
After the earthquake of 1988, any action aimed at improving the living conditions and psychological recovery of the population in the disaster area was of utmost importance, any kind of help was necessary and appreciated. Drawn with this concern the Fine Arts Institute, along with the Institute of Theatre and Conservatory, intended to set up a branch there. The aim was clearly set; to provide workplaces for people, to awaken hope among the youth for the continuing cultural life of the former flourishing city of arts and crafts, that the art can’t fade in the city of so many talented people, and for the faith towards their present and future.
This intention was greeted in Gyumri and succeeded. The former building of the Gyumri municipality was completely renovated with the support of AGBU chairwoman of that time, Luiz-Simon Manoukian and was allocated to three art institutions. Thus the branch of Fine Arts Institute opened in Gyumri in 1997. Great dedication and energy was put in its realization and the Institute directed all the possible means and resources towards that goal. The persistent and consistent work gave its results; despite many difficulties, even the attempts to take back the building, the branch succeeded and made progress in all specialties.
Since its establishment up to 2017, the Director of the branch was painter, Professor Hambardzum Ghukasyan. Now the branch is headed by painter, Professor Garik Manukyan, who has earlier been the head of Painting chair. The educational affairs department is headed by Araksya Ananyan and the deputy director for logistics is Karlen Hartenyan. There are five chairs operating within the branch: Painting, Sculpture and Applied ornaments, Graphics, Fashion design and Art studies and humanities. The teaching staff mainly consists of Gyumri-born, renowned, experienced lecturers-masters; Zaven Koshtoyan, Nver Safyan, Albert Vardanyan, Valeri Khachatryan, Yesayi Meyroyan, as well as middle generation artists and promising young staff; Gevorg Sargsyan, Samvel Poghosyan, Margarit Atoyan, Vahagn Ghukasyan, Lusine Harutyunyan, Satenik Mazmanyan.
The lecturers, students and graduates of the branch participate in cultural events of the city, exhibitions and symposiums. At the competition “Russian silhouette” held in Yerevan, in 2010, the graduate of Fashion design department Artak Vardanyan won the first prize.
Throughout the recent years relations were established with the art institutions of other countries. In 2013 the lecturers and students of painting department were invited to the exhibition at Haigazian University in Beirut. Particularly valuable cooperation was established with Vienna, where an exhibition of students’ works from painting and graphics departments was held in 2008 during Mozart days, the opening of which was attended by some of the participants.
The students from Gyumri branch also participate in the restoration courses of frescos and practical work conducted by the Italian specialists. The exhibitions and biennials in particular convey a special rhythm and atmosphere to the academic life and the latter served as a basis to form a tradition of holding International biennials in Gyumri.
Years ago the Institute of Fine Arts collaborated with the faculty of Decorative Arts of Ijevan branch of Yerevan State University. This region of Armenia is famous for crafts, the traditions of wood and iron processing and lacework, so during the post-independence years there was an idea to open a branch in Dilijan as well. Immediately after the tumbledown building of the local choir company was acquired the renovation works began and the branch opened in 1999.
There was a great desire to lead the specialization towards the direction of metalworking, build a forge, promote artistic blacksmithing, decorative crafts. However this programme wasn’t implemented due to the limited number of students. Instead the carpet weaving department was successfully developed preparing high quality specialists through the years. In this regard, it’s worth outlining the significant role of Associate professor Hasmik Ghazaryan- an experienced pedagogue, talented master of modern decorative art and carpet weaving who went to work in Dilijan showing her humble dedication and diligence towards the fulfillment of the goal. In 2004 the institution released its first graduates.
There is only one chair operating in the branch, namely the chair of decorative- applied arts consisting of carpet weaving and fashion design departments. The branch is run by painter, director of Geological museum, Associate professor Ghazar Ghazaryan and the core specialty subjects such as artistic texture, ornamental art, painting, drawing, composition, work with material, theory of colors, bionics, history of art are taught by Hasmik Ghazaryan, Ghazar Ghazaryan, Mher Ghazaryan, Anush Grigoryan, Meri Grigoryan. Students and graduates of the branch often participate in the exhibitions of decorative-applied arts, the most memorable ones among them held in the Artists’ Union of Armenia and Folk Art museum after Vanik Sharambeyan in 2011, entitled “Back to the roots” and in Russian Art museum after Ara Abrahamyan, in 2015, entitled “Lost homeland: Silent witnesses”.