How to combine business with culture

“Artbridge” bookstore-café, which has a serious track record of 16 years, opened in Yerevan charged with a unique mission. Shakeh Havan, its founder, not only does business but also helps people involved in arts, publishing industry and culture. 

In her interview with “Aravot” Shakeh notes “ There are a lot of similar bookstore-cafes worldwide, but we were the first to open in Yerevan. Over the first three months it was rather difficult to persuade artists and painters to have their exhibitions hosted in “Artbridge”. However, having seen our democratic approach to things people started queuing for registration. We encouraged everyone, accomplished artists, students and starters to exhibit their work with us. Some pieces started selling, some did not. We used to have monthly exhibitions hosted on our premises but now we have them every ten days. This keeps visitors engaged. “Artbridge” was also the first to come up with the idea of putting on sale tickets for art and cultural events. Nowadays other establishments have also adopted this strategy. 

The café’s founder says they set the benchmark high and guarantee success by nurturing respect for their work. “We respect our café customers, artists, publishers and creative people. There’s no conflict of interests. We have two different teams of people for the bookstore and the cafe.  Many years ago I used to be told that it would have been easier to start an outside café but I did not want the bookstore to smell of food and meals, as entering it implies entering a different world.  Now, we host book presentations in the café area, as the bookstore space is quite small. When we first started, we had very few books and people would laugh at us saying that the concept would not work, given the unpopularity of books. Fortunately, people read a lot in Armenia and we regret to have such a small bookstore. Therefore, we have come up with a solution not to exhibit books on shelves but just provide customers with any books of their choice. 
We have been promoting books since the foundation of the store and we’ve always sought to agree the business line with cultural demand.  Though we do not publish any books, we respect and honour people who write them. We try to establish a harmony between business and culture.  As all the authors and artists want to have their works reach a wider audience, we host their book presentations and art exhibitions. We are well-versed in featuring artists’ works and helping them achieve recognition.” 

The article was drawn up in cooperation with the EU-Eastern Partnership Culture and Creativity

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