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Celebrating Women: Naira Velumyan

Life doesn’t always goes as planned. Imagine being a young mother to two children and losing your husband. As painful as that reality is, Dr. Naira Velumyan lived this ordeal. Living in her homeland of Russia at the time, Dr. Velumyan had to turn her life around, focusing on creating a brand for herself and investing in opportunities for the survival of herself and her children.

After obtaining her master’s and doctorate in psychology, Velumyan decided to pursue something that has always fascinated her; Jungian analysis and symbolism in art. Coming from a background in law and psychology, this was not an easy jump, but Velumyan embraced the connection between an artist and his audience through the collection of images. Jungian analysis deals with the psychology of the unconscious and a persons’s attitudes of the ego. Using this relation to artwork connects our unconscious mind to an artist’s intensions through his work.

While trying to put her life together, a close friend introduced her to a Russian artist named Alexey Klokov. Klokov was able to give Velumyan an inside perspective on the life of an artist growing up in Russia. She became inspired and  Velumyan used her understanding of art to become a gallerist and Mr Klokov’s agent. She was now part of an exclusive artistic world — little did she know she would be thanking her future husband at the time.

Velumyan spent her time in Russia building up a solid business network and becoming a certified art dealer, exclusive to Klolov’s work. To grow in business you always have to think outside of the box and this is why Velumyan had thoughts of integrating her Russian art brand into the North American market. Prior to this, she had little exposure to the North American art scene and all her connections were in Russia. She managed to maintain a private psychological practice and balanced her time.

“After we built an established dealer network in Russia, I recognized the importance of growing beyond European boundaries. North America always attracted me with its art market, and my father who has lived in Toronto for 25 years was always inviting me to come. As a skilled worker, immigration to Canada was not insurmountable; however, my adult children and Alexey did not share this vision.”

‘Girl on Two Balls’- 2012- Alexey Klokov- Oil on Canvas

Despite this, Velumyan pushed through and left Russia for Canada in the pursuit of building an even bigger and noticeable brand for her husband’s artwork. She was now classed as an immigrant in unfamiliar territory and with it came all the challenges. She was unestablished in a country full of competing artists striving to make a name for themselves.

“In Canada I had to start from scratch. Different country, different mentality and different culture … In a new country amidst established Canadians. Everyday is a learning experience with unique challenges and opportunities.”

During her first year in Canada, she had to learn English while having her Phd credentials approved. Velumyan attended the Bridge Training Program for Internationally Trained Mental Health Professionals, interned at a local clinic, and subsequently received her license in psychotherapy. Velumyan was used to helping people, so in addition to her art work, she became a founding member of an organization called IWB.

IWB stands for Immigrant Women in Business and is an organization dedicated to Helping Immigrant Women in Business to Succeed. It is run by CEO Svetlana Ratnikova, a fellow Russian immigrant in Toronto.

“When I met Svetlana Ratnikova, she invited me to become one of the founding members, and I was eager to help. As a woman in business, I know what unique challenges we face in the workplace and in our personal lives not withstanding the challenge of being immigrants.”

‘Potentility’ -2016- Alexey Klokov- Enamel on Linen- Suggested Abstract

As a founding member of IWB, Velumyan publicly shares her struggles as an immigrant and how she excelled in life. For International Women’s Day in March, Velumyan spoke at an IWB event and featured the painting shown above, ‘Potentiality’ which she says Klokov created to show the path of an immigrant ( the green mark) rising to success (yellow). Her talks offer a form of mentorship for immigrant women thinking about venturing into business.

As Alexey Klokov’s exclusive agent, Naira represents the sole interests of his work. She is developing a Canadian brand, organizing exhibitions, providing all printed products, and conducting negotiations with dealers and buyers. Currently, she hosts private art exhibits in Toronto, Ottawa, New York and Miami and is looking to establish a gallery network in these cities. Success in the art world was not linear for Velumyan and she knows the struggles women face in life.

“Sometimes women lose faith in themselves,” she said. “I would like them to know that there are always alternatives. In life everything is temporary and tomorrow is always another day. With the right effort any situation can be changed and these are life changing secrets I would like to share with women.”

Living in Canada has helped Velumyan explore a world outside of her comfort zone. One day soon, she hopes to establish her successful dealer’s network then she will focus on private psychotherapeutic practice. She would like to eventually volunteer for families that don’t have access to a therapist. “I look at the family as a system where the problem of one affects the others. Therefore when we cure one person, we get a healthier micro system.”

For a chance to listen to one of Dr. Velumyan’s talks, check out the next IWB event, scheduled for September 5 at Metro Hall, downtown Toronto. The event will run from 6-9pm and will offer various inspirational speeches and networking opportunities from other successful founding members. For more information and to register check out their Evenbrite page.