Melida Tüzünoğlu, Spaces of Culture, Head of Program
Distant to Center, Close to Hearts
“Spaces of Culture sets its focus on the periphery instead of the center. It supports the cultural actors, institutions, and initiatives in Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, and İzmir that for various reasons have not come out of their shells or are in need of assistance owing to their financial, infrastructural and human resources circumstances.
Spaces of Culture invigorates the art activity in these cities where the existing cultural production is still short of being heard more broadly while helping to promote civil society activities at the same time. It, therefore, paves the way for the implementation of ideas in the form of art projects which contribute to social coexistence and the culture of pluralism. Providing the artists, cultural institutions, and actors the chance of existence, expression, and integration with the wider society constitute the raison d’être of the Spaces for Culture in a context where official institutions, private sector, or other entities offer limited opportunities for cultural expression.
Navigating from center to periphery naturally brings along a distinct set of responsibilities. Contributing to the launch and sustainability of merely qualified activities rather than striving to receive and support perfect proposals, marks the primary aim in an environment where professionalism and institutionalism are yet in their infancy. High-level representatives from the European partners of the Spaces of Culture, Goethe-Institut, German Federal Foreign Office, Institut français de Turquie, Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul and the Embassy of the Netherlands as well as the Turkish partners, namely Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) and Anadolu Kültür, and the project coordination body that is based in Istanbul compose the Steering Committee of the project. This Committee has set challenging criteria for selection of the proposals: focusing on artistic creation and/or art training; creating ideas specifically in favor of the disadvantaged sections of the society; engaging various local institutions, actors and spaces in their project; distinctly defining their targeted participants and followers as well as displaying a feasible plan to access this audience; building the actions in a way to maintain sustainability and effectivity; and using suitable communication channels to increase the impact of the project. It is worth mentioning at this point that the numerous applications received at various levels are preliminarily evaluated by the experienced local coordinators of Spaces of Culture in İzmir, Diyarbakır, and Gaziantep and the successful candidates receive continuous advice and attention from these coordinators.
In addition to its project funding activities, Spaces of Culture offers a “capacity building” and “mobility” support through which it assists the actors who make their valuable efforts in these cities. The recipients of the capacity building support familiarize themselves with the operation at the center in “cultural management” which denotes this year’s theme of the program. They attend seminars delivered by experts from Europe and Turkey, perform fieldwork and pay extensive visits to the art environment in Istanbul. Furthermore, through mobility support, the project fund a mobility scheme by which the cultural actors coming from the three cities travel to Europe in order to get acquainted with the art circles and actors, tune in on the current discussions in the art world, and also widen their communication networks. Hence, distances are overcome and the connecting power of art comes out through meritable projects that emphasize social cohesion and cultural cooperation.”