"Make Your Next Destination Istanbul!"

ImageThe European Commission selection committee declared on April 11, 2006 that Istanbul, along with Hungary’s Pecs and Germany’s Essen, were chosen as the 2010 European Capitals of Culture.  On November, 2006, with the approval of the European Parliament and European Union Commission of Culture Ministers, the awarding of the title of 2010 European Capital of Culture to Istanbul was announced. The President of the Agency for Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010, Sekib Avdagic, answered TURKOFAMERICA’s questions:
The title of ‘European Capital of Culture’ is an honor assigned to a chosen city or cities every year by the European Union.  From 1985 until 2010, a total of 38 different cities, including Paris, Florence, Berlin, Madrid, Stockholm, Liverpool, Brussels, Prague, Athens, Dublin, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Helsinki have been awarded this title.

As the decision to award the title of European Capital of Culture also to cities that were not in EU member states was made in 1999, Istanbul’s journey toward becoming a European Capital of Culture has started.  The Enterprise Group, which was formed by representatives of certain NGOs in 2000 in order to work on Istanbul’s candidacy as a European Capital of Culture, launched its efforts by working with other NGOs, universities, culture and art organizations, and the creative individuals of the city after obtaining the support of local and central government officials; their work also included the establishment of the Agency for Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010.  The Agency for Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010 was officially formed in November of 2007 in order to organize the projects and activities for Istanbul’s candidacy.

Meanwhile, the European Commission selection committee declared on April 11, 2006 that Istanbul, along with Hungary’s Pecs and Germany’s Essen, were chosen as the 2010 European Capitals of Culture.  On November, 2006, with the approval of the European Parliament and European Union Commission of Culture Ministers, the awarding of the title of 2010 European Capital of Culture to Istanbul was announced. The President of the Agency for Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010, Sekib Avdagic, answered TURKOFAMERICA’s questions:
Since the year 1985, nearly forty countries have been a European Capital of Culture.  What are the characteristics of Istanbul that make it different from these other cities?
This title is assigned to those cities which reflect European culture and contribute valuably to this culture.  As a city with a 8500-year-old history, Istanbul has been the capital of three empires, as well as a peaceful home to various cultures and civilizations, and is the tolerance capital of the world; so because of these factors and also because of the contributions it has provided to European culture, it is already among the important culture capitals of the Europe continent.  This title, assigned by the European Commission, is only a symbolic title for Istanbul and it stands as an opportunity to introduce the already present historical and cultural legend, as well as its modern side, to the world.

On the other hand, with its population of nearly 15 million, there is no doubt that Istanbul has a very different place than Essen and Pecs.  Istanbul is the last non-EU city that is receiving the title of ‘European Capital of Culture.’  Aside from our historical differences among other culture capitals, just this fact alone shows that Istanbul has the value of being a unique city.  When we look at it from this perspective, I think it should be remembered that Istanbul is among the greatest metropolises of Europe and its activities carried out as a ‘Culture Capital of Europe’ should not be compared, either in quality or in quality, with the other culture capitals.

If you were an ordinary citizen of any European country who values art and culture, instead of of an official leading the organization, how would you have convinced people around you to participate in the activities in Istanbul?
If I were an individual living in any European country and having an interest in art, I would have called Istanbul the ‘most inspiring city of the world.’  I don’t think either I or those around me could resist the appealing power of Istanbul.

Our Agency had come up with a slogan for our 2009 advertising campain abroad for Istanbul: ‘Istanbul...The most inspiring city of the world!’  The concept of ‘inspiring’ here is of course not a random adjective.  Also, this inspiration is not assigned only to those who live here or visit here; it is also endowed, in a imaginary way, in those who hear its name and desire and long to see it but are not able to.

Of course, Istanbul does not only give people inspiration.  It gives Europe and the world clues about diversities coexisting.  Istanbul provides Europe with a touchstone by which Europe can see and recognize its own identity; and it actually gives the inspiration for tolerance, which is essential for its very identity.  Istanbul portrays the possibility of being Eastern and Western at the same time, and gives people the chance to experience different and unique cultural movements and artistic options.  Especially lately, Istanbul has been, more frequently than ever, the meeting point for the international community for gathering, debating and producing.

Istanbul, in short, is saying to Europe and the world, ‘Come and see this eternal inspiration and use this eternal richness.’  However, we should not be content with what we have done in terms of presentation so far and we should produce new charms.  So, in fact, our task is just starting.  Istanbul has a big and influential name.  Our difficutl and challenging job is still present.  We have to continue explaining Istanbul’s mesmerizing beauty and displaying it with cultural, artistic and aesthetic details.  This should be our, the lovers of Istanbul, precious duty.
You have had thousands of project proposals.  And you have made efforts to sift through these projects and introduce them to the people of Istanbul.  On a personal level, which project or projects have been the ones you enjoyed sharing and participating in the most?
Our Agency, since it started accepting project proposals in 2008, received nearly three thousand proposals.  Above all, our arts and culture socities, universities, local governments, public offices, companies and individuals showing effort and proposing projects is something deserving appreciation.  With such great interest in place, our Board went through a busy evaluation phase and as a result selected 610 projects as part of our agency’s program.  Of course, it would not be possible to separate and categorize these over 600 projects as the more important and less important ones.

If you were to describe the Istanbul European Capital of Culture project to an American who does not have much knowledge about Turkey and Istanbul in one sentence, what would you say?
Through the works that are to be carried out under the Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010 project we are aiming to make Istanbul a meeting point in the world for arts and culture.  In this process, while we display our arts and culture projects through art’s universal language, we are also trying to contribute to the development and renovation of the city and pave the way for the aftermath of 2010 so such activities will continue to take place.  In that way, Istanbul, as an accredited city, will be a great venue for those who want to enjoy arts and culture, see beautiful samples of great architecture and city culture, and experience the liveliness and cultural richness of a world’s metropolis.

And above all, Istanbul with its great importance in world history and unmatchable cultural heritage is already one of the world’s metropolises.  I would like to repeat what we say to the European society to our American friends as well: “Make Istanbul your next stop!”

We will continue to try adding new inspirational resources and perspectives to Istanbul and make Istanbul an attraction for those living here and abroad.  And we invite you to be part of this inspiration as well: ‘Istanbul, your next stop!’

When you think about telling about this great project, which is significant not only for Istanbul but also for Turkey as a whole, to your grandchildren or the third generation, which aspect of it are you most proud?
Until now, Istanbul has not been in the place it deserves in the international arena so with this project at hand I believe it will receive the power it deserves, and this city of ours which is ‘inspirational in all of its aspects’ will be felt by a much larger crowd.  We believe this!

When we finish this process and look back, I will always carry with me the pride of making such a step and paving the way for better things to come.

At the end, culture is not a port to be reached, it’s a journey.  It’s an ongoing becoming and process.  We are aware of this and we are taking action with such consciousness.  We are preparing Istanbul, which is a city that housed various civilizations and cultures throughout centuries, for a brand new future.  Actually Istanbul has all the necessary infrastructure for that because Istanbul does not only rhetorically bridge Asia to Europe but at the same time truly connects the east with the west; the old with the new; the traditional with the modern; mysticism with science; magnificence with modesty; dogma with pragmatism; and the universal with the local.

Since the Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010 project is limited to last until this year, does this mean that the promoting of Istanbul by your Agency will stop at the end of 2010?  Is it possible for your Agency to continue functioning in some way?
The Agency for the Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010 project was established in order to prepare Istanbul as the European Capital of Culture and to plan and manage the activities that are set to take place throughout 2010.  The Agency is not a private entity and it has been legally formed by the Grand National Assembly as a result of the collective work of experts from public and civic organizations, local governments, and the private sector.

This managing method of the Agency for the Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010 is a method that has not been used so far in other European Capitals of Culture.  This method is receiving appreciation in Europe not only because it’s a first but also due to its structure and it is being monitored with great interest.  The goal of the Agency for the Istanbul European Capital of Culture is to create permanent values in Istanbul through sustainable projects and to maintain the mission of being a cultural capital.

Aside from the question of whether the Agency might continue to function after 2010, what we pay attention to the most when selecting our projects is whether they’re sustainable or not.  Our new arts and culture projects; restoration and preservation projects; and our communication and promotion projects abroad which aim to categorize Istanbul as a cultural venue in the international arena are still continuing to be implemented.

The Agency for Istanbul European Captial of Culture 2010 Project was formed over the past three years with the collective efforts of civil society organizations, central and local governments, and the private sector in order to preserve and promote the cultural legacy that Istanbul already has and to advance its potential in the fields of arts and culture.

The Agency is creating, shaping, and implementing projects, step by step, through its 13 different Boards.  The 3000 project proposals which we have received since the launching of the Agency has been evaluated in accordance with several different criteria, with sustainability being the primary one and 605 of these projects have been selected for the year 2010.  The Agency aims for all of the projects to be sustainable after 2010.
About 214 of the projects that were carried out under the Urban Practices, Preservation of Cultural Heritage, and Arts, Culture, and Tourism programs have been started; 224 additional ones are in process; and 172 more projects will take place during the following phases. The allocated budget for the year 2010 was 60% for the Urban Practices and Preservation of Cultural Heritage and 40% for the Arts and Culture Projects.

- The main comprehensive restoration projects in the Hagia Sophia Museum and in the Topkapi Palace.  
-    The restoration of the Yeni Kapi Theodosius Port ruins, which reflects the 8500-year-old history of Istanbul, in a manner that is complementary to the environment.  
-    Accelerating the restoration process of some of other cultural heritage sites, such as the Galata Temple and the Gazanferaga Madrasa.
-    Through the exhibitions that were displayed in the Topkapi Palace, the Agency was able to present selected pieces from the Persian Civilization and the Moscow Kremlin Palace.  
-    The opening of another exhibition, called ‘Treasures of the Ottoman Sultans from the Topkapi Palace,’ in Kremlin Palace on May 25th made it possible to present the historical pieces that are preserved in two important palaces, where the decisions that shaped world history were made.  
-    The exhibition, called ‘Legendary Istanbul from Byzantine to Istanbul: The 8000 Year Long Journey of a Capital City’, was organized in June in cooperation with the Sabanci University’s Sakip Sabanci Museum.
-    As part of the Agency’s projects under the Stage Performance Arts Directorate, the ‘Dance Platform Istanbul’ program was carried out.  As part of this program, the English choreographer Akram Khan and living legend of ballet Sylvie Guillem performed between April 21st and 23rd.
-    The European University’s Theater Festival, which took place on May 2-16, and the 13th International Istanbul Puppet Festival, which was staged on May 5-16.  
-    The place that captured attention during the ‘Spring at Haydarpasa,’ which took place on June 3-6, was the Haydarpasa station.  
-    The dance which Pina Bausch, one of the leaders of the German Dance Theater movement and the infamous modern dancer, had initially prepared by being inspired by Istanbul and named ‘Breath,’ was performed at the Muhsin Ertugrul Theater on the anniversary of Bausch’s passing on the dates June 21, 22, and 23.
-    The great contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part’s most recent play, called ‘Adam’s Outcry’ was performed at the world’s widely renowned Aya Irini Museum with the organizational help of the Agency and the city offices of Tallinn, which will have the title of European Capital of culture next year.  
-    One of the world’s most successful pianists, David Helfgott, introduced Rahmaminov to the music lovers of Istanbul through the concerts that took place on April 6 and 8.  And the ‘Istanbul Chopin Piano Weeks 2010,’ which was arranged from April 11 to May 9, was another significant musical activity.
-    The ‘Tall and Noble Sails Festival’ was organized with the help of the Turkish Chamber of Shipping on May 27-30.
-    Another sports activity that we supported was the World Rally Championship Turkey round, which was held between April 15 and 18 and was internationally accredited.
-    The ‘Living and Working in Istanbul’ project, which was organized in order to gather seven modern artists together in order for them to produce a piece dedicated to Istanbul and meet with the young artists living in Istanbul, took place in February under the leadership of Austrian artist Peter Kogler.   
-    The Spanish artist Antoni Muntadas, who completed his work task in 2009, exhibited his work, which was previously displayed in three cities including Istanbul, at the Tophane-i Amire Culture Center.
-    The Agency’s Visual Arts Board established the Kadirga Art Production Center and enabling young artists to work with the international modern artistic community at this center, also brought to life the ‘Art Port’, a venue that contributed greatly to the culture of Istanbul.  The 3600 square meter area of the Art Port, which the Agency operate in order to advance the increasing public exhibition site capacity of Istanbul, will host various exhibitions and activities until the end of 2010 for the residents of Istanbul.
-    This year between July 5-7, we held the second bi-annual Istanbul International Ballet Competition, which it is first started in cooperation with the State Opera and Ballet General Directorate in 2008.
-    With the help of the State Opera and Ballet General Directorate, the Agency organized the first ever Opera Festival in Istanbul, on July 5-7.
-    University-wide Theater Festival, which has been taking place since 2008, continued annually in Istanbul universities, as well as in others in Turkey and Europe.  
-    The Agency published many publications and documents related to the fields of arts and culture.  They supported artists by displaying their pieces and performances to the public. 
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07