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Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, an International Platform for the Arts
[Festivals] Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, an International Platform for the Arts
Writer : Kwon Jin-hee_Korean Cultural Center Turkey 2015.12.07 Europe > Turkey


Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, an International Platform for the Arts
[Festival/Market] The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and the Istanbul Music Festival

Once every year, a festival celebrating diverse art forms such as classical music, theater, film, and visual arts takes place in the dreamlike city of Istanbul. To participate in the Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS) program titled the Traveling Korean Arts Plus Project1), this author visited Korea with the festival’s secretariat, Efruz Çakirkaya, who is also the assistant director at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (iKSV)-Istanbul Music Festival. Çakirkaya, who also attended the 2015 Performing Arts Market in Seoul (PAMS), was willing to share her thoughts on the iKSV with us.


1) A by-invitation program hosted by KAMS for cultural center staff and local subject matter

A closer look at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

Q. Kwon Jin-hee: Tell us a little bit more about the iKSV.

Efruz Çakirkaya: The iKSV is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization founded in 1973 by a group of 17 businessmen and art enthusiasts led by Nejat Eczacıbaşı2) with the aim of organizing international arts festivals in Istanbul. The foundation’s initial goal was to showcase the finest samples of works of art, while at the same time using the arts to create an international platform to introduce Turkey’s national, cultural, and artistic assets to the world. The first Istanbul Festival, held on the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, featured mainly classical music, and other art forms such as film, theater, jazz, ballet, and visual art were also incorporated into the program lineup. An increase in both spectator and participant interest has prompted further differentiation into distinct festivals according to artistic field. Over the course of 43 years, four festivals and two biennials have been initiated.

2) A chemist and also the founder of Turkey’s pharmaceutical industry who established the iKSV with the purpose of hosting arts festivals in Istanbul

Q. Apart from this, what other efforts have been made to develop the arts in Istanbul?

Efruz Çakirkaya: The iKSV is made up of a dynamic, passionate, and young staff full of love for the arts. For over 40 years, we have worked proudly as the major organization representing culture and arts both in Istanbul and nationwide, but in addition to organizing the numerous arts festivals we also promote social responsibility. One of our main roles in this regard is organizing conferences to facilitate conversation between different players in the various artistic fields to encourage respect for cultural diversity. The conference theme addresses how government and organizations can cooperate on cultural policy development, and proceedings are published both in English and Turkish in the form of books and papers.

<바리abandoned> 공연포스터 

<바리abandoned> 공연 모습 

Interior of the Nejat Eczacıbaşı Building, iKSV ©iKSV
Performance venue Salon, inside the iKSV ©iKSV
The iKSV logo ©iKSV

Q. How is the iKSV operated?

Efruz Çakirkaya: The iKSV is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization. Forty percent of our total budget comes from sponsors; we have main sponsors for each festival and also performance sponsors for events or individual performance items. Another 40 percent of our funds come from ticket income, and the last 20 percent are through international and government funding. In addition, we have a membership program that allows for private sponsorship, and iKSV Tulip Card holders enjoy privileges such as early updates on the festival program lineup, advance ticket sale offers, and other discounts.

Q. I am curious about the iKSV’s international funding. How does it work?

Efruz Çakirkaya: I would like to respond to this from the perspective of government policy. I am impressed that agencies like KAMS are involved in hosting PAMS, and that government-affiliated bodies such as the National Gugak Center and Seoul Arts Center participate in major arts events. The iKSV does receive publicity funding from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, so in a way, we receive support for cultural events on a national level. However, in Turkey, there is no government-affiliated agency that funds the arts. As a result, at the iKSV, we utilize international funding for this purpose. We apply for and receive this support every year.

Istanbul Music Festival at the Church of Hagia Eirene ©iKSV

Music for Peace school orchestra ©iKSV
Sistema Europe Orchestra campus ©iKSV

Q. How did you come to work with the iKSV?

Efruz Çakirkaya: I learned several instruments, including the keyboard and classical guitar, in middle and high school as was greatly interested in classical music back then. I graduated from Ankara University with a major in Italian language and literature, and later received a scholarship from the Italian Embassy to study in Italy for three months. Three months was really too short for me [laughs], so I stayed on for another three years to do a graduate program in Italian communication studies. Anyway, while in university, I actively pursued my musical interests and even attended music classes at the Ankara University Conservatory. When I eventually returned to Turkey, I wanted to work in the arts and was considering my options when an acquaintance told me about an opening with the orchestra at Bilkent University, and that’s how I became their program manager. The Bilkent Symphony Orchestra puts on one or two collaborative performances in Istanbul each year. There was one time we collaborated with Is Sanat Konser Salonu, a concert hall owned by Isbank, a national bank in Turkey. The then director of Is Sanat Konser Salonu is the current director of the iKSV-Istanbul Music Festival. I started working with the foundation in October 2008, and this year marks my seventh festival. It’s exciting work because there’s a fresh festival theme every year and every time I pick out the festival’s content, concert format, and performance pieces it feels like I’m embarking on this project for the first time.

Q. The locations for the Istanbul Music Festival are very impressive.

Efruz Çakirkaya: We also focus on Istanbul’s cultural heritage when we host the festival and choose historically meaningful locations as concert venues. Since the first Istanbul Festival, we have frequently used a Byzantine church dating back to 1600 to stage our concerts. Other notable locations include historical venues, churches, and gardens. Aside from the festival, we organize one-day events like small- and larger-scaled concerts from autumn through to spring. Unfortunately, there are no opera houses in Istanbul, so even though we have a concert hall—Salon—within our iKSV building, we lack a concert hall with good acoustical properties.

Efruz Çakirkaya, assistant director, iKSV-Istanbul Music Festival
© Lee Kanghyuk
Poster for the 43rd Istanbul Music Festival ©iKSV

Q. Could you share more about your future plans?

Efruz Çakirkaya: I still hope to be part of the iKSV. I also want to be a part of the Istanbul Festival and to further develop some of my other ideas. Who knows—maybe I could do this for the next 10 years. On top of this, I hope to play a role within the iKSV’s education sector. There is a school in Istanbul called Music for Peace that was started 10 years ago and provides free music education to the children of underprivileged families that live in the impoverished area where it is based. This idea had originated some 40 years ago in Venezuela when José Antonio Abreu created El Sistema, an organization that provides education in music and the arts to children in the hope of mitigating the effects of poverty and the exposure these children have to drugs, and crime. In short, Music for Peace is the Turkish interpretation of this concept. The iKSV provides some of the financial support to help the organization operate, and I would like to continue participating in the venture so that more children will be provided with the opportunity to receive a musical education. My other dream is to run an arts venue, one that can host operas, exhibitions, any artistic work, either with the iKSV or on my own.

Q. What was it like to participate in PAMS?

Efruz Çakirkaya: PAMS is a fantastic government-supported event that promotes both Korean traditional and contemporary art forms to other countries. This kind of collaborative event is extremely important for cultural exchanges between countries since this is occurring on an international platform; it is not just about satisfying one’s cultural heritage but the chance to create a network, to exchange experiences and creative ideas. It would be great if our two countries could collaborate through a partnership like a year of culture and provide opportunities for us to work with Korean artists.With the cooperation of the overseas Korean cultural center, I was able to visit Korea as part of the Traveling Korean Arts Program, which promotes Korea’s outstanding culture and arts, and I also had a chance to participate in PAMS with the staff of the Korean Cultural Center Turkey. For them, being able to meet with their native country’s artists and to work with local subject matter experts signifies a very good start as far as promoting cultural exchange between our two countries.





Kwon Jin-hee_Korean Cultural Center Turkey
Has worked as a Korean-Turkish translator and interpreter for various organizations and companies, and currently coordinates events and exhibitions in the Korean Cultural Center Turkey.  
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