Ayca Ince, recently finalized a 3-years-long project called “Invisible Cities: Building Capacities for Local Cultural Policy Transformation in Turkey”. This project aims to increase cultural policy knowledge and management capacities of cultural organizations and city administrations in Turkey together with Anadolu Kultur (Turkey), European Cultural Foundation (The Netherlands ) and Boekmanstichting ( the Netherlands) which is awarded by the Matra Program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within this framework, she set the Centre for Cultural Polices and Management (KPY) at İstanbul Bilgi University.  This centre publishes the Yearbook of Cultural Policy and Management in Turkish and English. Ms. Ince works as editor-in-chief for this Yearbook and the coordinator of the Center. Ms. Ince is the co-editor of the book called “Introduction to Cultural policy in Turkey (2009), which aims to fulfill the need of defining the framework of some principal elements which constitute cultural policies in Turkey. She lectures on audience development and cultural policy issues and currently works on her Ph.D research on cultural policy making at the local level/ municipalities.

1. Ayca, you are writing a PhD thesis on ““Cultural centers and cultural policy of municipalities”. Why are you interested in this topic?

Within the context of Istanbul being the European Cultural Capital of the year 2010, I coordinated a professional education program for cultural managers working at the municipalities of Istanbul. Although I am teaching cultural management at the university, our graduates have just started being active in the field, mainly in private sector. So, meeting with 90 cultural professionals from 39 municipalities of Istanbul, attracted my interest. Realizing that there was only few case studies and research work done on the cultural policy of the municipalities, I decided to concentrate on this topic. A background is also my former work on cultural centers.

Since 1990’s, private enterprises started to invest in culture, for example in many Western countries they helped in establishing art collections or museums. Later on this trend continued by setting up institutions in the cultural sector such as cultural centers, symphonic orchestras, or research centers specialized on certain filed of arts and culture.  Although their numbers increase each day, their aims and target groups vary and their effect and contribution to the cultural sector should be studied further. There have been a few studies on private enterprise’s contribution and their appraisal of sponsorship and philanthropy, but there is no profound research on the larger picture where all actors are included. So as a first phase of my PhD research, I started by identifying all existing actors, namely  the state and private sectors, local governments and NGOs, civil initiatives, etc. as the ones who build up cultural center. I also discuss how their general aims fit to cultural policy framework. Now I am focusing my study only on the cultural centers built by the municipalities of Istanbul – I study a full-sample which targets over 60 cultural centers  in Istanbul.

2. Cultural policy and management education is relatively young in Turkey. Do you face problems in your attempts to publish your work, to talk to policy-makers and academia about your research findings?

Yes, this is true. Indeed, I work for the last 8 years in one of the leading universities in terms of Cultural Management Programs. We have already identified that need and built our capacity to increase awareness for cultural policy and management research and practice. The newly formed Cultural Policy and Management Research Centre aims to meet this need by:

  • publishing a yearbook of Cultural Policy and Management via an open-call method;
  • building a library and online- database specializes on the field;
  • creating research project and report opportunities for collaborative research, and finally
  • organizing conferences, discussion groups to bring different parties together.

Besides that, the opportunities are very limited, but opening up with the urge of the young and civil initiatives. I try to follow up and update myself with their activities. I like their flexible format which involves more networking, ateliers and site visits. To be honest, it was great and very educative to experience how to build an institution, a proper University research center, targeting to a specific niche. I met many people; I observed different kinds of institutional set ups, and I confronted with the established circles like Higher Education Council or existing cultural policy framework of Turkey. However, being the coordinator of these activities is a very detailed and demanding task.

3. In brief: where do you see the main problematic areas (if any) in the municipal cultural policy of Istanbul? If it was depending on you, what would be the two or three main things you would change to improve the connection between policy and practice, and to make policy instruments more effective?

For this stage of the research all I can say is that there is a huge investment and potential in terms of programming and outreach. Currently the investment is only in the buildings. In the first examples of cultural centers, there was not any pre-programming. For this reason many centers have a stage without a back stage or a back door for the set. Recently some of the municipalities, started to take this task seriously and invited world-star architects like Zaha Hadid. When we compare the monthly programs of the centers, it is almost limited to the same and limited to a  certain kind of culture and target group. There is a need for audience development research. The scope of such research could be widened and diversified to different audience profiles.

4. You are a lecturer at the Cultural Management B.A. Program, Istanbul Bilgi University. What do you think motivates young people today to join such a study? Do they easily find a job after their graduation?

Istanbul has become one of the attractive points for development of arts and culture scene. The flexible working hours, the charm and creativity working for the arts attracts students. Our department was initially set up in the field of performing arts, now we have BA and MA in arts management, cultural management, as well as a special division for performance. Students, who are interested in the field, start to build up their relations in the sector throughout their education. For example, internships are not a must for our education, but it is a fact that the students, who are involved in the sector during their education, can easily find jobs. Remaining students who are not interested in culture and arts could still can find jobs as our education program is multi-disciplinary. They could work in the areas such as: public relations, advertising, strategic management, or could realize creative projects on their own.

5. Many universities use more and more online technologies in their teaching methodologies. What is your opinion on the way how young generation accumulate and disseminate knowledge – especially in the cultural policy and management field?

Well, I am at a learning step concerning this subject, but this year I added a special part to my audience development lectures about using new media technologies and social media in arts management practice. In terms of applying these methods and using them for education, I need to explore more research work in the future. Obviously online tools are more effective and multi-task orientated in terms of communication.

6. Is there any community of young researchers devoted to cultural policy and management in Turkey? How do you share your research experiences, exchange and disseminate your work? How do you cross borders and collaborate across Europe and Internationally?

This is something we aim to establish at the Cultural Policy and Management Centre in the future. We have a pool of researcher and trainers at the Centre – consisting of people who are active in the field and we want to enlarge it. In this way our Center might also play the role of a hub or even a match-maker where researchers meet with the projects or meet with each other to start a collaborative action. For this moment we could only ask our current members to send their CVs, field of specially and publications to be accessible on our web site. Moreover, we are a small group of people who are involved in the same projects or associations. We get together occasionally not only for academic, artistic or cultural reasons, but because we are also good friends.

I pay special attention to follow specific conferences in cultural policy field, such as ICCPR, AIMAC, and I try to take parts in working groups. Collaborative projects usually open my way towards new research topics and new colleagues. I have organized and hosted many international events, so these conferences also helped me to build up my professional network.  Each network needs investment in terms of devotion and time to collaborate. For example, because of my current intensive work, I did not have time to complete  my PhD thesis. So , I have not had time yet to apply for the Cultural Policy Research Award even if I always thought that it will be a good post-doctorate opportunity.. And the age limit is 35, times fly by…

One more thing: Having an urban planning background, I also try not to cut my professional affiliations with urban studies as I see cultural policy and arts management directly related with the metropolitan culture. This is why I am still a member of some e-groups and forums where I keep myself updated on news, discussions and events.

7. What is not written in your CV? What is your “non-public face”? (Hobbies, interests in art forms, etc.)

I am a very spiritual person, I do kundalini yoga, it is all about meditation, mantras and chakras. However I also got my own special “way of meditation”: could be a good rock concert, or staying alone in the nature, or cooking for the family…. Although being a lecturer who is also actively involved in the cultural sector, makes you very social as you have to stay updated following news and events in the field. This is why I like to have my personal space out of it.


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