Apologies for my long absence from our blog. It’s been a rather hectic past week here. We officially opened the Center in Istanbul on Saturday and it went well. Over 120 people attended, all crammed into our space here in Beyoğlu, crammed into the lobby, crammed into the gallery (dedicated, with a plaque, to our friends and center architetcs – Kerem Erginoğlu and Hasan Çalışlar, Emre Erenler and their great staff), crammed into the classrooms and studio – dedicated to Nedret and Mark Butler (our Turkish family, our friends, Advisory Board Members, human-beings-extraordinaire and generous to a fault…). It was a marathon task and on behalf of all of us here from the College of Design, we would like to thank our partners and colleagues at Accent, at the University of Minnesota, the College of Design, our amazing donors, Turkish and American friends, supporters and advocates. Thank you to friends old and new for making the trek from Saryier and Bebek, Arnavutköy and Çengelköy, Etiler, and Aksary, Taksim and all the other city districts, from San Francisco, from Rome, from Paris and to the over 20 people who crossed the Atlantic as well.
The U.S. Consul General Scott Kilner wrapped up the evening’s speeches and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony. There were gifts from locals, flowers from our laywers, delicious food and lots of chatter. The portrait of Atatürk in the center lobby seemed to be having a good time too…or maybe that was just me.
The stars of the evening though, were our students – singled out with almost every speech. All the wonderful and remarkable contributions and efforts made by a great many people aside (and there are very many of those) they – our students – are really why we do this. Scott Kilner talked about the absolute importance of balancing the relationship between the US and Turkey, of the need of the USA to do a lot of hard work in this part of the world for this effort. I think that we’re off to a good start with this group of students. I don’t think that you could, for students as young as they are, ask for a better group of ambassadors. They represent the best worth of what we hope to inculcate in them – they are educated, eager, curious, creative, kind.
Before this group, though, we had Sam, Kelly, Denise, Andrew, Kari, Craig, Kristen, Petro, Jeff, Michelle, Katie O,Matt S., Sarah, Nick, Natalya and Sally. We had David, Matt C, Brita, Ryan, Ken, Andrew B, Katy, Mike G. Mike H, Alison, Jacob and John (and Natalya, back as a TA and Jen S. too). We had Namdi, Amanda, Zeeshan, Chen(gelköy), Mahsa, Hanna, Natasha, Lauren, Erica, Ross, Josh, Steven, Kirk, Laurie, Christy and Brit (and Mike G. and John back as TAs). We had Ellie, Angela, Tia, Artemis, Abigail, Shona, Ben, Bjorn, Kyle and Katie U (and Josh and Kirk, back as TAs and Andrew S on board as well). Now we have Andrea, Sara, James, Juan, Fatemeh, Satavee, Rachel, Sarah, Nick, Haydar, Keara and Hannah. Thank you all for helping us do this.
To date, we’ve brought 72 students to Istanbul, some repeat offenders, others first-timers. We began at the Yunus Emre Hotel (on the best street in Sultanahmet, with the best hostel owners there too – thank you Bülent and Maria and Yasmine) and we found ourselves there, and back again a day or so ago (minus James, who unfortunately got accosted by a camera crew and lost track of our group).
We have a center now (a beautiful one, at that) and are living in Cihangir and Taksim, but this is where it all started, and where we keep finding excuse to return to.
If you look carefully, you can see that we picked up a a couple of strays (my two daughters, plotting the next siege of Constantinople) and Della, a former graduate student making her way around and across Europe. For those of you who know him, you’ll make out the great Fuat (the resident shoe-shine man on Şifa Hammami Sk), and in the window, on the best patio in Sultanahmet, Maria – one of the hotel owners, looking out of the window.