ATÖLYE Spotlight: In Conversation with Bala Gürcan, Communications Associate & Medium Project Lead

Conveying the ethos behind a multidisciplinary project as ambitious and wide-ranging as ATÖLYE is not a simple endeavor. In her role as Communications Associate, Bala Gürcan has had plenty of time to explore this notion. Involved in several facets of ATÖLYE’s internal and external communication channels, she remains consistently in tune with the communities engaged and the culture being fostered. With a clear dedication to the creative mission at ATÖLYE’s core, it’s no surprise that she has taken the reigns on recent endeavors to share their vision. The new Medium component of ATÖLYE aims to break down the essence of the platform so that readers can gain insight behind the scenes and apply the knowledge gained to their own endeavors. Leading this constant work in progress, Bala has helped build a unique, accessible Medium page distinctly on the same wave-length of the project it represents.

We took some time to speak with Bala on the many aspects of coordinating such a large communications project, the nuances of sharing a far-reaching vision through a modern publishing platform, and what we can expect from her on the horizon.

Bala Gürcan

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I went to high school in Istanbul for four years and moved to the UK to receive my university education, with some uncertainties around what degree I wanted to pursue. I applied for a foundation program at UCL (University College London), I thought I would figure out my academic aspirations once I was there. In London I discovered my passion for creativity in all its forms, the city really inspired me. So I decided to study Art History. I graduated in September 2015, and having returned to Istanbul almost two years ago, I am currently very inspired by my surroundings, thanks to my current role at ATÖLYE. I am glad to be part of such a creative community in this city.

Could you tell us a bit more about your professional background? How did you come to be involved at ATÖLYE?
When I was a student, I worked for several galleries and museums and got a glimpse of the arts sector both in Istanbul and in London. Upon my return to Turkey, I started working for Flint PR, a firm that specializes in the arts and culture sectors, and we became corporate members at ATÖLYE. This way, I was able to initially get to know the whole ATÖLYE team from a member standpoint. When the time came to look for new opportunities, I was already in contact with the team on a daily basis, so the transition was very smooth.

Initially, I joined as a project-based contractor to run the LIMINAL project. I was responsible for managing the crowdfunding campaign for the minimal lighting unit LIMINAL that was produced within the ATÖLYE community. The product was successfully funded on Kickstarter in December 2016. The whole crowdfunding process went well, we were pleased with the results. I then joined the team full time and I’ve been working since then as a communications associate.

Could you tell us a bit about your current role at ATÖLYE? What’s your day to day like?
I am mostly responsible for ATÖLYE’s media, corporate and project communications. As the communications team at-large, we are responsible for managing and producing content for the ATÖLYE website, presentations, newsletters, social media channels, press releases and advertisements, in short all visual and textual content that is associated with ATÖLYE.

As you recently launched ATÖLYE’s Medium page, could you tell us a bit the general scope and vision of that particular project? Any aspects you find especially meaningful or important?
Since ATÖLYE was first established in 2013, it has built upon and embraced a wide range of practices and ideas related to culture, design, strategy and technology. The team had been willing to share these insights with the wider community for a long time. We had the opportunity to outline these ideas and processes through our Medium project, and have published the initial articles on the platform under the name “ATÖLYE Insights” (there is a Turkish version as well). By adopting Medium, we hope to share and communicate the underlying constituents that make up the ATÖLYE brand and ethos, as well as the processes that continue to shape our team, our community, as well as current and past projects.

What about long-term?
It’s about setting up a strong example, and producing a body of knowledge that individuals and institutions can turn to in order to receive professional or conceptual direction. The project provides step-by step-understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneurial venture in Turkey, and one that continues to grow rapidly on a global scale. We are aiming for ATÖLYE to become a thought leader in its respective fields, as there is a significant effort and input behind these articles to narrate ATÖLYE’s experiences up until this point as well as going forward.

Bala Gürcan

What are some of the challenges involved in trying to push the Medium project forward or even within the content itself?
The topics we cover on Medium are very broad and have so many important aspects to them, that it has been a challenge to reduce the content to the bare essentials for each article. We also place a great emphasis on supporting the content visually. This is why we have moved forward with the decision to feature local creative and illustrators. For each article, we ask an illustrator to create a work that relates to the writing. This way, we hope to support local talent, so we’ve asked illustrators if they’re interested in working for us. It’s the whole package we’re concerned with — not just the content, but how it is visually presented too.

Another challenge is in reaching audiences in the initial phase of the project. In order to increase visibility, we are pushing the content through various channels including newsletters, social media channels and our own website. We believe that this way the content will have a wider global reach, and will connect with readers from diverse circles and locations.

How many people are involved in its current form?
Four or five mostly. I work together and brainstorm with team members to form a complete and coherent article around prominent ideas for each content. I then get help from a graphic-savvy team member to create the images and finally communicate with the illustrator for the cover image.

What’s next on the horizon for you?
In the past months, I was one of the finalists for Mixer‘s Art Writing Turkey competition. For the competition, we submitted three exhibition reviews and the selected participants were published in this booklet and some of us were asked to regularly contribute to Istanbul Art News. I’ve been writing for the publication on a monthly basis. It’s a new thing for me that I’ve been excited about. I’m hoping to join workshops in the second half of the year to develop my skills as a writer. So that’s upcoming.

As we’re an advice publication for foreigners living in Istanbul, are there any lesser known places or tips that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’ve recently moved to Topağacı, so I’ve had the chance to explore the neighborhood. I really like Kosmonot, as they have nice cocktails and a cool space theme.

I would also recommend Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam. It’s basically a Turkish bath that was designed by Mimar Sinan in the 16th century. The architecture is magnificent and the whole hamam experience is great in my opinion. I’d really recommend the readers to go there if they’re interested in spas and wellness.

To keep up with Bala, you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. ATÖLYE’s Medium page can be followed here.

ATÖLYE Spotlight is a new series on the inspiring community members of Istanbul’s most creative space.

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