Istanbul’s art scene is rich with possibility, but can also be as daunting as it is impressive. For more than a decade, İpek Yeğinsü has been navigating its intricacies, aiming to broaden her professional scope while maintaining her passion for artistic expression. In the process, her work has come to include collection management, gallery direction and curation, while also channeling her creative side in writing, painting, and photography. More recently, she’s put both spheres together in her collaboration as event coordinator for Özyeğin University Istanbul Institute of Design, facilitating a program that brings a multitude of disciplines together and makes them accessible to a larger audience. The university is also home to her current PhD program – confirmation of the various fields that encompass her interests.
We took some time to speak with İpek on the challenges of finding one’s own place in the local art environment, the balancing act involved in managing both professional and personal artistic undertakings, and what the future holds in store for this contemporary art professional.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I was born and raised in Istanbul where I studied International Relations (B.A.) and Cultural Heritage Management (M.A.). I became a contemporary art professional with a special focus in new media art. I worked for several museums and galleries and, in 2015, I decided to take a PhD in my area of interest. I’m currently a PhD candidate in Design, Technology and Society at Özyeğin University. I also work for Özyeğin University Istanbul Institute of Design as the event coordinator of workshops and certificate programs taking place at bomontiada/ATÖLYE, of which the university is a strategic partner.
Could you tell us a bit more about your professional background? How did you come to be involved in the art sector?
Since my early childhood I have always been deeply and passionately involved in art: painting, singing and writing have always been an essential part of my life. In 2008, photography came into the picture as well and has sort of remained my main medium since then. Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to study fine art at the university level due to the complexities of the education system in Turkey. But even during my B.A., I knew I had to do something related to art for a living. So I combined my formal educational background with my personal subject of interest and remained in the art sector for over a decade. It took a lot of time, effort and pain but I couldn’t have done otherwise.
Your scope is quite varied, in that you’re involved in curating, writing and management. You also happen to very much be an artist in your photography and painting. What elements do you prioritize? How do you manage it all?
I can’t say it’s easy but I think it’s possible. I try to avoid undertaking too many projects at once and to plan things well in advance whenever I can. But I prefer working too much to working too little. I have to keep busy.
What is your day to day like in this role?
A 9 to 5 job structuring your day is helpful in many ways. But I also enjoy working on different things at different times of the day, in different places, with different people. In my ideal day, the daytime is more about organizational, operational and managerial tasks followed by an evening of socializing, whereas the night is the time for research, writing and making art.
How has ATÖLYE fit in?
I work in a very multidisciplinary context with a lot of focus on technology and innovation. ATÖLYE has so many members from such a variety of backgrounds willing to exchange ideas and to collaborate. This atmosphere offers great networking opportunities. And since I came here I became aware of several new subject areas and professions thanks to the workshops, feedback sessions and seminars I had the opportunity to attend. And, of course, I made amazing friends I enjoy hanging out with!
Could you tell us a bit about your role as event coordinator in connection with Özyeğin University?
ÖzÜ / Istanbul Institute of Design (ÖzÜ/İID) was founded in 2014 as a center for international design research and education offering master’s and doctoral degrees in design and architecture. Since 2015, it has a strategic partnership with ATÖLYE, within the scope of which some of the ÖzÜ/İID graduate programs and workshops as well as certificate programs organized under the Academy of Continuing Education take place at their venues in bomontiada.
Are there any recent exhibitions or projects that you found yourself especially personally invested in? Could you share a bit about why?
I have recently finished illustrating a psychology book by a very good friend of mine. I can’t wait to see it published; it was my very first professional illustration project and I find the book’s content very helpful and inspiring. Working with such a close friend on her first book was a great experience for me. It has a deeply emotional side to it as well.
What does the future hold? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to or that we should be on the lookout for?
In the days to come, I want to focus more heavily on my PhD thesis and curating multimedia exhibitions and performances. I also look forward to ÖzÜ/İID’s workshop program in the new semester; there are really exciting programs of which some target English speakers, so your readers are more than welcome to join us.
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 would definitely recommend them to visit Çiya Restaurant in Kadıköy for delicious local food. The Yerebatan Cistern is a must-see if they haven’t had the chance yet. It is one of my favorite places in the city, absolutely otherworldly. And, of course, the Prince’s Islands.
ATÖLYE Spotlight is our series on the inspiring community members of Istanbul’s most creative space.
All images courtesy of Michael Barngrover and İpek Yeğinsü.