Past Events

Arts and Culture in Global Cities: Istanbul

On Oct. 12, 2015, the Committee on Global Thought and Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul convened the fourth in a series of roundtable discussions supported by the Ford Foundation, aiming to reflect on the contribution of arts and culture to global cities. After New York, Rio and New Delhi, Istanbul offered another important vantage point to assess the key issues affecting the ways in which the arts relate to the vitality of cities.

Participants in the Istanbul meeting included leading figures active in shaping Istanbul’s cultural scene – curators, scholars and representatives of arts institutions and civil society organizations. The discussion revealed that, despite the vibrancy and global renown of Istanbul’s art scene, there are significant impediments confronting its cultural environment. Although some of these stem from long-standing, unresolved structural issues, the most serious challenge seems to arise from the polarized political climate in Turkey, where the appreciation of the freedom of creative expression and its value to society is increasingly undermined.  A pertinent question to consider for all global cities, is how it may be possible for the arts to flourish in increasingly restrictive political environments? Under such conditions, could there be an optimal balance between private and public sector engagement in the arts, and what are the benefits and risks of different ways of positioning oneself as a cultural institution or an artist? An additional focal point in the discussion related to inclusion and the dichotomy between ‘high art and popular culture’ – a theme that resonated across all the cities involved in this series.

Participants included:

  • Bager Akbay, iskele47
  • Asu Aksoy, Istanbul Bilgi University
  • Esra Aysun, British Council
  • İpek Cem Taha, Columbia Global Centers | Turkey
  • Özlem Ece, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts
  • Eylem Ertürk, Anadolu Kültür
  • Vishakha N. Desai, Columbia University
  • Korhan Gümüş, Galata Greek School, Açık Radyo
  • Selva Gürdoğan, Studio-X Istanbul
  • Merve İspahani, Columbia Global Centers | Turkey
  • Osman Kavala, Anadolu Kültür
  • Vasif Kortun, SALT
  • Beral Madra, independent curator
  • Melisa Mendoza Vasquez, Columbia Global Centers | Turkey
  • Deniz Ova, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts
  • Levent Soysal, Kadir Has University
  • Fikret Toksöz, TESEV
  • Zafer Yenal, Boğaziçi University
  • Rana Zincir Celal, Columbia Global Centers | Turkey

Arts, Culture, and Quality of Life in Global Cities Conference

On Dec. 9, 2013 at the Ford Foundation organized by Vishakha N. Desai, Kate D. Levin, Saskia Sassen, and Roberta Uno. The Committee on Global Thought, in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, presented a one-day program bringing together scholars, policy makers, private sector and nonprofit leaders, and practitioners-artists, architects, planners, community activists. Discussion centered on the urgent issues involved in fostering a deeper understanding of the role arts and culture can play in the development of New York City and other global cities. View the event.

  • Vishakha N. Desai, Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President, and Senior Research Scholar, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Kate D. Levin, Commissioner for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
  • Saskia Sassen, Co-Chair, Committee On Global Thought at Columbia University
  • Roberta Uno, Senior Program Officer, Ford Foundation

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