When he first arrived in Istanbul six years ago, the photographer Mr. Omar Berkdar did not find suitable options for refugee artists nor did he find an artistic space for their work. As such, the idea of the “arthere” centre was to provide many artists with the opportunity to work on their art projects and to create, away from political rivalries. The Centre was established in 2014 in Kadıköy district which is in the Anatolian side of Istanbul. The centre consists of three floors, containing work spaces for painting and sculpture, study offices, studios, residences, cafés and exhibition spaces all managed by the participating artists themselves. The Centre also offers artists the opportunity to promote and sell their works directly to exhibitions and clients in Turkey and Europe, and it also includes an art management program for artists.
Many refugee artists prefer immigrating to Europe to look for better opportunities there, yet hundreds of them are still in Istanbul given the city’s rich culture and art history. For the first time, many of them have the opportunity to freely express their experiences and what they went through under the Syrian regime, which banned many types of Syrian art. That’s why the center is filled with many works of art such as documentaries, singing performances, and exhibitions that attract a growing turnouts from the Arab and Turkish communities alike. As most art projects, the financial aspect is an issue, as the centre for the most part only depends on sold art works. Therefore, Mr. Berkdar urges the students of the fine arts to search for alternative options that provide income beside their art. He himself works sometimes for pharmaceutical companies to provide for his family.
Mr. Berkdar also emphasises the importance of understanding the field of art in Istanbul and the fact that the Turks are more interested in concerts and theatre than exhibitions. That’s why he worked so hard on organising joint workshops, art shows, concerts, and orientation sessions, all aimed at promoting Syrian artists and spreading their culture in the Turkish environment. This has resulted in many joint art works between Syrians and Turks, such as the orchestra of 15 Turkish musical tracks. For Mr. Berkdar, the purpose of art is to break the barriers and present a sincere message, so the mission of the arthere centre is to spread Syrian art and creativity as much as possible.
Web Page; arthereistanbul.com