Free From Self Doubt

By Sarah Schlesinger (MFA 2015)

To prepare properly for this residency, I spent hours asking google questions like "What's the weather like in Istanbul?" and "Where is Istanbul?" to "Can women wear shorts?* The wealth of information that experienced tourist bloggers gave made me nervous and overwhelmed. I hope this blog post reaches all timid Turkish travelers and eases their worry.

After landing in Istanbul, all of my concerns melted away instantly. To answer my first question, the weather is perfect. It is hot, sunny, and breezy during the day and turns cool in the evening. Even during the hot parts of the day, a breeze coming off of the Bosphorus cools the city down.  The Bosphorus is a glorious waterway that connects the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara.  It divides Europe from Asia. It is full of leisure, commercial, and commuter boats. Russian cargo ships can be seen speeding past fishing boats and day trippers, all dwarfed by the massive cruise ships that dock in Istanbul for the day.

Mimar Sinan University, where our studios are located, is under the constant slapping of waves made from the passing boats. Having such a gorgeous view of the Bosphorus just outside the building creates a calming and inspiring setting to create work. The school and our lodging are located on the European side of Istanbul. Erinn and I are staying in a girls dormitory located by the Bosphorus Bridge about a 15 minute bus ride from school. Getting around has been incredibly easy. They have functional, efficient, and inexpensive public transportation, as well as an abundance of taxis.

While most people do not speak English, and my attempts at speaking Turkish have left me with blank stares, everyone I have met has been incredibly friendly and helpful. As a foreigner I do not feel out of place at all, as I have often felt in other places I have traveled.  Through jet lag, supply shopping, cultural mysteries, and limited open studio hours, we have managed to get ourselves situated and have all delved into our various projects. The limited building hours are allowing us to explore the city and experience the Turkish culture to a greater extent than if we were working around the clock. I have found the change of scenery freeing especially from the usual set of creative self-doubt. I have enjoyed making decisions with less hesitance, knowing that I have the whole month to have failures and fix them before anyone in North America finds out about them. Sharing studio space with the others has been motivating and inspiring, and I can already tell I will miss being here.

We have all set up and begun to work in our nooks, not unlike the pigeon and her babies who have found a home in the stairwell. Also found in every nook and cranny of the city are kittens. The treatment of stray animals are further proof of the generosity and hospitality of Turkish people  

The Saturday after arriving, the four of us had the delight of seeing Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in the old city. To our surprise, visiting these popular monuments did not feel touristy. Between the two buildings lies a gardened park, filled with picnickers and napping Turks. To my dismay, there was a real lack of knick-knacks and postcards being sold (there is a post card shortage in this entire city - finding some is my unending quest).

We then had the pleasure of traveling with Gökhan, a fellow New York Academy student who is from Istanbul, to one of the Princes Islands. Gökhan painted a beautiful water scene while the rest of us swam in said water scene. The islands are automobile free, and the only way to get around is by bike or horse drawn carriage, the horses having a special desire to run over Erinn.
All in all, the city is beautiful, the people are lovely, and I might never leave. And if I do, I'm taking a kitten.

*Yes, they can and do. This is a stupid question.


Erinn Heilman (MFA 2015), Nick Lepard (MFA 2015), Sarah Schlesinger (MFA 2015) and Jacob Hayes (MFA 2014) are currently spending their summer on an Academy sponsored residency in Istanbul.  To learn more about their experiences and progress check back in on the Academy's blog for new entries each week.

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