Art Camp Experience, To the Conclusion

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
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Trip End Sep 11, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Sunday, August 31, 2008

During the nine days from August 22nd to the 31st I was pretty fully occupied in a volunteer involvement called the Nilüfer Sanat Kampı (Nilüfer Art Camp). It was pretty much a 24/9 engagement. Even when I was able to get to my rented home, sometimes at 1:30am, all I had time for was a shower before bed. Then it was up in the morning with just enough time to get to a pick-up spot on the street for a shuttle bus drop at the camp site.

There were two working venues to the art camp: the painting at the community center and restoration work at a church-come-mosque-come community center; plus a third location where all of the other participants were housed. I did not sleep at the housing location, but returned to my rented house in Bursa each night. This was not because of any elitism as far as I was concerned. All the other volunteers were on short holidays. I am away from my own real home now for seven months as it is. So I was reluctant to pack up for even a short move across town. Furthermore, it seemed that the shuttle bus driver lived in my same vicinity, so it was easy for him to leave me off at night and pick me up in the morning. At least this was the story that was presented to me. I have my suspicions that it was perhaps a fiction of Turkish hospitality and accommodation.

Where the others were housed was at a site called a Hobi Baçe, that is a hobby garden camp. This is a location, I presume, for citizens of the inner city, who mostly live in apartments to have a "get-away house," and nurture a garden plot of flowers or vegetables as they may choose. The camp is a series of one room cabins with a tiny toilet and shower room, and in the main room a counter and sink for food preparation. All else, I presume, was left to the owners or renters to supply. The larger camp is still under development, and an unassigned section had been apportioned to the art camp volunteers, most of whom were from Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland, Romania, and Moldovia). Two non-europeans, being myself (American), and a fellow from India.

At age 66 I was a little more than twice the age of the other three male volunteers, and probably three times the age of the female volunteers. And, no, I wasn't trying to recapture my youth. I volunteered for a project that looked fun and interesting. And I wanted to do something physical and have some social interaction. Even being the loner that I am can get tiring, especially in an alien environment. Besides, I figure I never really made it as far as being a fully matured adult anyway.

Now, to the project. There were to be three components: 1) paintings on the exterior walls of the municipal youth center; 2) restoration work on a church/mosque in the neighboring area, converting it to a community center, and 3) a film team documenting the progress of the first two. This third component never materialized, presumably because the volunteers for that segment, for one reason or another, never made it to Bursa.

I had been assigned for the church restoration project when I had volunteered. The work there was delayed in getting started, so, in the event, I spent my labors on the wall paintings. (In the end, I think restoration-type labors only took place on two of the nine days of the camp).

It seems that most other volunteers had arrived to the dormitory camp on Thursday, August 21. My instructions were to be picked up at a metro line terminus at 9:30am on Friday. There I joined a couple of others just in--including Mustafa, who was assigned, or assumed the position of "project photographer." After depositing their gear at the camp we were taken to the youth center.

I walked into a room where the wall painting crew were busily engaged, each person making a concept sketch for the exterior wall graphics. I had missed the set-up to the project. But the theme seemed to be something to do with "ribbons." I took a passive, observer role to this activity.

After a while we all were summoned to another room in which preparations were being made for a press presentation of the project as addressed by the mayor of the Nilüfer suburban municipality. (I later asked the initial organizer of the art camp, why Nilüfer? His answer was essentially, "Because I live here, and the mayor is the only liberal mayor in the Bursa area, the others all being allied to the in-power, national AK conservative party.")

After the press conference, we went to lunch. And later to dinner.

I think it was on the third day that I finally was summoned to visit the site of the church restoration project. We walked around the church, talking it over with some of the locals, then retired to a tea house across the street for more talk.

As we were preparing to leave that village we were invited to what was first thought to be a circumcision party taking place down the street on the grounds of the village mosque. We got some food, then found out that instead, the event was a Kuran reading contest.

By the time we returned to the youth center, it seems that the final concept for the exterior graphic had been selected by a committee vote. So I don't know anything of the discussion that led to the accepted concept. So I can't explain it. Except, however, it was not a design by a person of any apparent art training. For that matter, the other members of the wall graphic team were a combination of art students and students of art therapy. Only one, the Indian fellow, was a mature, trained, practicing artist. Thus, you have a graphic arrived at by a committee, and largely painted by art students who apparently don't practice hard-edged graphics, and perhaps those who don't paint at all.

Nevertheless, as the restoration project seemed for some reason to be in temporary suspension, I threw my lot in with the painting project, and set to work to contribute.

The days were hot. Each person worked fairly independently, and at one's own pace. One can only imagine the variety of the style, painting skill and individual industry that resulted.

We were sometimes served lunch at the youth center, other times taken to commercial eateries. For dinners we were most often taken to restaurants, which then, most often these segwayed to dance parties. The latter especially for a core of the energetic youth. I often kept to the periphery. I don't dance, and I frequently had to be on the move to avoid cigarette smoke. There are many more details of course, gathered over such an extended time. But this has gone on long enough, and I'll let the pictures carry some of the story.
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