The Stars of Istanbul

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Memories of the “Pigs on Parade” in Seattle rush to my mind as I wander through the streets of Nisantasi on Friday evening. UNICEF International’s “Stars of Istanbul” dot the streets, stirring up notable enthusiasm and buzz. As people pose for pictures, and wander around each star that they encounter, I begin to inquire about the background of the project. This is what I found…

UNICEF Turkey aimed to simultaneously promote public street art and promote its ongoing campaign: ‘A Brighter Future for Children’. For the first time in Istanbul, a large organized public art installation project has commenced. The object? Stars. The scale? Over 100 stars in neighborhoods throughout the city. The Mission? To make art more accessible throughout the city, and (my favorite part), to cultivate social responsibility. In December, the stars will be auctioned off to fund ongoing and future projects of UNICEF Turkey.

Istanbul has a dynamic and progressive art scene. Additionally, the city is full of fabulous galleries that are free and open to the public. However, these galleries are concentrated in a few areas of the city, and their visitors are a very small and privileged sector of society. Unfortunately, from what I have observed thus far, the location of the stars is concentrated in these same wealthy, culturally rich areas. While it is unlikely that the ‘Stars of Istanbul’ will spark new interest in the city’s existing art world, the buzz and subsequent profits may support substantive work in Turkey.

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