Of head scarves and at-risk children

This past Wednesday, two days after 11 Turkish artists and educators arrived to start Phase II of a year-long exchange program between Cleveland and Istanbul, the Turkish Supreme Court overturned a law permitting the wearing of head scarves in Turkish Universities.

This law, passed last year by a fundamentalist-leaning Turkish government, was judged unconstitutional by the court, representing a victory for the secular segment of Turkish society that upholds the complete separation of religion and government in this overwhelmingly Muslim country. More on how our visitors view this event in upcoming blog posts.

Our Turkish friends will be here through the month of June, leaving just after the Fourth of July. While here, they will be plunged into training and action planning activities arranged by Cleveland Public Theatre, Young Audiences, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and the Cleveland Foundation. See my April blog entries for the details on this exciting exchange project.

Here is their overwhelming itinerary for the month:

  • Tour Playhouse Square and IdeaCenter, University Circle and downtown
  • Attend welcome reception at SPACES gallery (where our guests shared their talents in dance, music and paper marbling – see photos below)
  • Undertake arts education training by Young Audiences at Cleveland State (three full days)
  • Work with CMSD on Parade the Circle entry and participate in the parade
  • Work with Young Audiences in YA’s summer youth training program (three days)
    Attend Cleveland State University Arts Education Day – seminar and luncheon
  • See several CMSD School of the Arts presentations
  • View performances by Cleveland Public Theater and Dobama’s Kids Playwriting Festival
  • Participate in Cleveland Public Theatre Arts Workshops (three days)
  • Visit area community centers to learn about arts programs
  • Take one-day visits to San Francisco, Denver and Chicago arts education programs
  • Return to Cleveland for action planning and fundraising seminars (three days)
  • Take in Cleveland Orchestra Public Square concert
  • Enjoy a traditional American Fourth of July barbecue/picnic

My particular responsibility has been to host meetings between Inspector Mehmet Kaya, of the Turkish National Ministry of Education, and elected officials, CMSD school administrators and other arts community leaders. By the time he leaves, Inspector Kaya will have met with:

  • Councilmen Matt Zone and Joe Cimperman and members of their staffs
  • Tom Schorgl from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture
  • Cleveland Foundation President and CEO Ronn Richard and Program Director for Education Helen Williams
  • CMSD Chief Academic Officer Eric Gordon
  • Toni Miller, principal of the Douglas MacArthur Leadership Academy for Girls
  • Ted Ginn of Ginn Leadership Academy
  • Charlie Lawrence of the Cleveland Music School Settlement

More “color” on these events in future blog posts, but for now, I want to share an observation that has been mentioned by several of our Turkish guests.

“In Cleveland there is so much passion and emotion expressed in everyone’s work. You all seem to love your city. This is very impressive to us, and an unusual experience.”

Turks in Cleveland #1

Members of the Turkish exchange group

Turks in Cleveland #2

Koray Tarhan playing a traditional Turkish flute

Turks in Cleveland #3

Koray Tarhan singing a traditional Turkish love ballad 

Turks in Cleveland #4

Sevi Bayrakatar performing a dance of the Roma People (Gypsies) 

Turks in Cleveland #5

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Academic Chief Eric Gordon learning traditional Turkish marble paper-making with Counselor Serpil Schmutz 

Turks in Cleveland #6

More paper-making 

Turks in Cleveland #7

More paper-making 

Turks in Cleveland #8

Turks jammin’ with Ismail Douglas of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District at SPACES