Strengthen the human capital of culture bearer
1. Kütahya and culture
Kütahya is a city in western Türkiye with 578,640 inhabitants. It is the capital of tile art and a city of ceramics. It is also a typical intermediary city due to its cultural heritage, location, economy and urban policy. The development strategy of the province of Kütahya is based on the cultural and creative sectors. On the other hand, with its cultural heritage in the field of other handicrafts, it became the first Turkish city to be included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2017, in the field of Crafts and Folk Arts.
Cultural heritage creates 60% of the city’s revenues. Traditional and contemporary works of tile craftsmen and craftswomen contribute to the preservation, development and transfer of cultural heritage to future generations and the creation of high value-added art income. Tile products made in accordance with the original, create a serious economic income in the field of crafts; in the other hand, while it constitutes 41% of the ceramic and porcelain manufacturing industry in Kütahya, it constitutes 74% of export revenues.
Due to the pandemic, the work capacity of cultural heritage actors in the city has decreased. In line with the municipal development strategy, which focuses on culture and creativity, it was necessary to find new solutions in order to preserve and develop cultural heritage. To this end, a training methodology was developed in cooperation with the university to enable the artists to transfer their knowledge to the public.
Due to the pandemic, the work capacity of cultural heritage actors in the city has decreased.
2. Project goals and implementation
2.1. Main goal and specific objectives
The project aims at enabling artists and craftsmen and craftswomen to build a better future through intensive training process as well as increasing the awareness of the city’s cultural heritage in the post-pandemic period, so that it would find a response in the public, national and international platforms. While the Kütahya industry was strengthened by closing the shortage of qualified personnel, disadvantaged women’s access to permanent and regular job opportunities was targeted.
2.2. Project development
The project was carried out between January and September 2021, and sought to achieve the following specific goals:
- Develop the human capital of craftsmen/women and artists who are the carriers of cultural heritage in Kütahya, by putting people at the centre of its cultural policies.
- Contribute to the development of human capital for the development of the city with creative cultural sectors by increasing the number of qualified artists and craftsmen/women in order to increase the production and income in tile and other folk arts in Kütahya. At the same time, the project aimed to enable them to express themselves better on national and international platforms.
- Provide the necessary infrastructure for young people living in low-income neighbourhoods and children who have completed their compulsory education to gain a profession by directing them to the Art of Tile at an early age.
- Establish the Kütahya Women’s Cooperative, which employs unregistered women in the production of tiles and other crafts, to ensure that disadvantaged women work formally, and to create a new and innovative, sustainable business model.
The project is financed by Zafer Development Agency within the scope of the Guided Social Support Grant Scheme
Program. The project budget is approximately 1.400.000 TL (€140.000).
The project aims at enabling artists and craftsmen and craftswomen to build a better future through intensive training process.
3.1. Direct impacts
During the project, the following main actions were achieved:
- English language training: 900 hours of English language training was provided to 51 artisans and craftspeople, 300 hours each in 3 groups.
- Capacity building training for women who would like to work in production of çini sector. 240 hours training service were delivered.
- Advanced Tile Arts Trainings: 51 artisans were delivered advanced training in cooperation with Dumlupınar University Vocational High School and master tile artisans. Totally 240 hours training service were delivered.
- Social Media and Digital Marketing Training: A total of 51 hours social media and digital marketing training service were delivered.
- Tile Making Trainings for Children: Disadvantaged children delivered training to learn tile making in order to raise awareness on cultural heritage they have. 200 children enjoyed tile making workshops and their products were given to them as a gift.
- Building Cooperative Training for Women: The number of women working in production processes of tile art in Kütahya is relatively higher than men population. On the other hand, men are positioned in key positions such as company executives and women are usually working unregistered and with low salaries. To strengthen the producer, women in Kütahya cooperative building training were delivered. The partners of Participatory Kütahya Women Cooperative and the members of creative women societies of Kütahya joined the building cooperative training sessions. Mentoring services to women societies still continue in order to succeed building a strong business model for creative women of the city.
- Creating a Co-creation Centre: A historical mansion organised as UNESCO Mansion where craftspeople and artisans perform their artistic works and exhibit their creations. All artworks of the output of the project are exhibited in UNESCO Mansion. This mansion is open to visitors every weekday.
An external impact evaluation is conducted at the end of the project. In the training activities, the effects of the training were determined by making one-to-one interviews with the participants using unstructured questionnaires. During the training process, constant communication was established with all trainers and training outputs were requested.
3.3. Key factors
An important key aspect of the project is that the project enabled closer relations among local stakeholders of Kütahya. The local stakeholders started to negotiate to create common policies and projects to be implemented in cooperation. UNESCO Mansion has gained function as a common place for artisans and citizens to learn and experience traditional handcrafts of Kütahya. The cooperative trainings for women had a multiplier effect the local women NGOs learned how to manage their NGOs in a more professional and transparent way.
Kütahya Municipality and Vocational High School of Dumlupınar University generated a new project idea: the Incubation Centre for Traditional Handcrafts of Kütahya project, which is already founded and being implemented.
The women's cooperative ensures that disadvantaged women work formally and creates a new and innovative, sustainable business model.
4. Further information
Kütahya was a candidate for the fifth “UCLG – Mexico City – Culture 21” International Award (February – June 2022). The jury for the award drew up its final report in September 2022, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.
This article was written by Mehmet ZencI, Director of Survey and Project Department, Kütahya, Turkey.
Contact: mehmetzenci (at) gmail.com