Will Baksı Museum create a Bilbao effect?
The Baksı Museum located 45 kilometers from Bayburt in the eastern Black Sea, in a valley facing the Çoruh River, situated “in the middle of nowhere” has won the Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2014.
The symbol of the award of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a bronze statuette by Joan Miró was given to the founder of the museum Professor Hüsamettin Koçan.
The winning museum will keep the bronze statuette for a year, as well as a diploma.
Painter Professor Hüsamettin Koçan left the village he was born, the Bayraktar Village, its former name Baksı, at an early age. He made his dream come true in 14 years. In a TV interview Koçan said, “We are one of the most innovative museums in the world. We are not only a museum; we are at the same time a multidisciplinary production center of art and culture that would contribute to the economic development of the region.”
I had the opportunity to visit the museum two years ago and Baksı Museum is an extraordinary place as depicted by Koçan.
Koçan built the museum at the hill where he used to watch the road when his father went to work abroad. The museum owns a valuable contemporary art collection constituted with donations from artists. The museum, as well as exhibition halls, has a conference hall, 10,000-book library, a guest house and most important of all, it has workshops.
These workshops are the lifelines of the museum, targeting the economic welfare of the region. Local handicraft, such as weaving and ceramics, transform into something else in these workshops with contemporary touches. When I visited the museum, famous designer Arzu Kaprol’s clothes made from textiles woven in these workshops were being showcased.
Because of migration to big cities, local arts and crafts, such as ancient stonemasonry, ceramics, carpet and textile weaving no longer exist; their production has stopped.
Professor Koçan’s aim is to reverse this and prevent this migration by forming a production network, not only in Bayburt, but also including Artvin and Gümüşhane. Koçan has already provided job opportunities for women who make production in the workshops of the museum.
The museum, no doubt, has had the “kiss of life” effect on Bayburt, which occupies the 67th place in Turkey’s development index. During my visit, we had learned that the Bayburt Chamber of Commerce and Industry was preparing to build a stonemasonry factory with a 9.6 million euro EU fund granted to them.
About the PACE prize, Professor Koçan said, “There, at the top of the mountain, there was a loneliness that was not shared. With this prize, our loneliness is broken. Opportunity has come up to reach art lovers and funds abroad.”
Koçan stated that contribution to the economy of the region was through culture tourism and hoped that the prize would create a “Bilbao Effect.”
At the beginning of the 1990s, Bilbao was a city nobody knew in Spain’s Basque region until New York’s Guggenheim Museum started searching for a place in Europe to showcase a part of the giant collection it held. With Bilbao local administration’s undertaking of the building of a $150 million museum, the Guggenheim Foundation decided on this city.
Famous American architect Frank Gehry designed the museum, which has now become a reference building of Bilbao and one of the most important attraction centers in Europe. We know it contributes millions of euros to the region’s economy.
Meanwhile, Bilbao Guggenheim Museum had won the same prize much before the Baksı Museum.
The “Bilbao Effect” dream of Professor Koçan is in a way also in the hands of the media.
Those who are curious about this miracle in the middle of nowhere can take a look at the site which also has an English version: www.baksi.org