Hubs Alliance Report

About me:
As a cultural manager, I have been working in the fields of arts & culture, publishing, fashion,
design and innovation for fifteen years. After taking on independent and project-based positions
in Turkey’s leading cultural institutions between 2008-2010, I’ve worked in different areas such as
communication, audience development, community, programming and project management at
Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation, Doğuş Publishing Group and ATÖLYE between 2010-2022.
In 2015, I founded kültür.limited, an independent platform for cultural professionals. I started
teaching at the academy in 2018. Since 2007, I have been writing in different publications on
areas such as cultural management, cultural policies and popular culture.
Me and ATÖLYE:
I started working at ATÖLYE in 2016. After working in the fields of communication, event, program
and project management, I left ATÖLYE in June 2022 after a year of working as Creative Hub
Manager. However, even though I left ATÖLYE as a team member, I continued my work with the
ATÖLYE team and members as a part of the ATÖLYE community. I continued to host the
CreativeMornings Istanbul events at ATÖLYE until September 2023. After the earthquake disaster
in February 2023, I held the ‘Post-Disaster Co-Living and Community Spaces’ workshop with the
ATÖLYE team and community and took on the facilitation of this workshop.
After leaving ATÖLYE at the end of May, I worked independently for a year. I have designed and
executed programs and projects with a wide range of customers and partners, from arts & culture
to retail, from finance to civil society, including institutions and brands such as Qatar Museums,
Sivil Düşün European Union Programme, Bozcaada Jazz Festival, Kale Design and Art Center,
Akbank, Türkiye İş Bankası and Reflect Studio. I also positioned this year as an ‘interim year’ in
which I discovered what I would and would not want to do after ending my full-time corporate
career. Over the past year, I have made different discoveries and experiments, examined different
models such as studios, agencies, consultancy companies, laboratories, creative hubs and
networks in the cultural sector and beyond, and researched the areas where the creative
industries and the social sector intersect in Turkey and beyond. At the end of all this, I founded
my cultural management consultancy company called Espas in June 2023. Espas is a cultural
management consultancy focusing on the creative industries and social sector. It develops
programs and projects that bring individuals, institutions and brands through creative
experiences and connect different communities together to learn, share and produce. It provides
services under four different headings: strategic design, learning design, program curation and
audience development. Then, with two friends with whom I have worked in different ways for
many years, I founded Culture Unleashed, an initiative to strengthen ecosystems, organizations,
communities and individuals in the cultural and creative industries.

ATÖLYE:
My home creative hub, ATÖLYE, which was founded in 2013 and of which I became a part in
2016, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. ATÖLYE now defines itself as a ‘strategic design
and innovation consultancy’. Through their community-supported approach, they help
organizations tackle complex challenges and create lasting impact. Today, with a core team of
over 60 multidisciplinary designers and creatives and a surrounding community of over 200
creatives, they tackle design challenges across many sectors on multiple scales. Through their
fluid system, with a clear intent of transdisciplinarity, they love addressing wicked problems that
deal with shifting paradigms, stakeholder complexity, and emergent processes. In 2016, ATÖLYE
became a member of the European Creative Hubs Network, a peer-led network with a mission to
enhance the creative, economic and social impact of hubs, and in 2019, ATÖLYE joined the kyu
Collective, a collective of leading-edge creative companies that come together to understand,
connect, and explore the edges of what our societies need now and what they’ll need in the
decades to come. In the same year, they received their B Corp certificate and joined this
community as well.
BIOS Romantso:
BIOS Romantso is a creative hub that welcomes, establishes and professionally activates
creatives within the broader landscape of creative industries and the arts. Creative teams, with
artistic, educational and new technologies focus, are hosted in dedicated studios, and co-working
spaces. BIOS Romantso also offers a wide range of services including mentoring and counseling
in order to help new businesses develop and become independent and viable. BIOS Romantso is
based in the historic center of Athens and it also operates as a vibrant cultural center that hosts
exhibitions, concerts, performances, community events, workshops and seminars.
Me and BIOS Romantso:
During the six years I worked at ATÖLYE, I had a very close relationship with BIOS/Romantso.
Thanks to the activities of the European Creative Hubs Network, I met with the BIOS team at
many events and programs in Europe and the UK. I also worked as a partner in projects
supported by the European Union, such as Connect for Creativity and Post Social Media Club,
where I was the project manager. But unfortunately, throughout all these years, I did not have the
chance to visit the BIOS. While we were planning to go to BIOS with our international conference
that we planned to hold at BIOS Romantso within the scope of our Connect for Creativity project
in June 2020, the pandemic broke out and we had to hold the conference online. Likewise, I
could not attend the exhibitions and events held at BIOS Romantso within the scope of our Post
Social Media Club project.
Hubs Alliance:
When the European Creative Hubs Network first announced the Hubs Alliance, a mobility
program that allows cultural and creative professionals of all sorts to expand their workspace to a
Europe-wide level, I thought it was finally the right opportunity to physically visit a hub I have

worked with for so long and meet its community. By joining the Hubs Alliance, creative hubs unite
their spaces and facilities to create a cross-border workspace. This program, where cultural and
creative professionals who usually work in a single creative hub, have the chance to discover
new professional communities and discover local creative environments, offers a very important
opportunity to cultural and creative professionals who have less mobility than artists and
entrepreneurs.
Journey:
I spent six days in Athens as part of the Hubs Alliance. During this time, I had the chance to work
at BIOS Romantso and run my business from a hub that inspires, embraces and nourishes me,
and I also had the chance to think about what I can get out of being in a different country and
culture. During my visit to Athens, I also had the chance to visit other creative hubs and cultural
centers such as BIOS and Impact Hub Athens, apart from Romantso.
I experienced the city’s rich cultural and historical heritage until the last moment. I visited many
historical sites and museum such as National Archaeological Museum, Benaki Museum of Islamic
Art, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Benaki Museum, Cycladic Art Museum, Old Parliament, Acropolis
Museum, Parthenon, Athenian Agora, Athens Acropolis, Roman Agora, Hadrianus Library, Temple
of Hephaestus, Temple of Athena-Nike, Theater of Dionysus, the Tower of the Wind, Hadrian’s
Arch, Erechtheion and Propylaia, Stoa of Attalos, the National History Museum and the Paul and
Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum (CAMU). In addition, I also visited the EMST National Museum
of Contemporary Art, which highlights the current and dynamic face of Greece and features
modern and contemporary works of art.
From the program ‘The teens curate the Museum’ at the Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos
Museum (CAMU) and the exhibition titled ‘An Archeology of Disability’, which establishes different
connections between disability and archaeology; I have received learning, inspiration and
connections that I can transfer to my working practices in many areas such as cultural
management, exhibition design, program curation and audience development. Likewise, thanks
to the exhibition titled ‘Modern Love’ (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) at the EMST National
Museum of Contemporary Art, I’ve explored many artists from different geographies of the world
look at the approaches between human relations from different perspectives in the 21st century
with emerging digital technologies. This exhibition was very similar to the subject of the Post
Social Media Club project, in which ATÖLYE and BIOS were also partners. This showed me how
much our projects intersect with the world of contemporary art and philosophy.
In Athens, in addition to history, culture and art, I also gained very qualified experiences in design,
publishing and gastronomy, which are important parts of the creative industries. I spent time in
Hyper Hypo, one of the most important independent bookstores in Athens; in design shops such
as Contrust, Matalou, KARAVAN, Forget Me Not, which bring together the products of local
designers, and of course in many cafes, restaurants and bars where I tasted local delicacies such
as souvlaki and gyros.

Conclusion:
Thanks to the Hubs Alliance program, I had the opportunity to experience BIOS Romantso, and
Athens, which I have been waiting to see for a long time, in an in-depth and qualified way. I felt a
deep creative connection with the city. First of all, I would like to thank the European Creative
Hubs Network and ATÖLYE for offering me this opportunity, and then the BIOS Romantso team
for hosting me very well.

Emre Erbirer