Today we’d like to introduce you to Selin Camli Anjel.
Hi Selin, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Let me begin by saying that I am both an immigrant from Turkey and a New York transplant who grew up in deep curiosity about how it would be to live in Los Angeles, experiencing a city culture that is entirely different than the ones I knew. Growing up in Ankara and Istanbul, I spent a considerable amount of time in LA visiting family. I was around 12 and listening to the sound of the waves in Venice, wearing a light jacket on a supposedly cold day, when I got obsessed with the idea of making this city of glorious sunsets my home someday.
I made my big move to the US in 2012 to receive my Master’s Degree in Visual Art Administration from New York University. After I graduated (both from NYU and NYC!) I got my first LA job at USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, then worked at the USC Fisher Museum of Art for about four years, becoming Director of Marketing and Communications. The experience I had through my work and the mentorship I received from Fisher Museum Director Dr. Selma Holo allowed me to thoroughly observe how small museums function and their changing roles in society, especially following the election in 2016.
It was my 6th year living in the US when I realized that I needed to have my own business to achieve two goals: one was access to a lifestyle that allowed me to not just visit but be able to concurrently live my other life in Turkey that I missed so much. The other one was purpose through which I could utilize what I’m good at to make a living while achieving something I truly cared about. I thus established “bluenectar” — a company that gives digital marketing and brand strategy consulting to underrepresented artists and arts organizations while consulting growing businesses on accountable brand positioning and the creative expression of values.
I founded bluenectar in November 2019 and right after a great holiday season found myself stuck in Istanbul during the pandemic. I guess things do happen for a reason since that was how I got my first overseas client, Istanbul Toy Museum. In the meantime, I was collaborating with NYC-based SOUR, a hybrid design studio addressing urban and social matters, on their widely followed “What’s Wrong With” panel and podcast series, co-organizing “What’s Wrong With Art”. We were thinking about having two panels, one in NYC and one in LA, and ended up having a session on Zoom like everyone else, working remotely between Los Angeles, New York, London, and Istanbul. Though it’s great (and eco-conscious when you take into account all the flights we would have to book) to become borderless and have access to the world from the screen of your computer, having an e-gathering is not the same as being in the same room together. Although I am all for access through digital, I have spoken at other panels since co-hosting this one and arranged countless events and programs for non-profits online, and the feeling remains the same.
For the past year and a half, accessibility and visibility have especially been the absolute main themes of my work. Subsequently, the remote work sphere activated through Covid has accelerated the direction my company had to take. Through this, I now live part-time between Echo Park in Los Angeles and Gökova on the Aegean coast of Turkey while having a real opportunity to apply my experience in the arts to build bridges, both to achieve my goals and others’. Currently, I have clients whose locations range from Claremont to Istanbul while organizing an upcoming project to be launched at furniture store Lazzoni’s flagship location in Chelsea, NYC, in March 2022. It is an art intervention in collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Berfin Ataman, recipient of the 2021 A+D Design Award. She will also be teaching at UCLA this coming semester (oh and please don’t mind my shameless plug!) 🙂
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
In my experience, the biggest challenge has been trying to live a balanced life while adjusting yourself to different time zones through having nightshifts. There was a Friday night in Turkey where I left the dance floor to attend a meeting on a Friday afternoon in NYC, which converted to 2 AM my time. It all went well somehow, which got me in the mood for working until the morning, but I couldn’t get good sleep for days after that.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Accessibility and visibility have been the absolute main themes of my work, and they have the charm of bringing forth very emotionally rewarding projects.
Bluenectar perceives digital marketing as a tool to increase bandwidth and become borderless, especially for underrepresented artists and smaller institutions from across the world that have important stories to tell within their limited budgets. And let me tell you, small museums are wonderlands. Thanks to their size, they are much more agile compared to larger institutions and could be considered as playgrounds for testing and manifesting new ideas with a diverse breadth of artists and curators — both underrepresented and established, including recent students and graduates with fresh perspectives.
Part of my job is to do marketing and strategy consulting for small museums like the Istanbul Toy Museum, located on the more residential, Anatolian side of Istanbul while the cultural hub of the city has always been across the Bosphorus, the European side. Istanbul Toy Museum reached out to bluenectar right before Covid broke, mostly to work on increasing their local visibility while also getting consulting on a more organizational level. When the pandemic broke, we immediately shifted gears and launched the #evdenmuze (Turkish for #museumfromhome) hashtag on Instagram as the first museum in Turkey to do it. Through that hashtag, we promoted the 360-degree virtual tour of the museum created in collaboration with our strategic partner Google. We received great reactions from our audiences, most of whom were either in deep need of interacting with art themselves or looking for ways to keep their kids away from the negative psychological effects of the pandemic.
Since the museum was suffering financially, our second immediate action was to establish an online shop on Instagram while updating the one on their website, which eventually generated enough revenue for the museum to keep functioning without having to let go of any employees. We then moved all programming to digital and partnered with TikTok on a family-sized dance challenge for Istanbul Toy Museum’s 15th anniversary. The dance challenge had hundreds of participants from all around the country and the hashtag #içimizdekiçocuk had about 50 million views. That was the first time Istanbul Toy Museum had such a widespread and engaging interaction with its domestic audience.
Another strategic move was to digitize the museum’s archives, and during Covid, we started that project in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture. In October 2020, Istanbul Toy Museum became the first museum solely dedicated to toys on Google Arts and Culture. Still in progress, the museum currently shares two virtual exhibitions and some 150 items from its collection with the world.
The most recent work we did with Istanbul Toy Museum is a sizable underpass transformation project called Gateway to Dreams. We collaborated with local artist Kien on transforming and gamifying a gritty underpass behind Istanbul Toy Museum to create positive impact by interacting with thousands of people on their way to and from home.
How do you define success?
- Website: https://www.bluenectar.co/
- Instagram: @bluenectar_la