Newspaper article Roll Call

A Scientist Grows Art in NoMa at Gallery NK

Newspaper article Roll Call

A Scientist Grows Art in NoMa at Gallery NK

Article excerpt

Tucked away amid the rowhouses of NoMA is a once run-down warehouse transformed into a clean modern contemporary art gallery. The quaint studio, Gallery NK, is the creation of Turkish born artist Nihal Kececi.

With true Turkish hospitality, Kececi and her daughter Julie welcomed this reporter into their gallery with coffee, tea and desserts. There, we chatted and I learned of her journey from Turkey to K Street, and more specifically, 321 K St. NE.

As a child, Kececi demonstrated a knack for painting and was encouraged by family and friends to pursue art school. But Kececi had different plans in mind.

"I wanted to be a more important person in life. I wanted to be a doctor or engineer. So that's what I did," she said.

She studied physics and got her master's degree in nuclear engineering, one of a handful of women in Turkey at the time to attain such a degree and become a scientist. She had also started a Ph.D. in bio science when an opportunity to pursue a fellowship with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission came up in 1996. So, she and her 10-year-old daughter packed up and moved to the D.C. area.

After the fellowship, she began work as a faculty associate at the University of Maryland. During her career, she published more than 20 papers and presented her research around the world. She recalls of one conference that she organized in Istanbul, "after I presented I looked around and I see 150 men all clapping for me," she said. "I was so proud."

In 2000, she went to work at the University of Montreal and when she returned to the United States in 2002, she found a much different atmosphere than the one she had left. "My work was mostly about safety critical systems and after the 9/11 attacks the security clearances changed." As a Turkish citizen she was no longer able to continue work in the same area and at the same level that she had before.

Not knowing what she would do next, Kececi started painting again as an outlet. Pretty soon her house was flooded with her work. …

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