Sinanoglu knows what is important

David Leiper

Karacabey Levni Sinanoglu, adjunct professor of fine arts at Quinnipiac University, longs for the stability of a full-time teaching job but considers himself lucky to be teaching and to have free time to paint and be a father.

“I try not to turn down anything until the day comes when I actually have a full-time teaching job,” Sinanoglu said. “I’ve done a lot of adjunct work and of course I try to do a lot of painting, so it’s kind of nice in a way to have the freedom of being an adjunct professor.”

Sinanoglu, 39, wears round-rimmed glasses and his hair is just starting to gray. He looks somewhat disheveled from a full day of shuttling between schools. He currently teaches painting and introductory art at Quinnipiac. He also teaches drawing and painting classes at Gateway Community College in New Haven and at his alma mater, Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.

Sinanoglu grew up in Northford, Conn. His Turkish father and American-born mother named him Levni after a Turkish miniature painter. He first displayed an affinity for art in elementary school, drawing comics, which he tried selling to classmates. His mother also fostered an appreciation for the arts, often bringing the family to museums and community art workshops. But he didn’t get serious about art until around the age of 20, after taking some time off after his first year at Hampshire, and being influenced by quality teachers.

“I had some really good teachers which I think is important,” Sinanoglu said. “Sort of like the way it was in the old days when you become the apprentice to a master. It’s how you learn.”

After graduating from Hampshire, Sinangolu headed to Yale University for his master’s degree in fine arts.

“It was tough,” Sinangolu said about his first year at Yale. “You go from being a big fish in a little pond, in your mind anyway, to being one of many among a bunch of very talented people.”

He ended up excelling at Yale, winning the Arnold Bittlemann Award for Achievement in Drawing and earning a traveling fellowship which he used after graduation to study ancient architecture in the Near East, an experience that still influences his thinking.

“That’s where I built up my reserves of inspiration for the rest of my life,” Sinanoglu said.

Sinanoglu began teaching at Quinnipiac about three years ago, right around the time his son was born. He continues to sell and show his artwork, but he’s still in the process of firming up his relationship with the art world to allow him to show more consistently. But teaching continues to be his passion.

“The whole point of my life, really, is that art is something that I make sacrifices for, and also that compels me to want to be a teacher,” Sinanoglu said. “I hope that I always have students, whether it’s one student or a hundred. I just feel I need to have that in my life.”