The restrictions put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in loss of work and livelihood in the cultural sector. It is a tough situation, especially because even before the pandemic, artists in the performance and visual arts were already working within structures with fragile funding. Fields of art are characterised by precarious work and an uncertainty about the future. In particular, independent groups not covered by permanent public funding work in conditions that make long-term operation challenging.
At the same time, independent groups are a strong force in the field of Finnish art, artists who drive their fields forward, and their work plays an important role in culture and thinking. Independent actors have a special quality that stems from artistic freedom, which translates to being true to oneself, applying unique ways of doing things and the ability to build bridges and dialogue with other actors.
Kone Foundation aims to strengthen these groups by providing them with funding for their artistic work and for the implementation of productions that provide artists with work. Thus, the Foundation has granted funding to artists in the fields of contemporary circus, modern dance, theatre and contemporary art.
The organisations who received funding were selected with the help of expert evaluations without a public application round. The aim was to identify groups that work perseveringly and ambitiously across Finland. By strengthening their working conditions, the funding will more broadly benefit freelancers in the field by providing them with work opportunities. Kone Foundation’s Board of Trustees made the funding decisions at their meeting on 11 June 2021.
The vitality of artist groups prevents the loss of cultural diversity
The action plans requested from the groups demonstrate how the future can be built on freedom, alternatives, responsibility and a sense of community but also on constant, critical self-reflection. What these actors have in common is the fact that they aim high with their activities while working with limited resources. Many of them have been seeking new ways to work and have been building their networks with international operators, among whom are important regional actors. Many groups cooperate extensively throughout Finland, and to them, collaborative productions and tours are a natural and organic form of operation. These groups employ multifaceted platforms for art creation, and a few groups are built on the strong artistic vision and creative power of a single artist.
“Throughout history, the freedom of human life has been deeply linked to the freedom of art, the first condition of which is the possibility to create art. At the moment, however, the situation artists face is verging on cultural diversity loss, both at the level of individuals and art forms. With this special funding, Kone Foundation supports a wide range of small and persistent artistic groups across Finland, without whom our lives would be greyer, more soulless, poorer and definitely lacking in surprises,” says Professor Tuija Kokkonen, a Trustee of Kone Foundation.
“The Foundation’s strategy emphasises the freedom of art and research, and we can support this freedom quickly, if necessary, because the Foundation has extensive contacts with experts. This application process was carried out through investigative work, meaning that experts outside the Foundation selected the groups, which the Foundation then contacted to request applications. This allowed us to avoid an application round that would result in a large number of applicants being disappointed when denied funding,” says Kalle Korhonen, Director of Research Funding, who is also responsible for art funding at Kone Foundation.
Better working conditions and the ability to pay artists
Kajaani-based independent theatre collective Vaara-kollektiivi will use their funding to ensure future artistic activities. Contemporary art organisation Arte ry, operating Titanik Gallery in Turku, will continue working to improve artist working conditions by paying them exhibition fees.
“With the multi-year support from Kone Foundation, we can ensure that the artists go on working in every aspect of our activities, from road shows to environmental education. Their working conditions will improve, there will be less stress and there will be more room for slow processes. In addition, our long-term projects, such as the Ärjä Art Festival and the development of artistic activity on our island, will now get the continuity they deserve,” says Eino Saari of the Vaara Collective.
“Kone Foundation’s support allows us to pay the artists a proper fee for their artistic work. We have been determined for several years to pay fees to artists instead of charging them rent for gallery space. In addition to our high-quality, ambitious and experimental artistic programme, we aim to improve and stabilise the position of artists. The funding will enable us to organise exhibitions both through open calls and by invitation and in such ways to advance the plurality of forms and voices in the field of contemporary art,” says Mirjami Schuppert, Director of Arte.
- Arte ry, a contemporary artists’ association which maintains the Titanik Gallery, Turku: €280,000, 4-year grant
- Aura of Puppets ry, a puppet theatre cooperation network, Turku: €280,000, 4-year grant
- Grus Grus -teatteri ry, a multidisciplinary nomad theatre group, Turku: €240,000, 4-year grant
- Dance group Johanna Nuutinen +CO (background association: Kinesteetikot ry), Helsinki: €120,000, 4-year grant
- Dance group Kinetic Orchestra (background association: art cooperative Apinatarha), Helsinki: €240,000, 4-year grant. A conditional decision.
- Konsthallen Kohta Ab, the association maintaining the Kohta gallery for contemporary art, Helsinki: €120,000, 4-year grant.
- Lapin Taiteilijaseura ry – Artists’ association of Lapland, Rovaniemi: €100,000, 4-year grant
- Dance group Liisa Pentti Co (background association: Tanssiryhmä +Co:n kannatusyhdistys ry), Helsinki: €240,000, 4-year grant
- Lokal Collective ry, the background association for the Kallo Collective of circus art and clowning performers, Helsinki: €210,000, 3-year grant
- Mediakulttuuriyhdistys m-cult ry – Media culture association m-cult, Helsinki: €240,000, 4-year grant
- Musta saukko ry, the association that maintains the contemporary art gallery SIC, Helsinki: €280,000, 4-year grant
- Nuua ry, a contemporary circus and visual theatre group, Helsinki: €75,000, 3-year grant
- Porttiteatteri ry, a documentary theatre group for performers with criminal backgrounds, Helsinki: €280,000, 4-year grant
- Pohjoinen valokuvakeskus ry – Northern Photographic Centre, a photography association and exhibition facility, Oulu: €280,000, 4-year grant
- Routa Company (background association: Routa – Kajaanin tanssin edistämisyhdistys ry – Kajaani dance promotion association), Kajaani: €136,000, 4-year grant
- TOTEM-teatterin kannatusyhdistys ry, the background association of the TOTEM Theatre which promotes children’s culture, Espoo: €135,000, 3-year grant
- Vaara-kollektiivi (Kulttuuriosuuskunta G-voima – cultural cooperative G-voima), free professional theatre, Kajaani: €200,000, 4-year grant