Saari Residence


Saari Residence part of the NAARCA network of artists’ residencies

Kartta: Chen-Pan Liao, CC BY-SA 4.0 , lähde: Wikimedia Commons, karttaan lisätty NAARCA-residenssit.

In 2021, the Saari Residence and the Cove Park convened a network of artists’ residencies in Scotland and the Nordic countries that focuses on combating the climate emergency, both through the content of their residency programmes and through concrete climate action.

The Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action (NAARCA) is co-devised and co-led by the Saari Residence and the Cove Park. NAARCA aims to build long-term and sustainable cooperation, bringing the artists’ residencies in Scotland and the Nordic countries together to discuss new ways of tackling the climate emergency.

“As places where everyday life and creating art are intertwined, artists’ residencies have the potential to be pioneers in the development of environmentally sustainable practices. Staying at an artists’ residence gives you the opportunity to get away from the everyday routines of your life and encounter new environments and other artists, allowing you to experiment, challenge your way of thinking and learn new ways of doing things. The NAARCA residencies learn from each other, mentor and encourage each other and share the knowledge and new operating models generated within the project for their own and other art organisations’ benefit,” says Leena Kela, Executive Director of the Saari Residence.

In addition to Cove Park (Cove, Scotland) and Saari Residence (Mietoinen, Finland), the Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action brings together the Nordic artists’ residencies of Artica Svalbard (Svalbard, Norway), Art Hub Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark), Skaftfell Center for Visual Art (Seyðisfjörður, Iceland), Baltic Art Center (Visby, Sweden) and Arctic Culture Lab (Ilulissat, Greenland).

The project will function at the level of the organisation, the core residency programme, knowledge production and dissemination, and public engagement. Each partner will be free to decide, depending on needs, skills and capacity, which elements of the partnership to undertake. As the network includes large, medium and small organisations, with different remits and scopes of action, the partners won’t enforce reciprocity, but rather operate on the basis of infrastructure generosity and asymmetry.

Towards concrete actions

The NAARCA cooperation project will run from 2021 to 2024 and aims to lead the way in the field of environmental sustainability through concrete actions. The main focus of the project is to collectively delineate, practice, monitor, evaluate and further develop a series of practical actions, both internally and externally, for each institution to test and perform.

One of NAARCA’s key objectives is to change the way people travel to and from the residences and how art organisations produce, consume, purchase, reuse, recycle, upcycle, and dispose.  

The issues related to travel have been addressed at the Saari Residence by supporting the slow travel for artists travelling to the residency from outside Finland. Artists are encouraged to consider ecologically sustainable alternatives to air travel already at the application stage. Slow travel is encouraged by also offering the possibility to apply for a work grant for a journey longer than a week, which enables artists to include travel time as an additional part of their residency time.

Other concrete operating models at the Saari Residence include sharing information and sparking dialogue with the artists and researchers working at the residence about their electricity consumption, housing, food, recycling, material choices and consumer behaviour, and encouraging them to make sustainable choices by providing them with helpful examples. Examples of sustainable lifestyles are shared through daily choices at the residence and study visits during individual residencies. The aim is to encourage residents to reassess sustainability through fossil-free means of transportation and a plant-based diet, among other things. Residents make study visits and drive to the grocery store together in the residence’s electric car, and vegan food is served at communal events. In addition, the unique surroundings of the Saari Manor, its protected cultural landscape and the nearby nature reserve play a significant role in the dialogue.

In the everyday life of the Saari Residence, sustainability is also expressed through recycling. Each resident is instructed on the recycling methods used at the residence and is encouraged to take care of, for example, the residence’s hot compost bin. Most importantly, the residence’s buildings are maintained and renovated as responsibly as possible and according to a long-term plan. Most of the residence’s buildings are heated using geothermal heat and, with each renovation, the aim is to find the most sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions possible.

The Saari Residence also participates in sharing the knowledge and experiences obtained by NAARCA staff exchange with other residences. In addition, there are plans to implement resident exchanges focusing on environmental sustainability and the production of works between the NAARCA residencies.

Working in dialogue with local communities, residency sector and the art sector as whole

NAARCA network wishes individual action to influence collective intelligence and vice versa and wants to communicate, share, and disseminate our process and findings, so as to positively influence local communities, transnational communities of interest and the sector as a whole. The residencies will commission texts from experts in ecological sustainability and climate emergency. These texts will be translated into the languages of the participating countries and their indigenous peoples to facilitate international dialogue. The residencies will also share knowledge by producing digital learning material for schools, associations, families, etc. Additionally, the residencies will produce podcasts in English on topics related to the climate emergency and biodiversity loss.

The first meeting of the NAARCA network was held at the Cove Park residency centre in Scotland in November 2021. Photo: Sarah Frood / Cove Park

“In NAARCA and at the Saari Residence, we strive to inspire and be inspired. Although these are extremely complex issues, by discussing them together from the perspective of both research and the arts, we aim to generate new insights rather than just calculating our carbon footprint. Our aim is to reflect on tough issues and make this way of thinking visible through discussions, inclusive activities and various texts and works,” Kela explains.

From measuring carbon footprints to taking practical measures

The Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action works with international experts specialising in environmental sustainability and communication, who guide the residencies in their activities beyond simply calculating their carbon footprint and discussing the climate and biodiversity emergency. Changes in the residencies’ practices also signal to other operators and the community that real change is possible. The key words in the process are accessibility, polymorphism and inclusion, as well as multidisciplinary dialogue.

Many residencies have calculated their carbon footprint, and sharing this information with others will allow them to move from measurement to action. Sharing measurement results frees up resources and also helps residences to understand where their emissions come from and how to reduce them.

One way to share information is to highlight, for example on websites, sustainable travel routes across land and sea in Europe and beyond to encourage slower and more sustainable travel to and from residences.

“The members of NAARCA met each other face to face for the first time in November at the Cove Park in Scotland, at the same time as the COP26 took place in Glasgow. The energy generated by the concurrence of these two conferences and the power latent in NAARCA also demonstrated how, by joining forces between northern artists’ residencies, we can address issues of environmental, social, psychological and economic sustainability from our own specific perspectives,” says Kela.