Engine Room column


Engine Room column: Sufficiently long funding supports artistic freedom

Kuva / Photo: Joel Haapamäki

Koneen Säätiö encourages long-term work by granting multi-year funding to both academics and artists. Our aim is to enable academic research and artistic work to be carried out so there is no need to apply for a new grant every year or even more often. Here, Kalle Korhonen, Maija Karasvaara and Silja Pasila from the Foundation’s funding team expound on the foundation’s thinking about why adequately long funding, tailored to meet the goals set up for the grantee’s work, makes sense and supports freedom in creative work.

Kone Foundation’s funding principles are not born in a vacuum or within our own bubble but are based on dialogue with people working in the fields of art and with other art funders. The Foundation’s own history – and that of the entire Finnish grantmaking community – is also important. Recently, there has been a positive trend in foundations, in which research funding periods have gone beyond the short-term grants of the past. Funding decisions, then, are influenced by the foundation’s own strategy and the values emphasized in it.

Long-term thinking is an important aspect of academic and artistic freedom, which is central to Kone Foundation. When your work is supported long-term, you can delve into it more deeply and experiment in previously unexplored ways. Indeed, when the end of the grant period is not nagging at you from the back of your mind, there is more space and freedom to do meaningful research or artistic work.

Sometimes we are asked to award smaller art grants to more artists for shorter periods. From the point of view of independent artists and working groups, four years of funding can be perceived as a long time, and applicants do not often apply for such large grants. Therefore, Kone Foundation also awards shorter grants. Supporting new artists in the early stages of their careers and new projects is essential, although it is only part of the Foundation’s activities.

Even those with more experience are supported only on a temporary basis. The fact that an individual,a group or organization gets their work off to a good start and does compelling work does not guarantee continued funding from the Foundation.

A significant multi-year grant awarded by the Foundation to an art organization offers peace of mind, but when it ends, the question often arises as to why the support could not continue for an extended period of time or even permanently. However, our habit is not to negotiate with grantees on continued funding at the end of the grant period without peer review. But this only applies at Kone Foundation: grantmakers can be different in this regard. And even though Kone Foundation does not grant permanent support, the Foundation’s funding can be considered a merit, and it can improve the opportunities for academics and professional artists to get more support for their work and establish their position within their fields. From there it becomes easier to search for and find other funders for future operations. Especially in the evaluation of large art projects, we consider what will happen to the activities when Kone Foundation funding inevitably runs out.

The future of funding for art organizations should be anticipated by art organizations and funders together. Moreover, art organizations that rely on temporary private funding or public funding, which is becoming increasingly more uncertain, should be well aware of the funders’ activities and principles.

In the beginning of this post we mentioned dialogue. Such talk about dialogue can be empty if we do not specify what kind of dialogue between funders and grantees best promotes causes of art and research. Kone Foundation is actively discussing how to improve funding with other private foundations and public grantmakers. In our dialogue with grantees, it is important for us to hear how different forms of funding work – and then develop new forms of funding together. Such dialogue creates trust between funders and grantees.

Writers: Maija Karasvaara, Kalle Korhonen and Silja Pasila