The Blue Angels (the former and the current employees of the Juko factory, 2014)

The Well also means encounters with the local residents. All along, the aim of the Saari Residence for artists and researchers was to promote interaction between the residence and the surrounding community. From the perspective of the concept of the artists’ residence, it is natural to use art for the dialogue. This is why a community artist has already been hired twice for the residence. After Nina Rantala, Pia Bartsch has held the position since 2012. In addition to Rantala and Bartsch, numerous residence guests have worked with the local community in various community art projects. In 2014, Saari Residence community artist Pia Bartsch carried out "The Blue Angels" with the employees of the local Juko factory.
Photo: Regina Pansin

The Blue Angels was made in collaboration with a Mynämäki based manufacturer of agricultural machinery, Oy Kongskilde Juko Ltd at a time when the decision to close the factory had already been made. The participants were former factory workers, some of the last employees there. The theme of the project was the significance of work, and the impact of the factory on the local community. The Blue Angels is dedicated to the work of the men.

”We met early on the day of the festival, the sun was shining, and everything was still quiet. I helped the five Angels attach their wings, and we went through the procedure one more time. Then, wearing their blue Juko overalls, they drove past the crowd in their tractors and a digger to the park in front of the main building, where they planted four maple trees and an oak dedicated to their company. Each man had written a wish for the oak that was read out aloud and then hidden in the soil. Afterwards, we walked down the red carpet to the table, and with the men from the Penan pojat choir singing, we raised a toast with Blue Angel cocktails. The Blue Angels told the audience memories of their work – five stories spanning six decades. The performance ended with me presenting the men with the Working Hero medals I had made with the wheels and screws I had found in the Juko treasure house.

Afterwards, we took a group photo, and after the audience had left and we were giving our final hugs, Martti asked, “Is it ok if we take our wings?” That really crowned everything and showed me that it was possible to create art with men from southwestern Finland. It was an intensive and touching process, at times sad, and, despite the short period, we had a fantastic time!”

Pia Bartsch in her book The Colour Chart of Community Art: Encounters and everyday magic, 2016