Amateur arts and folk culture
Table 23 in chapter 6.2 opens up a preliminary view of the Finnish amateur art scene. This scene is rather lively when the amateur activity is measured in a simple manner, asking whether the respondent pursues certain listed artistic / creative activities. The preferences and level of activity are very much in consonance with the wider scene of Finnish art world. The traditional top three, music (playing a music instrument), visual arts and amateur authorship have high positive rates of 14%, 14% and 13% respectively. Yet they are surpassed in popularity by photography, pursued by 27% of the respondents. At the lower end of the ranking are the performing arts, amateur singing, dancing, and acting in a theatre club or an amateur theatre, with rates of 7%, 6% and (only) 2% respectively.
The above popularity rating, of course, reflects the different activity contexts, especially, degree of communality, presence of audiences (real or imagined) and need for a teacher or a director. We should also make a difference between “hobby amateurs” and “serious amateurs”, i.e. between persons who pursue amateur arts just to have fun and between those who pursue amateur art to become better and potentially even professional artists, alone or in groups. In any case the Finnish art scene would be much poorer without serious amateurs. Without them there wouldn’t be fifteen hundred professionally trained choirs with close to 50 000 members, there wouldn’t be a network of high quality amateur theatres with two umbrella organisations and 750 amateur theatre members and there wouldn’t be exceptional ITE art works without 224 self-made artists. The lifeline of amateur arts as well as trained audiences is the system of extracurricular arts education. The lifeline stretches further, because the associations of amateur art and art enthusiasts organise annually a great number of events, exhibitions and festivals which involve thousands of voluntary workers. Annual Seinäjoki Amateur Theatre Festival organised by the Association of Finnish Amateur Theatres attracts thousands of visitors and receives a subsidy from the Ministry of Education and Culture. In 2010 it was 20 000 EUR.
Finnish youth organisations are active in amateur arts (theatre, dance, music, visual arts, circus etc) and organise cultural events, training, and workshops and carry out active international co-operation in the field. There are two central organisations – Finnish League of Youth Organisations (with 700 units and 54 000 members) and the Association of Swedish Language Youth Organisations. They both receive subsidies from the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Folk culture is thriving in Finland during the summer when the annual Kaustinen Folk Music Festival takes place, with folk music and folk dance not only from Finland but worldwide. In 2010 it had an audience of 84 000, a drop from 2008, when the audience was as high as 117 000 visitors. This was partly due to the fact that the festival was two days shorter and had fewer events. The festival receives a subsidy from the Ministry of Education and Culture which was 150 000 EUR in 2010.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
According to recent statistics, there are more than 2 000 traditional (mainly rural) “club-houses” and more than 93 major cultural houses and centres. The former were originally local arenas for political, educational and cultural mass organisations and they are still meeting places for village and communal activities. Some of the latter were constructed for the use of national cultural, political or educational associations, but at present most of them are owned by cities and offer premises for citizen’s various artistic and cultural activities. The 1980s was a period of intensive construction of cultural centres around the country, such as the Tampere Hall – congress and concert centre (1987), which is the biggest in the Nordic countries. The latest big cultural centre is the Sibelius Hall (2000) in Lahti, with the Main Hall having 1229 seats.
The congress and concert centres created a national network of congress and concert centres which operated more or less on an informal basis. In 2010 this network was formalised as an association called Cultural Centres Finland to further enhance co-operation and joint productions. They provide important venues for publicly subsidised companies, especially symphony orchestras at a reduced price.
Much of the more modern “club-type” activities are carried out and financed within the publicly supported system of adult education; but there is also an emerging new “third sector” which operates in small networks of voluntary organisations and small business firms in the different fields of new media, media arts and new ICT / Internet applications. The restaurant and entertainment sectors maintain, increasingly, club-type organisations for their core customers.
In three main cities (Helsinki, Tampere and Turku), there are cultural centres which function as carrefours for immigrants and minority groups. At the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Culture, a network of children’s cultural centres was established in 2003. The network has 11 centres (2011), most of them in the main cities; they are financed jointly by the state and municipalities.
The biggest cities have cultural houses spread around the city. The City of Helsinki has four multipurpose cultural houses, and in addition one house for immigrants’ cultural activities (Caisa) and one for cultural activities of children (Anna). The four multipurpose cultural houses in Helsinki are also members of the European network of Cultural Centres-ENCC.
There is also a recent trend of turning old factories and spaces into cultural venues and cultural centres. The oldest is the Cable Factory in Helsinki (1990), and it has been followed by such venues as Verkatehdas in Hämeenlinna (2008), Korjaamo in Helsinki and the newly opened Logomo in Turku (2011). The Cable Factory, Verkatehdas and Korjaamo are also members of the European network TEH- TransEurope Halles and are active in international co-operation.