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ArtRadius Saksala


international artist-in-residence program in rural Finland



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    "The main purpose of the collaboration project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU is to create a platform to investigate and exchange, collaborate and produce international multidisciplinary dialogue. This dialogue will be realized with migrant artists living in NORDIC countries. The leading participants of the collaboration and workshops will exchange and collaborate with native artists and others and possibly interact with cultural workers, teachers, craftsmen, policymakers and youth of the multicultural community of Haukivuori (who are another target group of this project). As a part of the project the artists intend to cooperate and produce together with local craftsmen and people in the educative field whom they deem valuable for the artistic exchange. Through this, also local youth can develop their artistic skills and increase consciousness about their specific roots and relationship with northern Europe."

    It was a great experience to develop the pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU. The preparation and executing, the planning and discussions, the artists and their production, and the new perspectives this project contains are impressive. Located on the edge of the European Union, the edge of the Nordic region and far away from the urban and cosmopolitan center an innovative artistic and cultural initiative has taken place in Saksalanharju. This initiative shows the unknown and undervalued power and strength of rural regions and the persistence of the artistic pioneers on this location.


    CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU is a future oriented collaboration art project where Nordic artists can meet, exchange and enrich each other on cultural as well as artistic level. The collaboration project is based on the characteristics of the location and the specific artistic possibilities offered by the rural environment and its cultural circumstances. It demands from the artists a great effort to leave the physical and mental known space to get into a new area. The meaning of the project is either neither to produce a trick nor to lose one self's artistic content, but just to look for new experiences which should not be done at home and/or in the own atelier. The individual qualities of the selected and participating artists have guaranteed the high artistic level and also the various outcomes of the different contributions.

    The pilot-project has taken place during 2009-2010. The selected artists came from different Nordic regions and all with their own background, expectations and even sometimes with their plan. Through verbal communication the artists were able to explain their ideas, vision and expectations; however visual communication is something else and needs a different attitude. It would be interesting to create a situation in which the communication is based on visual exchange. In each collaboration session it has taken place in different ways, from discussing on distance, through creating a visual notebook, to working as a duo.

    On request of the artists this image has been removed

    Ilse van den Berk - Tiina Suhonen

    Pål Jomås - Anna-Lea Kopperi

    Tiina Mielonen - Alexander Nikitin

    Matiass Jansons - Siard

    Understanding and explanation of visual information can have surprising results. Visual language can be varied interpreted, but is less strict as written or spoken language. It creates more freedom for the 'reader'. A dialogue by visual signs creates new areas to enter and to get new forms of expression and communication. This has to be based on respect and openness of the participants. It was very challenging for the artists to start the collaboration and to find the base on which they could work together on one idea, subject or plan.

    Communication through the art works is fundamental for real artistic communication. Words, spoken or written, are substitutions which never can cover the visual meaning of an art work. The way art is seen and interpreted by the viewer is not clear, only the viewer can know, but he needs to be open to receive the visual information. Explaining can direct his view, but never come to the essential meaning of the visual information of the art work for the individual viewer. Visual communication between artists takes place on artistic level and can be supported by written or spoken text, but never replaced by it. Still it is very interesting to read how different people in different periods are writing about specific art works. During the collaboration project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU the artists have used different forms of visual communication.


    In this view the third session in March with Tiina Mielonen, Alexander Nikitin and Marja de Jong is interesting, because their final works are based on a visual dialogue. E.g. the book Tiina Mielonen has introduced, has started to be a story in images and also other artists in the art center have already  participated in it. In their developing project these artists have produced series of paintings and drawings on separate sheets of paper and are an example of a new path.
    The visual dialogue as a notebook on a long sheet of paper on the walls in the second collaboration with Ann-Lea Kopperi and Pål Jomås is an example how signs and text are useful elements in exploring the co-operative artistic field. Through discussing and brainstorming illustrated by signs and text the area where the artists can co-operate has been defined. This was the base of their interactive project that has taken place in co-operation with local groups and has no end, each person involved can still continue at home.
    Communication through exchange of individual artistic layers into the same production is another way as Matiass Jansons and Siard have experienced during the fourth series of collaboration. Their production is based on contrasts in view through material, time and sound and the way how to connect these elements in one art production.
    The first session with Ilse van den Berk and Tiina Suhonen was based on tradition and roots connected with the specific location on Saksalanharju and the experiences with the environment both artists had earlier. Traditional culture has its own communication, which is connected with the past. The content of the traditional forms often is not longer clear and even got a new content. Both artists created new layers in complete different ways, based on old tradition with a direct link to the old forms as well as in subtle references.

    On request of the artists this image has been removed

    black book a dialogue in images

    Tiina Mielonen - Alexander Nikitin - AN
    Marja de Jong - Tiina Mielonen - Pedro Riva

    visual dialogue and community

    Pål Jomås - Anna Lea Kopperi

    crossroads - contrast - connection

    Matiass Jansons - Siard

    traditional patterns and forms

    Ilse van den Berk - Tiina Suhonen

    The four sessions during the pilot-project are examples how artists are inspired by the collaborating art project it has challenged them to new forms of art. It is a positive start for a structural program in which artists from the Nordic region can participate and have cross border experiences.  Also the small local society can identify with the Nordic identity through this collaboration project. This project creates better understanding of the connection between the sparsely populated rural region and the rest of the Nordic area.

    Part of the pilot-project has been the school project by Pirkko Vartio-Viljakainen
    The first series of workshops are based on the old stories told by grandparents and people living in the old people's home in Haukivuori. The students of secondary schools have collected these stories and have started visualize them. In a practical series in the atelier of Saksala ArtRadius the students prepared templates with their selected drawing. The forms are printed on a big piece of fabric and finally connected by a background. During the process of selecting, discussing and preparing the collected stories started to be more alive and par of the artistic process. Just the age of 14-16 is important to create a link with the past and to find out how present and past is related with each other. The artistic component in this project introduces new points of view and new ways of working.

    The intensive contact and results in the series 'HAPPY IDEAS' with different local groups and 'CHARMS OF THE ELVES' with the school children makes known that the art project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU is attractive for the whole society. As a result of the first series in the project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU Ilse van den Berk will start  Suomen Maisema project with photos and paintings of the location Saksalanharju. During several months peoples from the the local society will be invited to bring their impressions about their environment to add to the exhibition. It is the intention to print a picture book with a selection of these contributions. 

    In co-operation with AREFS taide ja kulttuuri ry the organization is preparing related international collaboration project to CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU that will connect Saksalanharju/Haukivuori with similar isolated rural communities in other parts of Europe, to share, exchange and strengthen cultural identity and to build on true roots of children and youth in these regions. Artists in MY ROOTS FOR THE FUTURE  (Finnish title MINUN JUURENI TULEVAISUUTEEN) will collaborate with local groups in artistic processes. On different location in the Nordic and/or European region similar projects will start. It will be a great experience and challenge to get an exchange between these locations through artists' participation. This art and culture program will strengthen the rural roots of children and youth, and will prepare them for a strong future in Europe and the Nordic region with respect for their origin.
    The art projects will also engage the public in environmental awareness and action and help the population understand its relationship with the environment, the region and local know-how.
    Experiences in CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU are the blue print for the structure of this international project.

    Creative processes are important stimuli for local economic development in rural regions. The collaboration pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU contributes extremely effective with varied form of positive co-operation and new and experimental forms of art production tailored to local needs and qualities.  


    The east Finnish scarcely populated part of the Nordic region does not participate actively in the Nordic context. This project has a positive influence on the Nordic cultural exchange and is an important stimulus of historical and cultural knowledge of rural regions.

    Saksalanharju in rural east Finland is developing into an important area where artists can meet, enrich each other and exchange on artistic and cultural level. The participation of artists from the Nordic region has also effect on democratic access to cultural participation in this cultural isolated rural area. The exchange and collaboration of native and migrant Nordic artists have contributed to start new forms of expression and communication between the artists as well as the local society. 

    As they say: "one swallow does not make a summer" it is important to continue and to integrate the results in a structural program. The pilot-project is a try-out and through the experiences of the first sessions it is possible to build a sustainable program that will be integrated in the art program of art centre Saksala ArtRadius on Saksalanharju and also will be part of international co-operation between different Nordic and European rural regions. 

    New contacts are already made with residencies in Sweden, Latvia and Iceland, but also with residencies in Spain, Ireland and Turkey. The basic idea is the cultural exchange between different rural regions in Nordic and European context and the structural development and strengthening of the rural roots of children based on international co-operation with partners on similar ecological sensitive rural environments as Haukivuori-Saksalanharju.

    An active art center with a varied and excellent artist population is a drive and stimulus to activate the self awareness of a local rural society.


    The pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU has been carried out  during 2009-2010 in art centre Saksala ArtRadius - Finland - in co-operation with the international workgroup CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU.

    Art center Saksala ArtRadius is located on Saksalanharju ridge. The profile of the art center is based on cooperative art projects, art education and international cultural exchange.
    The ancient settlement site Saksalanharju is situated in South East rural Finland between the small cities Mikkeli and Pieksämäki.
    The tranquil landscape around Saksalanharju with fields and forests has created in different seasons excellent possibilities for concentration of the artists.

    The location of the art center fits perfect with the project objectives. More or less isolated, with a traditional landscape and population, a rural history with remarkable social background, participation in rural art village concept, conspicuous art programs, active contacts with regional art organizations, an interesting international art network and facilities for art production. Personal involvement and professionalism of the staff completes the conditions to develop  long-term art projects.

    The place can be seen as a symbol for cultural exchange in a village which has different groups of foreigners. The difference in  culture is one of the objectives of CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU. A period living and working on this location is a challenge for participating artists and their artistic vision.


    Based on the conditions of the project the applying artists have to be citizen of one of the Nordic countries.
    (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, as well as the self-governing areas the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Åland Islands)
    The applicant has to commit him/her self with the idea, aim, strategy and intention of the pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU and have to stay at least 4 weeks in the residency.
    To have experiences with collaboration has not been a condition, the project group is interested in artists who want to accept the challenge to cross the boundaries of their own work and to attain new influences.

    All artists have signed a participation contract and after the stay a contract how the project will be continued and when it is finished.
    The artists have sent texts and images for the catalogue, which will be designed by the own staff.

    After the project it is clear that a period of 4 weeks is a absolute minimum. Better will be a stay of 6-8 weeks, this will intensify the collaboration and give time to search in different ways. There will be also more time to plan activities and meetings with the local society.
    This will have consequences for the budget and/or for the number of artists that can participate.
    Important for the concentration is also an uninterrupted period, this has to be written in the general conditions and contract. Artist and project leader have to discuss on before what is accepted or not.

    Exhibitions related to the project or with art works and/or images produced during the project are until January 1, 2012 related to the project. The workgroup is positive about each possibility to exhibit (a part of) the works on other locations and is also active searching for new presentation locations. 


    After the budget was accepted the call for artists has been published on different websites and artists in the database of art centre Saksala ArtRadius have got information about the pilot-project. Members of the workgroup were also active in spotting at artists for the project.
    37 artists have responded on the call
    Finally 9 artists are selected to participate in the pilot-project and because of the reduced budget 2 artists have to be postponed to the next series of the project.


    Session 1 : AUGUST 2009
    Ilse van den Berk - visual artist - painter - the Netherlands
    Tiina Suhonen - visual artist - sculptor - photographer - painter - Finland/Norway

    Session 2: February 2010
    Pål Gusdal Jomås - visual artist - media - Norway
    Anna-Lea Kopperi - visual artist - sculptor - environmental art - interactive art - installations - Finland

    Session 3: March 2010
    Tiina Mielonen - visual artist - painter - Finland
    Alexander Nikitin - visual artist - painter - Russia/Finland
    Marja de Jong - visual artist - painter Netherlands/Finland

    Session 4: March 2010
    Siard - visual artist - media - the Netherlands/Finland
    Matiass Jansons - visual artist - sculptor - Latvia

    School project September 2009-April 2010
    Pirkko Vartio-Viljakainen - art teacher - Finland
    Marja de Jong - artist - art teacher - Netherlands/Finland

    Session 5: postponed
    Ian Newbery - visual artist - sculptor - UK/Sweden
    Lucien den Arend - visual artist - sculptor - painter - Netherlands/Finland

    In the upcoming continuation project artists can apply to participate in it.


    The pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU has started in summer 2009. The collaboration project is supported by different organizations:

    The calculated budget of the pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU has been awarded by different funding which compensate 50% of the estimated budget.
    To balance the income and expenses the final budget has been reduced with 30%. The own contribution is 20% of the final budget.
    The average costs per participating artist are 1400€ per week (5600€/month) including artist fee, compensation travel and daily living costs, accommodation, production, equipments, printing and publication, overhead, promotion and marketing.


    To continue with this innovative collaboration project and to embed it in the art program of art centre Saksala ArtRadius on Saksalanharju structural funding is a basic condition.

    The meaning of creative industry as part of the economic development and grow is a hot issue for policymakers in Nordic and European governments it is important to create conditions and preferences for a healthy and sustainable context of art and cultural initiatives. Long term projects are able 



    During the pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU the project group has organized different presentations and exhibitions with the result of the artistic process and the art production. The first presentation was during the annual Taidekirppujen Yö. Five artists have presented their previous works and their participation in the project. It was possible to discuss together, with other artists and with the public. The audience was positive and interested.



    In February it was possible to prepare and execute a performance with the local society and the artists where the "HAPPY IDEAS" of the project were showed, read and presented.
    In March the art production of the third and fourth series were presented on different places in and outside the buildings of the art center.
    A solo exhibition with the works of Ilse van den Berg in the art society PULCHRI in the Hague (NL)

    Lucien den Arend
    Tiina Suhonen
    Ilse van den Berk
    Marja de Jong
    Alexander Nikitin

    Pål Jomås
    Anna-Lea Kopperi

    Tiina Mielonen
    Alexander Nikitin
    Marja de Jong
    Matiass Jansons

    Tiina Suhonen

    Ilse van den Berk

    opening speech:
    Marja de Jong

    Pirkko Vartio-Viljakainen
    Marja de Jong

    These days the internet is an important medium to inform the public about all kind of subjects. Through the internet an international audience is available, which brings unexpected connections and feedback. During the whole project information related to CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU has been published on the web. It is important to create informative pages and to document the whole process as clear as possible. Constructing pages does not end when a project has finished, new information will be added and pages will be updated.
    All selected artists are represented with their previous work that has been part of the application and selection. It gives a view on the quality and level of these artists.
    The different collaboration sessions are represented by series of images, which still can change if a more relevant images are available.
    Press publications, presentations and shows are also published and commented.

    About 100 pages are available on the website of saksala.org and about 50 on the website of saksalanharju.info. Most information about the artist previous work can be found on saksala.org, the connection of the project with the location Saksalanharju has more accent on saksalanharju.info.
    Both websites have a growing number of visitors. Saksala.org between 350-450 per day and saksalanharju.info (launched in April 2010) between 35-45 per day. 
    The websites are important sources to highlight the unknown and isolated east Finnish region and its Nordic context.     

    The pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU is published on the websites:
    The pilot-project is also published on the social media:

    The project is frequently found in Google through the varied locations the information is published.
    The website saksalanharju.info is launched in April 2010 and informs about execution of the pilot-project.
    The pages on saksala.org are also informing about the different artists, their previous artist work and the related school project "CHARM OF THE ELVES"

    On the social media like LinkedIn, Facebook etc. and by active email information the progress, events and publications are published. Through this the number of visitors on the websites increases remarkable which is important to involve others in the content and result of the project and get attention for the qualities of this specific region.

    During the project the news papers are informed and several times an interview about the pilot-project has been published.
    Haukivuoren Seutu
    Pieksämäen Lehti

    During the preparation of the project YLE radio has broadcast an interview with Marja de Jong about the content of CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU.

    Finally the pilot-project will be published in a catalogue to have a printed version of the art production, which is interesting for artists, curators, museums, art lovers, policy makers and funding organizations. The catalogue is planned to be published in autumn 2010.


    top of the homepage - saksala.org

    top of the home page - saksalanharju.info

    cover - back and front - catalogue CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU

    Suomen Maisema
    Ilse van den Berk


    During the pilot-project CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU 460 persons have visited one or more activities and events related to the project. The number of inhabitants comparing (2300) this is a percentage of 20%.




    "The intensive collaboration between migrant NORDIC artists and native artists from Nordic countries and Europe, will give the participants the possibility to adopt a deeper understanding about forthcoming art at a personal level. They will acquire cultural influences that they are partially integrated in and from the people they work with. This will stimulate development in the participant’s ways of thinking and working and indeed positively affect all involved. This in turn has the positive effect of insuring a continued movement and development of local culture by way involvement and embracing them.

    Exchange of skills and ideas is an absolute necessity to keep all cultures vital and ever developing. In CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU artists can stay and work together in an exchange and create something that furthers Finnish and foreign culture in innovative forms. It is also important for the development of the art field in entire Europe that there is a vital alternative, like this project, to the commercialized world. "

    Based on the experiences and results in CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU new project plans are prepared. The collaboration project has the interest of different rural locations in the Nordic region and Europe. In co-operation with AREFS taide ja kulttuuri ry the organization is preparing related international collaboration project to CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU that will connect Saksalanharju/Haukivuori with similar isolated rural communities in other parts of Europe, to share, exchange and strengthen cultural identity and to build on true roots of children and youth in these regions.

    Artists in MY ROOTS FOR THE FUTURE (Finnish title MINUN JUURENI TULEVAISUUTEEN) will collaborate with each other and local groups in artistic processes. On different locations in the Nordic and/or European region similar projects will start and will exchange with each other. It will be a great experience and challenge to get an exchange between these locations through artists' participation. This art and culture program will strengthen the rural roots of children and youth, and will prepare them for a strong future in Europe and the Nordic region with respect for their origin.
    The art projects will also engage the public in environmental awareness and action and help the population understand its relationship with the environment, the region and local know-how.
    Experiences in CROSSROADS SAKSALANHARJU are the blue print for the structure of this international project.

    During the series in February and March the participating artists have had exchange also with the international artists in the artist-in-residence program. This is an extra component of the international content of the art center that contributes to new experiences.

    Culture and art are often situated on the edge of the society while they belong to its roots and fundamental contribute to welfare, economic grow, and high standard civilization. The creative processes in the arts are important contributors to new investigations and  non-conventional solutions for social, human and economic issues. International artistic exchange between artists and society in different regions increases the capacity of current and next generations in creative social, human and economic contribution.

    artistic exchange

    Matiass Jansons
    Pedro Riva (Argentina)

    museum visit and curator consultation

    Matti Karttunen - director Mikkeli Art Museum
    Paula Hyvönen - curator Mikkeli Art Museum
    Pedro Riva (Argentina)
    Hanrie van Heerden (South Africa)
    Pål Jomås
    Anna-Lea Kopperi

    contribution in the black book by Hanrie van Heerden (South Africa)

    artistic exchange

    Hanrie van Heerden (South Africa)
    Tiina Mielonen

    artist collaboration

    Pedro Riva (Argentina)

    project group

    Marja de Jong - Finland - project leader
    Lucien den Arend - Finland
    Tiina Suhonen - Norway
    Ian Newberry - Sweden
    Ilse van den Berk - the Netherlands

    the project has received funding from:

    Arts Council Finland
    Etelä-Savon Maakuntaliitto
    AllaprimA Foundation

    information |Marja de Jong | mobile 00358 (0)50 4625 675 | info@arefs.org |

    art links
    also visit
    AllaprimA | AREFS | 14square | Marja de Jong | ArtRadius | Lucien den Arend | St Ives Net / Selected Art

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