State prizes awarded to 13 distinguished artists and art communities

The national arts councils of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) have awarded state prizes to distinguished artists, artist groups and art communities.

The combined value of the state prizes is 226,000 euros. State prizes are awarded in recognition of outstanding artistic work within the past three years, a long meritorious artistic career, or a contribution to a specific artform.

The national arts councils are expert bodies of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) that decide annually on the awarding of state prizes, each within its own field of the arts. The State Prize for Children’s Culture is decided by the Director of Taike. The awards were presented by Jenni Haukio, Spouse of the President of the Republic of Finland, at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki on 17 November 2021.

State prizes in 2021:

State Prize for Children’s Culture: visual artist Johanna Juvonen and visual artist Biagio Rosa

State Prize for Architecture: AOR Architects

State Prize for Cinema: costume designer Tiina Kaukanen 

State Prize for Performing Arts: Huoneiden kirja (“Book of Rooms”) core working group 

State Prize for Literature: Finnish translator Sirkka-Liisa Sjöblom

State Prize for Literature: Tuli & Savu poetry magazine

State Prize for the Visual Arts: visual artist Tuula Närhinen

State Prize for Comic Art: comic artist Tiitu Takalo

State Prize for Media Art: artist Kaino Wennerstrand

State Prize for Multidisciplinary Art: Mustarinda Association

State Prize for Design: ceramics artist Anu Pentik

State Prize for Music: conductor Ari Angervo

State Prize for Music: Hietsu is Happening ry and Klassinen Hietsu ry for music activities at Hietsun Paviljonki

Grounds for awarding state prizes 2021:

State Prize for Children’s Culture 

State Prize for Children’s Culture awarded to visual artist Johanna Juvonen and visual artist Biagio Rosa, Taidetila Toinila, Petäjävesi

In summer 2011, artist couple Juvonen & Rosa launched art activities in a protected building owned by the municipality of Petäjävesi. They “took over” the dilapidated house and its yard together with the children of the area for creative activities.

Over the years, as a result of art activities aimed at families, a children's environmental art path has formed in the yard, which serves as an inspiring interactive installation. It decays at the mercy of the seasons, yet renews and grows year by year.

The abandoned building in Toinila itself has become an active event space that is free of charge and open to all, attracting people to art. Toinila has hosted open art workshops, events and exhibitions of art by the children themselves. It also serves children in kindergartens and schools. The community art project has also developed in the direction of contemporary art: the Toinila art house includes a gallery that has presented exhibitions curated by the artist couple since 2016. The art house, which is open to everyone, makes contemporary art easily accessible and familiar to children.

The award is a tribute to the active promoters of participatory art and its accessibility in a small community. Their activities have had a positive impact on the residents of the entire municipality and on the art education of children.

National Council for Architecture and Design

State Prize for Architecture awarded to AOR Arkkitehdit

AOR Architects (Erkko Aarti, Arto Ollila, Mikki Ristola and Kuutti Halinen) has excelled in architectural competitions during its more than five years of operation. Already their first significant victory showed that they know how to implement a high-quality architectural project based on their competition proposal: in 2015, AOR Architects won the competition for the new Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School, resulting in an innovative example of contemporary architecture.

Since then, AOR has continued to focus on building schools and other public spaces. They have conducted interesting research into massive single-material solutions, such as in their design for Monio, a new high school and community centre in Tuusula, which won first prize in 2018. Their work conveys a genuine interest in modernising contemporary architecture, as well as in contemporary interpretations that utilise traditional materials. An example of this is AOR Architects' winning proposal for the Tampere Art Museum extension (2017), which combines a fascinating shape with the brick architecture of Tampere's old industrial buildings.

State Prize for Design awarded to ceramics artist Anu Pentik

February 2021 marks 50 years since Anu Pentik turned her hobby into a career. At the same time, she and her husband founded a company in Posio that became the world’s northernmost ceramics factory. A strong vision has guided the ceramics artist throughout the decades. The nature and unique character of the North have been refined into works of art and utility ceramics whose design language speaks for itself.

Honorary Doctor Anu Pentik is celebrating her 50th birthday as an artist with a wonderful narrative exhibition. The State Prize for Design complements the anniversary year, as it is awarded on the basis of her long-term distinguished activities for ceramic art. Anu Pentik has broadened the boundaries of ceramics with her creativity and desire to experiment.

Anu Pentik has drawn strength for her artistic career from the nature of Lapland and the wilderness of her home community in Posio. The weaving of different shades of life into her art has required versatility, perseverance and courage. In addition, she has carried responsibility for her business and family. Anu Pentik's life's work is art that glows in the tones of Lapland and that reflects the full range of human emotions and the diversity of nature.

National Council for Audiovisual Art

State Prize for Cinema awarded to costume designer Tiina Kaukanen

The State Prize for Cinema is awarded to costume designer Tiina Kaukanen for her life's work in cinematography. Kaukanen has had a decades-long career as a costume designer. She has made extensive contributions to the appeal, credibility and depth of the characters in dozens of domestic films. The temporal dimension of Kaukasen's career as a costume designer is also reflected in the fact that the five-time winner of the Jussi Award for Best Costume Design won the award for the first time 23 years ago, in 1998.

Kaukanen’s work has had a positive impact not only on the creation of the characters in Finnish films, but also on the development of acting in Finnish cinema. She has achieved outstanding artistic work in domestic films.

There is only good to be said about Kaukanen's work attitude and creativity in the Finnish film industry. She represents the type of dedicated professional who rarely receives public attention. Costume designers are among the great silent creators of cinematography.

State Prize for Media Art awarded to artist Kaino Wennerstrand

Kaino Wennerstrand (formerly Kim Modig) is a multidisciplinary and self-reliant artist for whom moving between different artforms is admirably natural. For more than 10 years, he has highlighted through his works and statements critical perspectives on the often unspoken demands of utility and beauty that are placed on art. He has also participated in the public debate on the role of the artist in society and the market economy.

Wennerstrand’s works have dealt with such subjects as aging and future senior cultures, the importance of art, hierarchies and economics. His art takes the form of audio and video works, conceptual art, writings, performances and radio documentaries. Wennerstrand’s work is often collective, and he is one half of the Biitsi duo. In addition to his own interdisciplinary activities, Wennerstrand has also been active in organisations and events in field of art. Wennerstrand is a sound designer by education. 

Fixit, a show about the European Union directed by Wennerstrand, will premiere at the ANTI Festival in Kuopio in September 2022. The work comprises pop songs and performances.

National Council for the Performing Arts

State Prize for Performing Arts awarded to Huoneiden kirja (“Book of Rooms”) core working group

The independent performing arts sector in Turku demonstrated its collective creative power and collaborative abilities in August 2021. In a project entitled “Book of Rooms”, a group of more than one hundred artists transformed an empty building into a unique multisensory experience. The multi-artistic and immersive project inhabited the labyrinth of the former industrial premises from the closets to the roof and the courtyard, creating a multidimensional, mythical and impressive experiential journey through various forms of contemporary performing arts.

The project was inspired by a book of prose poetry by Saila Susiluoto from 2003. Like the book, the experiential art world of “Book of Rooms” was built in layers of 64 works or rooms. Each work was based on an associative interpretation of one of Susiluoto’s poems and created its own aesthetic and material stage world.

The playful audience relationship created in the work led attendees on a private, independent journey of experience to works ranging in size from intimate encounters to mass scenes.

“Book of Rooms” retained its ideological and artistic focus throughout the space. Thanks for this go to the core artistic and production working group that coordinated the individual working groups and the overall project.

Members of the core working group: Alma Rajala (artistic director), Johanna Latvala (scenography and visuals), Jarkko Forsman (lighting), Laura Naukkarinen (sound), Riikka Mäntymaa (costume design), Venla Luoma (audience experience and guide), Lee Lahikainen (movement), Maria Laitila (public outreach), Maiju Tainio (coordinator of butlers, Pia Puustelli (marketing and communications) and Sara Koiranen (production). 

National Council for Music

State Prize for Music awarded to conductor Ari Angervo

Alongside his own career as a conductor and violinist, Ari Angervo has had a very significant pedagogical career as an educator of numerous Finnish orchestra and chamber musicians, as well as music enthusiasts. Angervo has demonstrated the ability to recognise the gifts and opportunities of children and young people in the music industry.

Ari Angervo has worked as a conductor and teacher at the Sibelius Academy and as the purposeful and demanding role model for various music schools and conservatories for decades. He has conducted orchestras at many Finnish music camps and has been at the centre of various pedagogical music events. Angervo has also served on the juries of numerous music competitions. 

Ari Angervo played as a member of the renowned Onni Suhonen Quartet with Okko Kamu, Ylermi Poijärvi and Risto Fredriksson. He also served as the concertmaster of the Finnish National Opera and later as its long-term conductor. Angervo has conducted all the orchestras in Finland and has been the artistic director of the Oulu, Rovaniemi and Lappeenranta city orchestras. He has also conducted numerous orchestras abroad. 

State Prize for Music: Hietsu is Happening ry and Klassinen Hietsu ry for music activities at Hietsun Paviljonki

Hietsun Paviljonki (“Hietsu Pavilion”) has enriched the music life of Töölö and Helsinki for years. Two working groups, Hietsu is Happening ry and Klassinen Hietsu ry, operate in the same premises. Both groups are made up of open-minded, bold and above all brilliant artists.

The programme always puts quality first while still being open-minded and unafraid to take risks. The goal of the working groups has been to encourage artists to try something new, unknown and challenging. The concerts creatively combine classical, jazz, improvisation, literature, dance and the visual arts. 

The members Hietsu is Happening ry and Klassinen Hietsu ry have long set an example of how important it is to challenge oneself, look for new things and take risks. This is conveyed in the richly diverse concerts, which have made Hietsu Pavilion the most interesting local actor in Helsinki and thereby an encouraging example for the entire Finnish music field. 

National Council for Literature

State Prize for Literature awarded to Finnish translator Sirkka-Liisa Sjöblom

Translator Sirkka-Liisa Sjöblom has translated fiction and non-fiction from Swedish and English into Finnish for decades. She is a very proficient, accurate and skilled translator of different genres.

Sjöblom's magnificent Finnish translation of the ambitious historical novel “Bomullsängeln” (“Pumpulienkeli”) by Swedish-born author Susanna Alakoski was published this year. The work depicts the industrial milieu of Vaasa and its people at the beginning of the 20th century. Sjöblom has succeeded in translating back to the Finnish language the world that Alakoski set in Finland but made understandable to her Swedish readership. There is a lot of intertextuality in the novel, and Sjöblom has skilfully managed the many different types of text: diaries and annual reports, newspaper ads, devotional texts, songs, poems – and especially the varying styles of dialogue. The South Ostrobothnian dialect has been used elegantly and thoughtfully. The translation is a complete and nuanced whole.

State Prize for Literature awarded to Tuli & Savu poetry magazine

Since 1994, Tuli & Savu magazine has done excellent long-term and high-quality work to diversify and cultivate the field of poetry in Finland. The poems, translations, essays, articles, critiques and interviews published in the magazine have made a lasting impression on our appreciation of what poetry and poetics can be at their most meaningful and what they can become.

From one issue to the next, a socially curious topicality and tradition-sensitive untopicality shake hands. The publication manages to balance high-brow language and thinking with the simple pleasure of reading. The magazine provides a cultural forum and literary community for all lovers of poetry and literary professionals. 

The pioneering work done for digital poetry by the magazine and its publisher, Nihil Interit, as well as the bold layout are also to be commended. The poetic uncompromisingness of Tuli & Savu is of lasting significance to culture in general. 

National Council for Diversity in the Arts

State Prize for Multidisciplinary Art awarded to the Mustarinda Association

The Mustarinda Association is a pioneer. For more than a decade, it has worked actively to combat climate change by challenging the current fossil economy and encouraging others to do the same. Mustarinda brings together art and science and is an open-minded experimenter in ecological practices. The association promotes sustainable values and lifestyles, ecological and cultural diversity, and the multidisciplinary interaction of art and science.

The Mustarinda Association is based at Mustarinda House in Hyrynsalmi, Kainuu, where guests have the opportunity to experience sustainable living in practice. The high-quality programme of exhibitions and events attracts friends of contemporary art, sustainable living and biodiversity from near and far. The multidisciplinary programme of the association’s main annual event, Jäkäläfest, highlights the community’s vision of a post-fossil society. The association collaborates extensively both locally and internationally and publishes the high-quality Mustarinda magazine. 

National Council for the Visual Arts

State Prize for the Visual Arts awarded to visual artist Tuula Närhinen

Tuula Närhinen has long worked at the interface between art and research. At the heart of her work are filmmaking practices and ecological issues. Närhinen's works are location-specific installations based on natural phenomena, and the ways in which they are presented make even slow changes observable. Her works have dealt with such topics as plastic pollution of the seas and tides.

Närhinen often includes in her works the methods of filming, lending artistic elements to the work process itself. Närhinen graduated with a PhD in 2016. In her dissertation, she dealt with viewing devices and imaging equipment to explore how the equipment makes the world visible. Närhinen makes art and artistic research in a way that is insightful, skilful and fun. She continues the long tradition of environmental art with a fresh perspective.

State Prize for Comic Art awarded to comic artist Tiitu Takalo

In her comics, Tiitu Takalo deals with the relationship between the individual and society in an impressive way. Takalo's “Memento Mori” (WSOY), published in 2020, is a strong example of this. The book delves into the core issues of human life and deals with the consequences of cerebral haemorrhage and coping with them. The story transcends the individual level by depicting also the social dimensions of the illness.

In her book “Minä, Mikko ja Annikki” (Suuri Kurpitsa, 2014), Takalo describes the transformation of society around the Annikki wooden house district in her hometown of Tampere. Takalo also does significant work in presenting research perspectives through her comics. In Takalo's works, her mastery of technique is combined with narrative sensitivity and power.