State prizes awarded to 14 artists

Kuvassa 14 ihmistä ryhmäkuvassa valtionpalkintoadressien kanssa.

Valtionpalkinnot jaettiin tänä vuonna Kansallisoopperassa Helsingissä. Kuva: Vilhelm Sjöström

The national arts councils have awarded state prizes in the fields of architecture, cinema, the performing arts, literature, the visual arts, children’s culture, media art, multidisciplinary art, design, music and photographic art. The value of the State Prize for Children’s Culture is 30,000 euros and the State Prize for Multidisciplinary Art 28,000 euros. The value of each of the other state prizes is 14,000 euros. The prizes were awarded by Hanna Kosonen, Minister of Science Culture, at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki on 29 November.

The State Prize for Architecture was awarded to landscape artist Gretel Hemgård, while the State Prize for Design was awarded to the Jewellery Art Association (Korutaideyhdistys ry).

Film journalist Kalle Kinnunen was awarded the State Prize for Cinema.

Playwright Heini Junkkaala and dance artist Liisa Pentti were awarded the State Prize for the Performing Arts.

Author Eeva Kilpi and poet Cia Rinne were awarded the State Prize for Literature.

Opera singer Camilla Nyland and musician Paula Vesala were awarded the State Prize for Music, and rap artist Ailu Valle was awarded the State Prize for Children’s Culture.

The State Prize for the Visual Arts was awarded to visual artist Jukka Korkeila, photographic artist Tiina Itkonen and media art expert Perttu Rastas, while the State Prize for Multidisciplinary Art was awarded to artist Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen.

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. State prizes may be awarded to an artist, group of artists, art critic, art journalist, association or other community active in the field of the arts in recognition of outstanding artistic work or performance within the past three years, a long-term, distinguished artistic career, or their contribution to a specific artform.

Grounds for awarding state prizes:

State Prize for Architecture

Gretel Hemgård (born 1948) has been involved in artistic work for years as a creator of landscape architecture, both in landscape design and restoration, and she has also contributed extensively to the landscape perspective and landscape architecture both internationally and domestically.

The objects of Hemgård’s restoration projects include well-known manor and villa parks, Finland's oldest public and institutional parks, botanic gardens and landscapes of high cultural value. Her work emphasises long-term planning, from historical and plant studies to maintenance management. Many of her projects are the best of their kind in Finland.

Her designs have also created a wide range of architecture, parks, streets, cemeteries, courtyards and landscapes in new urban developments, in which landscape design and architecture are uncompromisingly and intrinsically linked to the architecture while also standing as independent works.

The State Prize for Architecture is awarded by the National Council for Architecture and Design.

State Prize for Cinema

Film journalist and critic Kalle Kinnunen (born 1977) reveals through his work the art, production and business dimensions of films accurately and diversely. In addition to traditional journalism, Kinnunen has sparked discussion with his blog Kuvien takaa (“Behind the Images”). He has also written books about recent film history that demonstrate not only journalistic independence but also careful background work and descriptions of general artistic practices and principles, while also questioning them. Kinnunen has been able to earn a living as a film journalist at a time when media houses have stood out amid dwindling cultural journalism resources.

Kinnunen has been an influential member of the film industry association Filmiaura ry, which awards the Jussi awards, as well as the Finnish Critics’ Association and the Love and Anarchy Film Festival. Kinnunen is also a member of the European Film Academy.

The State Prize for Cinema is awarded by the National Council for Audiovisual Art.

State Prize for the Performing Arts

Playwright, dramaturg and director Heini Junkkaala (born 1975) is an uncompromising creator of the performing arts who has her own voice. Her works discuss socially topical and painful topics, such as sexual identity, gender diversity, and generational and religious belief paradoxes. She explores her subjects through a non-illusory documentary approach and often from a private and personal perspective. For Junkkaala, a personal approach does not involve incrimination, insults or offering cheap and self-harming revelations. She has an admirable ability to make the private universal, thereby offering a significant means of identification for viewers.

Junkkaala creates mature, deep, structurally diverse and fragmented theatre. This structure combined with the precision of her dialogue can be seen in her latest play Valehtelijan peruukki (“A Liar’s Wig”) at KOM-teatteri. Directed by Junkkaala and co-authored with Pirkko Saisio and Marja Packalén, the play is a farce that turns into a tragedy that appears comical.

Liisa Pentti (born 1958) has been active as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and curator for over three decades. Throughout her career, she has done an exemplary job combining sophisticated artistry, pedagogy and internationality with an active approach to developing her field. Pentti’s artistic attitude is characterised by an intelligent awareness of tradition combined with continuous content, expression, bodily curiosity and questioning. She works extensively in the interface between dance, the performing arts and contemporary theatre, commanding a wide range of bodily practices and expressive performance languages. In addition to performing with her own group, she produces events related to dance conceptualisation and articulation, such as the international project platform “After Contemporary” and the seminar series and anthology “Postmodern Dance in Finland?”.

Pentti’s teaching work with dance and theatre students and non-professionals, such as young people with autism spectrum disorders, offers genuine dialogue and encouragement. She encourages her colleagues to believe in their own artistry, regardless of their educational background and generation.

The State Prize for the Performing Arts is awarded by the National Council for the Performing Arts.

State Prize for Literature

Throughout her extensive literary output, author Eeva Kilpi (born 1928) has explored ecological themes, her relationship with herself and others, and being a refugee, having herself fled from Karelia.

The author has not conformed to popular themes and attitudes but instead steadfastly followed her own path. Time has proven the enduring quality of Kilpi’s output. She has accurately dealt with critical issues long before the current debate. Refugeeism is a sore point, humanity and nature are at stake, and women’s self-determination and sexuality are still not self-evident.

The 91-year-old author and poet Eeva Kilpi is an inspiring role model in many ways. She demonstrates that an artist’s work can be creative and timeless regardless of one’s age. Her most recent works are bright, deeply human and provocative: Kuolinsiivous (“Death Cleaning” – 2012), Sininen muistikirja (“Blue Notebook”) and Punainen muistikirja (“Red Notebook – 2019).

Cia Rinne (born 1973) is one of our most internationally acclaimed contemporary poets. Despite this, she is quite unknown in her home country. Rinne’s output reflects one of the current literary trends, in which the book is one of many forms in which literature expresses itself. The superb and innovative poetry in her trilogy zaroum / notes for soloists / l'usage du mot is a meeting place for different languages, artforms and media. She writes multilingual poems in English, German, French and other European languages, her minimalist poems exploring the foundations of language as she uses both conceptual and visual methods. She also works as a sound poet.

Cia Rinne’s poetry is performed on the pages of books, in audioworks that are streamed online, in interactive animations, in light and text installations in galleries and museums, and in live appearances and performances. Rinne’s multilingual output also questions language as a building block for identities, as there are no languages ​​that are right or wrong in her poems. The diversity of both language and artforms is central to Cia Rinne’s poetics.

The State Prize for Literature is awarded by the National Council for Literature.

State Prize for the Visual Arts

Visual artist Jukka Korkeila (born 1968) has been a breathtakingly prolific artist for decades, and his works have been featured in numerous notable exhibitions around the world. The language of Korkeila’s paintings is personal. In his works, he explores the familiar notions of beauty and norms, the central themes being tolerance, acceptance and pluralism.

In his recent works, Korkeila creates symbolism with images of recognisable Catholic popes and world political leaders. These works are full of worldviews, gender identities and political themes, yet the overriding impression is of gentleness and humour. Korkeila graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2002.

The State Prize for the Visual Arts is awarded by the National Council for the Visual Arts.

State Prize for Children’s Culture

Ailu Valle (born 1985) is a musician from Inari who raps in the Northern Sámi, Finnish and English languages at Sámi festivals and other Finnish and international arenas. Valle has released three solo albums.

Youth culture is important in the development of children and adolescents. While the genre of rap has expanded from youth music to music for all ages, rap still has a special place among youth. For some young people, rap is their own way of expressing themselves. It can act as a social awakener in the world of young people or as a vehicle for their own social messages.

Rap music is multidisciplinary art, and rap musician Ailu Valle also represents multiculturalism in his rap. He serves as an example for children and young people, inspiring them to make art on their own terms, regardless of their cultural or linguistic background. Valle's work as an artist reinforces the identity of children and young people who speak minority languages: everyone has the right to art in their own language.

Ailu Valle has a bachelor's degree in humanities from the Giellagas Institute at the University of Oulu.

The State Prize for Children’s Culture is awarded by the Director of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

State Prize for Media Art

Perttu Rastas (born 1952) is one of Finland's foremost pioneers of media art whose dedicated work as a curator, producer, event organiser and expert has strongly influenced the Finnish media art scene. He continues to lecture on the history of Finnish media art.

In the 1980s, Rastas began a video workshop at the KSL Civic Association for Adult Learning, where many artists became familiar with video art. Rastas co-founded AV-arkki, the Centre for Finnish Media Art, and helped organise Finland's first large-scale international media arts festival, MuuMediaFestival. He was the first to propose production support for media art at the Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture (AVEK) in the 1990s and curated media art at Galleria Otso and Kiasma. At the Finnish National Gallery, he was responsible for archiving media art. Rastas was awarded by AV-arkki for promoting Finnish media art in 2005, and he became an honorary member of the interdisciplinary artist association Muu ry in 2018.

The State Prize for Media Art is awarded by the National Council for Audiovisual Art.

State Prize for Multidisciplinary Art

Artist Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen (born 1974) works in the field of multidisciplinary art, combining disability rights activism with her art in new and creative ways. With an educational background in textile art, Wallinheimo-Heimonen has developed a highly engaging multidisciplinary approach that extends to installations, performances, video art and design.

Wallinheimo-Heimonen’s personal works address the structural violence faced by people with disabilities, especially women, and call for the implementation of human rights and inclusion. She works actively to counter prejudices and taboos related to people with disabilities and through her art promotes tolerance and diversity in society. Wallinheimo-Heimonen’s art offers new ways of approaching both the social debate and the experience of art that are unique and marginalised.

The State Prize for Multidisciplinary Art is awarded by the National Council for Diversity in the Arts.

State Prize for Design

The exhibitions and events produced by the Jewellery Art Association (Korutaideyhdistys ry) have significantly contributed to the visibility of Finnish jewellery, and the activities of the association have helped introduce Finnish jewellery artists to international audiences. Similarly, the international guests invited by the association have enriched the field of Finnish jewellery at workshops and lectures. Recent projects have included the publication of the Korutaideopas jewellery art guide, the launch of the Korutaidelainaamo jewellery art lending scheme, and the organisation of the KORU 6 international jewellery art triennial and seminar. Northern Light, the largest ever exhibition of Finnish jewellery abroad, was held at the CODA Museum in the Netherlands in 2019. The association also maintains a collection of jewellery art.

The Jewellery Art Association has been uncompromising promoting the field of jewellery art and raising its status within Finnish applied art. Both design and art are exemplified in the activities of the association, and the events it produces have established themselves in the international arena.

The State Prize for Design is awarded by the National Council for Architecture and Design.

State Prize for Music

Soprano Camilla Nylund (born1968) is one of Finland’s most sought-after international opera artists. The Nordic clarity and richness of her voice combine in a magnificent way in Nylund’s persona. She is imbued with stage charisma that immediately captivates her audiences, as demonstrated last spring with her performance of Rusalka at the Paris Opera, where in the demanding title role she convinced anyone who still doubted it that she was one of the great sopranos of our time.

Camilla Nylund is a strong and recognised interpreter of the music of Richard Strauss; she made her debut with the New York Metropolitan Opera in December in the role of Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and her breakthrough came fifteen years ago in the title role of Salome. Nylund regularly performs at major opera houses and concert venues, and this year she was awarded the honorary title of Kammersaenger by the Wiener Staatsoper.

Paula Vesala (born 1981) is a multitalented visionary who, in addition to creating her own music, composes and writes lyrics for other artists. Vesala’s music and lyrics resonate at the present moment, both superbly mastering and boldly challenging the field of pop music. The band PMMP, which Vesala formed together with Jori Sjöroos and Mira Luoti, was a major generational experience in the early 2000s. After PMMP disbanded in 2013, Paula Vesala transformed herself into a solo artist under the artist name Vesala.

The artist Vesala is an ultramodern auteur who reaches towards a new era in music and into the 2020s. At the same time, the lyricist Paula Vesala represents the brightest tradition of Finnish literary quality in her lyrics. The way she addresses painful themes in a light performance environment creates a bittersweet power in her art. Paula Vesala is also characterised by her versatility; the Finnish National Opera has commissioned a work from Vesala and Esa-Pekka Salonen that uses immersive technology and will premiere in 2020.

The State Prize for Music is awarded by the National Council for Music.

State Prize in Photographic Art

Photographic artist Tiina Itkonen (born 1968) is recognised especially for photographing polar regions and evidence of climate change. Since 1995, she has documented the everyday lives and environment of the Greenlandic Inuit and has published two major photography books on the theme: Inughuit (2004) and Avannaa (2014). These works capture visually impressive shapes covered by snow and ice that are combined with the everyday cultural imprints of landscapes and dwellings.

Itkonen’s photography has been exhibited at the Venice and Sydney biennials, as well as at many of the world’s leading photographic art museums and galleries. For years, Itkonen has been one of the most famous Finnish photographers in the world. She graduated from the Turku School of Art and Communication in 1995 and from the University of Art and Design in 2002.

The State Prize for Photographic Art is awarded by the National Council for the Visual Arts.

Press images from the event (Flickr)

Further information:

  • Architecture and Design: Lea Halttunen, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 713
  • Cinema and Media Art: Sari Ilmola, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 830
  • Performing Arts: Laura Norppa, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 806
  • Literature: Ansa Aarnio, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 701
  • Visual Arts and Photographic Art: Henri Terho, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 901
  • Children’s Culture: Esa Rantanen, Head of Arts Support, Taike, t. +358 295 330 720
  • Multidisciplinary Art: Kirsi Väkiparta, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 724
  • Music: Hanna Susitaival, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 910
  • Media enquiries: Hanna Susitaival, Special Advisor, Taike, t. +358 295 330 910


Arts Promotion Centre Finland
Hakaniemenranta 6, PL 1001
00531  Helsinki

Tel. +358 295 330 700

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