The Finnish Cultural Foundation invites all the eighth-graders in Finland to experience and evaluate art. In the largest campaign of its history, the Foundation will take three age groups of eighth-graders to art institutions, starting in autumn 2017.

Including the teachers, the project will reach almost 200,000 individuals. It corresponds well with the wishes of principals,  since, according to the survey conducted by the Foundation, as many as 97 percent of schools would increase visits to art institutions if the costs were lower.

The aim of the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s Art Testers campaign is to provide young people with an opportunity to experience art, also art to which many would not otherwise have access. The project will be implemented in cooperation with the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers, which will be in charge of coordinating it, arranging transports and administration. The overall costs are expected to be in the region of EUR 15–20 million, depending on whether all eligible classes participate in the project.  The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland will participate in the funding with approximately EUR 1.2 million.

“Art testing will start during the centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017, when the largest number of art critics ever will be let loose.  The project is more than just a visit to the theatre, museum, concert or opera. Young people will acquaint themselves with art together with their classes, while evaluating their experience in the social media, where young people will have an opportunity to converse with the artists, as well as each other,” says Elina Ikonen, Academy Professor and the Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Each eighth grade will be provided with an opportunity for two pre-arranged visits. One will take place in their own province or nearby area and the other in Helsinki or elsewhere in Finland. The Foundation will pay for the travel and tickets. The pupils will receive advance information on the performance, artists and the art form. At the site, they will get an opportunity to acquaint themselves with what artistic work is like or what happens before a performance is ready. After the experience, various channels will be open to thoughts, ideas, emotions and opinions.

“Art Testers is a significant project for children’s cultural centres, which work in close cooperation with schools. Art institution visits and varied audience work deepen cultural education at schools and provide young people with a wider opportunity to enjoy forms of artistic expression and to understand them,” says Päivi Setälä, the chair of the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers.

“Art can be used for discussing issues that are difficult for young people, such as loneliness, differences or a building of an identity. According to numerous studies, art not only awakens you to experience emotions, but also to express them, and it also relaxes and refreshes. The Art Testers project is well-suited to the goals of the new core curriculum,” says Riikka Lindroos, the chair of the Association of Finnish Principals.

The pupils will be transported to the art sites by train, bus or, when needed, plane. Schools will be advised on the matter by mail during spring 2017, after which they can enrol as art testers. Art institutions can apply to the project for the first time from 2 May – 10 June 2016. The art institutions for the school year 2017–2018 will be selected in early autumn 2016.

“This is an interesting opportunity for art institutions and artists alike. Young people are important to the Finnish National Theatre. Young people of 14–15 years have been a blind spot in our offering, so we are naturally willing to develop a programme attractive to them.  At the same time, we will be able to have a closer interaction with young theatre audiences,” says Mika Myllyaho, Director of the Finnish National Theatre.

“Since the feedback given by the young people is public, anyone interested in culture can read their comments and find new perspectives into, for example, classic works. We also hope that the traditional media would follow and relay art testers’ opinions and experiences.  They provide a unique snapshot of the young people’s attitude towards art and what kinds of works appeal to them,” says Antti Arjava, Secretary General of the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Costs limit visits to art institutions

The Cultural Foundation commissioned a survey from Pink Eminence Ltd aimed at both secondary school principals and art institution directors.  According to art institution directors, the major obstacles to visits include travel costs and the difficulty of fitting the visits in the everyday work at schools,  while according to principals, it is rather the prices of admission that are prohibitive, in addition to travel costs.   

Every second secondary school visits art institutions 2–3 times per academic year, but almost one in three schools make only one visit at most. Forty-seven percent of principals estimate that visits to art institutions have decreased in the last ten years. Visits usually take place in surrounding areas.

“Regional inequality is a clear problem for young people and, unfortunately, it has only gotten worse in the last few years,” says Riikka Lindroos.

“It would be important that schoolchildren would have an opportunity to visit concerts in concert halls instead of school gyms, regardless of long distances,” says Ulla-Maija Kanerva, Orchestral Manager of Lapland Chamber Orchestra.  “When concert etiquette has been learnt with a class or parents, the threshold to go to a concert on your own volition will be significantly lower.”

The Ministry of Education and Culture also recently conducted a comprehensive pupil survey. According to the results, the elementary schoolchildren are greatly and diversely interested in art and sports as a hobby. The majority of schoolchildren hoped for more arts classes.

For further information, please contact:
Antti Arjava, Secretary General of the Finnish Cultural Foundation,
Leif Jakobsson, Director, Svenska kulturfonden, tel. +358
Päivi Setälä, Chair, the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers,
Anu-Maarit Moilanen, responsible coordinator, the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers, tel. +358 44 978 4893,