Rant & Rave for Publics’ ‘Open Up and Shape Helsinki Symposium’ written by Alex Koller
“Working in Helsinki’s art and culture field could be compared to a stork trying to withstand stormy waters. When you receive funding the storm is gone. You can stand on both legs as the water temperature improves, BUT you are never really sure for how long you can stay afloat as the next wave can be just around the corner bringing difficulties that will essentially destabilise your position.”
What does this mean in reality?
In reality this means that each one of us, non-profit organisations and associations based in Helsinki, is strongly dependent on the funding provided by the city and other funding bodies. The competition is strong, especially if you don’t completely fit into the already existing structures. Globe Art Point is very familiar with this phenomenon as we do not produce art and we are not an information centre as such even though we distribute information. Our strength is advocacy work for which it’s not that easy to receive grants.
But Globe Art Point has been around for almost six years so there must be something we are doing right?!
The key to sustaining one’s practices does not necessarily lie in innovation but in deepening and developing the already existing practices. Why? It is very easy to sidetrack from the original path. There is a reason why we all got funded in the beginning. There was a need for our existence and a need for our activities. Our dreams and goals fulfilled the criteria of being desired in one way or another.
But people can get easily distracted. They dream big and thus tend to take large steps in order to grow and be recognised fast. That’s why it’s always important to have a strong mission that can guide us through our activities. A strong mission is the core of our existence. Without it nobody would bother funding us. But what happens when the steps become way too large? We lose our focus and with it, we lose our missions and essentially we lose our funding.
Development and growth is of course necessary in order to be interesting for others and the funding bodies. Nobody eats the same meal for dinner every day or watches the same film over and over. Yes, development is required from all of us. But a meticulous strategy is needed to succeed in the long run.
Another risk of growing too fast is the potential of losing our supporters and members. If we do too much, there is no way we can give our attention to everyone in our community. Without a strong sense of community and people supporting our activities there is really no foundation to our existence.
There is no need to feel the pressure of wanting to be the loudest and the most colourful from all of our so called competitors. Building sustainable relationships, collaboration and care go a long way. Sometimes it is good to pause and ask ourselves, what is it that we are bringing to the table? How is it going to improve everyone’s well-being and most importantly, does this fit with our mission? Are we doing it because we think it’s cool or trendy? Are we doing it because we receive pleasure from it or is it in fact because we believe it will benefit our community?
Look around the room. We all want to see the Finnish field of art and culture rich in diversity, widely accessible and inclusive to everyone. Well, the work needs to start somewhere….the work starts with us.
Instead of building walls, let’s start building bridges. There is only so much funding out there, but let’s work collectively that will benefit everyone.
To conclude, let’s briefly summarise what’s just been said:
- Art and Culture is formed by multiple ecosystems, we all have different needs
- Learn to identify the needs and cultivate them in your programming
- Focus and improve what you already have rather than focusing on something new all the time (It’s not all about new but all about future)
- Ask and discuss together with your community
- Growing means strengthening of our ecosystems by maximising our values
- Be transparent, be brave
- Engage in discussion with people who have different views
- And finally, support and work with people who share similar values
Image by Cristian Medel (GAP ART SUMMIT 2022)