Nice Buildings Aren't Enough: "We Must Dare to Rethink the Concept of the Art Museum"

Satu Vuorinen says that the bid to become Capital of Culture requires a strong international dimension.

Nice Buildings Aren’t Enough: “We Must Dare to Rethink the Concept of the Art Museum”

Tampere and a group of municipalities in the Tampere region are joining forces in a bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2026. In that very same year, Tampere is hoping to see the completion of two new museum buildings: The new Tampere Art Museum and the relocated Sara Hildén Art Museum.

Would that do the trick? Wouldn’t such sizable investments be enough to guarantee the title for Tampere? No, they wouldn’t.

“Mere buildings aren’t enough,” says Satu Vuorinen, City of Tampere’s Head of International Affairs.

“We must think about what kind of new functionalities these new museums will enable. Spectacular exhibitions by internationally renowned artists aren’t enough. Now is the time for us to challenge ourselves: What is the Art Museum of the future? What more can it provide to the artists, or the residents? We must dare to rethink the concept of the Art Museum,” Vuorinen says.

According to her, new ventures need to raise questions such as: Would they include expanding artists’ residency programmes? Or artists’ collaborations? Will they enable community involvement in culture production?

Vuorinen expressed her rousing ideas at the meeting of the Capital of Culture bid’s advisory board. The advisory board, consisting of no less than 75 experts, had its second meeting on Wednesday, October 2nd. The advisory board’s invited members include municipal managers, members of parliament and representatives from cultural institutions and organisations, associations and the church.

Without Internationality, There Would Be No Tampere

Vuorinen explained the meaning of “the European dimension” of the Capital of Culture bid to the advisory board. That is one of the selection criteria – meaning the programme must incorporate a European dimension. For Tampere, internationality should come naturally.

“Without internationality, there would be no Tampere. The city was founded by the King of Sweden. Thereafter, an assortment of Swedes, Russians, Germans, Brits and so forth did their bit for developing local industry and helping the city grow and flourish. Knowhow, machines, experts, markets: they are all international,” she explains.

In fact, Vuorinen even encouraged the audience to challenge the EU with the programme for the Capital of Culture year.

“In a global world, why be satisfied with the European dimension?” she asked. In other words, programme proposals might even venture outside of Europe.

The whole region is marked by internationality. The city and municipalities have working international networks, with twin towns, city networks, international culture organisations and the international partners of companies, universities and other schools.

Vuorinen noted that the selected theme of equality has always been an integral element of living in Tampere.

“Tampere has been open and tolerant from the very beginning. For a long time, we held free city rights. Foreign workers had freedom of religion. Tolerance was even visible in the town centre plan. Each different church had their allocated lot at the corners of the square. And at the turn of the 20th century, our street signs were in three languages.”

And as we know, today Tampere is home to 18,000 non-Finnish speaking people who speak a total of 73 languages. And in terms of equality, it is good to remember that the Red Declaration demanding universal and equal suffrage was read out at Tampere’s Central Square of all places. It also bears remembering that 75% of Tampere’s textile industry workforce was female. Hence, women earned their own money here!

The Whole Region is Edgy

Things like hydropower and the industry enabled by it, marvellous nature and edgy history concern the whole Tampere Region, not just Tampere. Vuorinen presented her own list of things about Tampere that fascinate people abroad: Sauna, equality and its history, nature, peace, silence, our innovative and digital skills. It is also here that we have something to offer to Europe.

From left: Lauri Lyly, Juha Hemanus and Eija Oravuo presented the status of Tampere and Tampere Region’s bid for European Capital of Culture to the advisory board.

The programme for the European Capital of Culture year must deal with topical European themes, including climate change, sustainable development, urbanization, urban-rural relationships, Brexit, our relationship to Russia, immigration, Africa and tensions inside the EU.

“This is merely a list of examples. We must find the themes to focus on for ourselves.”

And then we must remember that the criteria for the Capital of Culture year includes European cooperation. This means that the application will be assessed on “the scope and quality of activities featuring European artists, cooperation with operators or cities in different countries, […] and transnational partnerships.”