POSTED 21.06.2023

The bus departs from Kamppi at 8:20 to go to Rovaniemi, but we get off 2,5 hrs later in Joutsa to visit residencies there and jointly discuss topics related to the activity that connect to sustainability (personal, institutional, and ecological). 

Our first visit starts with Arlene Tucker, who is just starting to arrange a residency that has been operating for its second year, called HAPPY HOME STAY. Name says much, it is really a lot about the idea of home that is shared and we discussed how to set-up boundaries in the operation.

Photo: Adel Kim

The sense of space is made by someone, and as in Arlene’s case was already mentioned, it’s a home of someone as well. Arlene said that the residents so far that have stayed there have been connected to a collaboration with the University of Arts in Finland, whose sculpture department has made collaboration with a local school in Joutsa. The students had studio spaces in the local secondary school, working there on their art, and living with Arlene as well as Arlene being active as the connector between the school and the residents.

The beneficials of being able to practice and also present artistic work is one part of the reasons to enter a residency, but there are factors that are hard to pinpoint as well. As here with these research trips focusing on how the residency providers see what their operation is about, and also as an aim to offer time for conversation and sharing of insights is one of the major reasons for the visits. Anna Ruth was a part of the trip to Joutsa invited by us to bring forth also (her) practice as arranger of exhibitions and projects in Jyväskylä (a larger city in the Middle Finland not far from Joutsa), Meri Linna, who’s place we visited in Raasepori traveled with us from Helsinki also and Dana Neilson from HIAP and USRP (Ukrainian Solidarity Residency Programme) and a Joutsa based TUO TUO residency’s organisers and artists Kaitlyn D. Hamilton and Joni Judén also joined us already at Arlene’s place and participated in the discussion later. 

From Arlene’s place we took a walk back to the center of Joutsa, popped into the local youth community house to see the local cinema, where Arlene hosts movie nights. We had lunch together in Tiinan Tupa which has excellent bread (rieska especially, what Tiina corrects me to say when I call it lepuska, I know that in different parts of Finland we call a variety of sorts of bread with very versatile names).

In Tiinan Tupa to our group is also fortified with an artist Mimosa Pale and (her) 2 months old small baby. The discussion we share in Tiinan Tupa is added also by relevant remarks and points of view of Jamsen Law, a TUO TUO resident currently who’s exhibition we also visit later in the local library, who mentions that actually (he) is researching just this what we are as well, the artist-run,  small-scale initiatives, also especially residencies, having stayed at some of them recently. 

Photo: Dana Neilson

Around the table we breach on topic of what kind of a space a residency is, and the observation that it is not self-evident what kind of energies there are in a residency, but each have their own that are formed by the specificities of the set-up (the space with its layout and atmosphere, but also more crucially the people).  TUO TUO’s Kaitlyn mentions the tailored approach they have towards hosting a resident, and how visibility is offered but not expected.

Joni from TUO TUO also points out a ‘compost-style’ approach. Things become part of the mix with their own nutrients and nourish the practice in their way.

Mimosa Pale is a recent member of Haihatus that has been active as a residency and also an exhibition site in Joutsa for already 20 years. The fact that Haihatus has been there has been important in “breaking the ice” with art and the local community, and also municipality, but also it is noted that things weren’t easy for Haihatus founders Merja Metsänen and Raimo Auvinen. Mimosa and her partner Tuomo run Kita gallery, which is located just by the side of the road, and super easy to notice there, also because of the very lively and wonderful paint(ing) cover it has. Mimosa says that they have agreed to have the space for free from the local Teboil Huttula entrepreneur who owns it, and I think what a lovely thing, and a good way of support. 

Photo: Adel Kim

Dialogue we have with the participants is also covering the personal approach; what is to be expected by and from the host. Arlene mentions (her) disclosing in a pre-discussion with the possible residents of what (she) is open for. I think how important it is if people are able to disclose their expectations but that is not always the case. There are a lot of things that are left un-said and many times it is hard for oneself to also know what one can and wants to do, perform, and actualise. I thought a lot about how practices could be shared. There was a discussion of how residencies operating on the same area could provide synergy together, and I think Joutsa seems as a nice example of a site where residents and residency providers both benefit from the connectivity. 

The discussion covered a lot of topics that I am unable to disclose here, but I also felt that it is important to have facilitated discussions that remain to some extent private – it is also inevitably so – here aiming to voice some remarks out so that not everything gets too casual either.

Photo: Dana Neilson

After the lunch and the discussion we visited the library briefly to see Jamsen’s photographs taken from another residency site ÖRES and then we visited Haihatus facilities briefly also (which are huge, consisting of several houses and a field), where we met some of the current residents and the director Risto shortly before taking the bus back to Helsinki.

Photo: Jaana Denisova
Photo: Dana Neilson
Photo: Adel Kim

On our way back I think that there must be a lot of good energy around when so many have found their way – and founded their place – to Joutsa. 

Text: Miina Hujala.