Finland on stage in the United States in 2013
An event celebrating Nordic arts will be arranged in Washington in 2013, with a budget of more than EUR 7 million. The plan has hitherto been kept a closely-guarded secret.
By Suna Vuori
Two women are arriving in Helsinki today [28.10] on a secretive mission.
Gilda M. Almeida and Alicia Adams are here to look for the most interesting Finnish art on offer in Helsinki.
Their discoveries will be part of an impressive Nordic culture festival, which will be organised in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in March 2013.
The project has been quietly simmering already for a couple of years.
The budget for the three-week festival may rise to USD 10 million, or more than EUR 7 million.
The agents of the Kennedy Center who are responsible for the international programme of the festival are presently touring the Nordic countries and looking for music, theatre, dance & circus performances, film, literature, visual arts, design - and culinary experiences - for the event.
Adams, Vice-President for International Programming at the Center, and Director Almeida are not here for the first time: they visited Finland unnoticed already in May.
They are keeping a low profile while travelling, but Adams nevertheless agreed to answer a few questions over the phone in the middle of a round of exhibitions in the centre of Oslo.
”One cannot say that we would be looking for a certain kind of art or culture. All branches of art will be involved, even light music, even though we do not have any meetings in Finland with anyone in that field this time. However, the programme and the budget are both still in the planning stage”, Adams notes carefully.
The programme that has been drawn up by the Finnish Foreign Ministry includes meetings and events in almost all branches of the arts.
In addition, the agents will have lunch and dinner each time in a different Helsinki restaurant.
Earlier this year, the Kennedy Center arranged an event called Maximum INDIA, with 400,000 visitors.
In 2009, around 800 artists participated in the event entitled Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World, and the number of visitors that time was roughly a quarter of a million.
The Kennedy Center is in charge of the organisations of each event, while also negotiating funding with various associates and partners.
The budgets for the Center’s international culture festivals have so far varied between USD 4 million and USD 10 million.
In the Nordic countries, the assumption is that financiers will be found jointly in each of the five participating Nordic countries, in their common organs and joint projects, and in Washington and the Kennedy Center itself.
”All countries worldwide wish to be seen in the Kennedy Center”, notes Iiris Autio, the Executive Director of the Finnish dance group Tero Saarinen Company, who will soon be meeting the American visitors again.
”Money is not the key to that place. If they take an interest in something and they want to have it there, funding will be negotiated”, Autio says.
The Tero Saarinen dance-troupe has performances in the United States almost every year. The company has been negotiating with the Kennedy Center for many years over whether they would take to the capital their work Borrowed Light, which has proved popular among Americans.
”Now it would be sensible to combine the work with this Scandinavian event”, Autio notes. ”In any case, competition for visibility is extremely tough there”, she adds.
Dance could be in a special position in the Kennedy Center’s upcoming Scandinavia programme, as there would be a joint Nordic dance project available for the event, namely the Ice Hot - Nordic Dance Platform.
It would be possible to take to Washington the performance of contemporary Nordic dance on tour almost without any alterations, and later also to show it off in New York.
However, negotiations for instance on funding are still up in the air.
Adams and Almeida are to continue their trip from Helsinki to Reykjavik on Tuesday.
In one and a half years at the latest, it will be decided which Finnish performances have qualified for the sought-after Kennedy Center ticket.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, established in 1971, is the busiest performing arts facility in the United States, with two million visitors every year.
The Kennedy Center hosts approximately 2,000 performances and concerts annually, for audiences totalling more than twenty million, if all television and radio broadcasts are included.
The Center houses a concert hall, an opera house, and a theatre, as well as four other performance venues and a jazz club.
The local arts establishments presenting their work at the Kennedy Center on a regular basis include the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet.
In addition, the Kennedy Center hosts a number of free performances and education in various branches of the arts, as well as large exhibitions, master-class courses, workshops, lectures, discussions, open rehearsals, and competitions.
The Kennedy Center operates both on public funding and from private donations.
The Americans have a tight schedule
Gilda Almeida and Alicia Adams will stay in Helsinki from Friday to Tuesday. Their programme will include for example the following persons and events:
Artistic Director of the Finnish National Opera Mikko Franck
Turku City Theatre and the Tampere Theatre Festival (http://www.teatterikesa.fi/in_english/)
The representatives of the Finnish Design Museum, Design Forum Finland, and the World Design Capital (http://wdchelsinki2012.fi/en), as well as designers Aamu Song and Johan Olin
Director Kaj Forsblom of Galerie Forsblom, one of the leading galleries in Northern Europe
The Promotion Centre for Finnish Literature, acting under the Union of Finnish Writers
The Finnish Film Foundation and film director Mika Kaurismäki
Tero Saarinen Company (http://www.terosaarinen.com/en/)
Rehearsals of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at Klockriketeatern, an independent touring theatre, with a home stage in downtown Helsinki
Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the National Opera (http://www.opera.fi/en)
Broken Heart Story at Q-Teatteri, a group of freelance actor that has gelled into one of the most significant theatre companies in Finland, located in Helsinki (http://www.q-teatteri.fi/Qenglish.html)
During their previous visit in May, Almeida and Adams got acquainted with these potential candidates, among others:
The Finnish Music Information Centre (FIMIC), the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra (http://www.avantimusic.fi/), the contemporary music festival Musica Nova Helsinki, and the Tapiola Sinfonietta (the Espoo City Orchestra; http://www.tapiolasinfonietta.fi/etusivu/index )
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (http://www.kiasma.fi/kiasma_en), Gallery Kalhama & Piippo in Helsinki
Theatre Info Finland, the international theatre group Smeds Ensemble
The Finnish National Opera Ballet
The Helsinki Festival (http://www.helsinginjuhlaviikot.fi/en)
The Finnish Circus Information Centre (http://www.sirkusinfo.fi/?&lang=en), together with the international contemporary circus groups Circo Aereo and Race Horse Company.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 28.10.2011
The Kennedy Center for the Perfoming Arts
John F. Kennedy Center (Wikipedia)
Ice Hot - Nordic Dance Platform
Union of Finnish Writers
Finnish Music Information Centre (FIMIC)
Theatre Info Finland
Design Forum Finland
Finnish Film Foundation
SUNA VUORI / Helsingin Sanomat