20200515

In Finland artists grants for individuals are called “apuraha”. I think a direct translation for this would be “support fund”. I like the term a lot: A fund intended to support an artist, such a beautiful idea! I imagine the name stems from an era when artists made their living primarily by selling artworks. The state and private foundations would grant their unconditional support when an artist wanted to take a break to develop their style.

Right after the covid lockdown was announced, the state and almost all Finnish art supporting foundations started developing covid relief packages. These were aimed for artists and creatives who lost their income in the first wave. Some of these arrangements were announced within two weeks after the lockdown and the first grants were given almost within a month. This was a great effort!

The covid grants which private foundations offer are also called “apuraha” (support fund) but in inspection, none of their open calls are meant to support artist unconditionally. The funds are aimed only for development and innovation. A prime example of this was a recent Kone foundation open call (mentioned earlier), which was criticized by Maria Ylikangas (among others). The fatigue caused by inventing creative responses to covid related calls has been criticized by Kim Modig (among others).

In short: Private foundations want artists to produce innovation. The are specifically looking for “digital-leaps” and ways to adjust artistic practices to new digital platforms. As pointed by Ylikangas, the foundations are looking for black swan-opportunities! And this happens without shame at a time when people most affected by the lockdown, have very little freedom and very little to offer.

I think the funding private foundations offer should not be called “apuraha”. They should be called for what they are: “Development funds” (kehistysrahoitus). The covid period will serve as a historical reminder that private foundations have very clear political aims and specific agendas. They never support artists unconditionally.

I’m fine with this but the problem is that in Finland, foundations seldom announce their political agendas directly. They are clearly after something but their programmes are unarticulated. The public is left to interpret what a foundations mission is by reading their open calls. In inspection they are seeking abstract nonsense such as “boldness” or “digital leaps”. What do these calls actually mean, what kind of a society are they working for? Their current, wittingly drafted press-releases, underline universal humanistic ideals and creative freedom. But don’t actually say anything: Which means that they are for maintaining status quo.

I think this needs to change. If private foundations do not clearly announce that they are working for social justice, equality and to maintain the welfare state, then they are not. #☭

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