- How long have you been involved into your Thematic Network activities?
- I got the mission for the network in Seoul, Korea in 2010. I worked as a chair of Environment and Nature Workshop in UNESCO Conference for Arts Education. The conference was aimed at setting goals for the development of Arts Education. We developed the Road map, following the UNESCO agenda for promotion of sustainability in education. Seoul conference was huge and there were delegations from all continents giving the audience a colorful picture describing the situation in the field of arts education around the world, including developing countries from South America, Africa and Asia. What I understood there, that there was no voice from the North in UNESCO art and culture policy. There was no understanding for the post-colonial social and cultural situation in the North, nor indigenous issues and challenges to protect the unique cultural heritage of the North and the Arctic. The University of Lapland is the northernmost in European Union, paying special attention to both science and art. Research and artistic activities in the Faculty of Art and Design are strongly connected to social phenomena, wellbeing, environment and nature. Therefore it was natural that we in ULapland took the challenge to build up a new network for Arts&Design and Art Education. Returning from inspiring Yakutsk visit together with Professor Mirja Hiltunen we wrote in Moscow airport the first plan and call for partners for the Arctic Sustainable Arts and Design Thematic Network (ASAD TN). The first activities of our Thematic Network started one year later, in the end of 2012. Professor Glen Coutts took an active role in this process and promoted collaboration with partner universities and institutions.
- Which communication channels do you use to be in touch and spread information about your activities?
- The most common way to communicate is simple; we use e-mails, sometimes arrange Skype meetings and video conferences. We try to update UArtic.org web page; we created ASAD TN website too, where we can use more visual images, which is important for TN’s disciplines and communication.
- What kind of challenges do you have working in this international network?
- The main challenge is funding, we really have long distances; to implement our educational, artistic and scientific aims we need much more face to face collaboration. Nordic collaboration works properly, Scandinavian and North-West Russian collaboration too, but the most difficult task is to get Russian North-East partners and North-American ones in the same place at the same time. Relate North Symposium and Exhibition in Rovaniemi (2012) and in Reykjavik (2013) were successful in a way that we had partners from each continent.
- What are the main activities of your Thematic Network?
- Since ASAD TN got off to a prompt start during 2012, we managed to develop models of cooperation in education and research as well as exhibitions with side events. In November we have an annual Relate North conference, exhibition and workshop arranged by our partner organizations. Relate North took place in Rovaniemi, Reykjavik, Kautokeino and Anchorage. The other activity is Artic Design Week taking place each February in Rovaniemi. Beside these two big annual events several courses for students and partner to partner workshops have been arranged. A lot has happened already.
One of the most visible results of ASAD TN is our joint publication “Relate North: Review on Arctic Sustainable Arts and Design”. Our Thematic Network has a strong intention to share good practices by publishing results of research and implemented projects. I’m very much inspired by collaboration with Russian partners. A great example of our activities was the "Art of Arctic. Sakha-Yakutia" exhibition at Arktikum Center in Rovaniemi arranged in collaboration with Arctic State Institute of Arts and Culture and University of Lapland. Another one was “Northern Places – Tracking the Ugrian Traces through place-specific Art and Photography” workshop held in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic, Russia, organized in collaboration with Syktyvkar State University and University of Lapland.
These activities are great examples of one of the ASAD TN focuses - blending of indigenous cultures and other lifestyles of the people in the Arctic, typical for the whole circumpolar area. These questions are tightly connected to cultural identities, which in turn are often constructed through art. It’s not about static preservation of cultural heritage but about understanding and supporting cultural change according to the guidelines of sustainable development. Art and Design make input into our better future in the North.
- Could you give some tips to the new Thematic Networks’ participants starting their cooperation, what is important to note?
- I have a feeling that quite many networks have been established based on individual interests and personal friendship, that is why the main responsibility for cooperation lies on the few persons’ shoulders. To establish a new Thematic Network you should be sure to have institutional support for the work too. In this case you will have a greater opportunity for successful cooperation.