Aug 22, 2022
Our Cultural Personality of the week is Petri Kuusela, an Oulu-based guitarist, producer, songwriter and educator. Petri says he has been given the tools to form a positive and restorative relationship with listening, playing and creating music from a young age.
“Jamming with my mates in my early teens gave me an inkling of how playing and engaging with other musicians can be a deeper form of communication than speech.”
However, a career in music was not a given for him. In fact, after finishing school, he impulsively applied to the Oulu Conservatory for the vocational study programme majoring in the guitar almost.
“I started my studies virtually as an autodidact, without any experience or knowledge about music as a professional field. My studies offered me quite the learning curve on how to interact and communicate in a creative industry.”
Petri says that the same social sensitivity is central to all interaction in all fields of art and culture. While studying at the Conservatory, playing and practicing became his fulltime occupation, and during those years he also built meaningful relationships and musical partnerships.
“I have always been interested in how recordings are made and how a single instrument or the quality of its sound affects an entire piece and the emotion it conveys.
After graduating from the Conservatory in 2014, Petri met Tanja Torvikoski, with whom he started writing his own music and they soon established a group called Lanai. The group’s debut album was released in November 2019. The process of the studio album served as an education for producing, arranging, composing and recording music.
“Making an album from start to finish mainly between the two of us also taught us a great deal about the fascinating myth that surrounds the process of making music.” In addition to Lanai, I have had the privilege to collaborate with many great artists and musicians, including:Stepa, Rob Moose, Tommi Kalenius, Peltokurki, Lauri Peisterä, Dimi Salo, Edu Kettunen, Eereka and many more.”
Today, Petri thrives on dividing his time between producing, playing the guitar and writing his own music. He feels that variety keeps him growing and the different aspects of his career feed his inspiration. A typical day in Petri’s life includes studio sessions, gigs, meetings, and song writing in various configurations.
What are you up to these days? How do you spend your spare time?
Thank you for asking, I’m doing great! I spent last week in Northern Finland on holiday at our cottage, finished by a solo gig to a full house at Kahvila Wanha Hamina in Ii. I’m next headed to the Norwegian wilderness for a week of fishing. The summer has been a busy period of juggling between gigs and recording sessions, which keeps the mind awake. There will be a few more gigs and recording sessions and I’ll be teaching ensemble playing at the Oulu Conservatory before the summer is over. I will dedicate most of the autumn for creative work.
I love the natural environment in Finland and I aim to make the most of my days off by moving in nature and fishing. To me, it’s the best way of putting my everyday concerns into some perspective. I also play the guitar just for the joy of it and meet with friends when I’m not working. I enjoy exploring different musical phenomena in more depth, and when I’m working, there isn’t enough time to do that.
What is it like to work in Northern Finland? How do you find the Oulu2026 region at this present time?
I see Oulu as a refreshing environment for creative artists as well as in terms of its cultural offering and demand. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still acutely felt but it is great to see that, at least for the past five years, Oulu has produced a number of unique internationally relevant artists who have the courage and ability to use their Finnishness and cultural heritage as a basis for their art. The city has (and will have even more) healthy competition within the live club scene and between festivals and, perhaps thanks to the Capital of Culture project, smaller events and the creative ideas of their organisers have received more encouragement and support.
I think Oulu is seeing a new wave in art, by which musicians and other artists are seeing the value of their Oulu identity in a new light historically and geographically and are willing to utilise it. As a region, Oulu is beyond compare, and I only hope that we succeed in maintaining and directing our resources even more effectively towards exporting Oulu-based art and international collaboration. On a national level, I wish to see the Oulu Region gain more significance as a region of artistic creation equal to all others in the eyes of the gatekeepers of, for example, state subsidies and grants.
What will the Oulu2026 region look and feel like in 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?
In 2026, artists and creators in Oulu will be enjoying a free, mutually inspiring and encouraging atmosphere in which both high-brow and popular culture can thrive side by side. This requires that the organising bodies and the local authorities are smart enough to invest in diversity, to take risks and to make space for grassroots cultural operators as well as large-scale cultural undertakings. Oulu is a hotbed of rising cultural entrepreneurship, which I believe will elevate the level of cultural production in the city and increase its diversity as we approach 2026.
I’m positive that with the Capital of Culture title, the value of Northern Finland as a rich and inspiring environment can be made even more visible internationally. The long-term effects of the Capital of Culture project may not be immediately obvious but we are heading in the right direction.
What does music mean to you personally?
For me, music is a way of self-expression and a journey in which the work and art of others serve as an infinite source of inspiration and a reminder of how we all are perfect just the way we are.
What could Oulu do to improve the position of creators and consumers of culture?
It could offer more funding, visibility and resources for projects, actors and event producers starting from the grassroots level up to supporting the internationalisation of local art. This could include providing a platform for workshops, master classes, and international collaborative projects in all areas of art to open up pathways for local artists for networking and sharing their expertise. The availability of well-equipped, affordable rehearsal and work spaces is still a bit scarce in Oulu, so directing more resources in this area would benefit both artists and producers.
Follow Petri on Instagram
Previous Cultural Personalities
Apr 20, 2022
Our Cultural Personality of the week is Anna-Mari or Ansku Nousiainen, who describes herself in her Instagram bio as: “Failed film-maker, mediocre artist and soon-to-become bad tattoo artist.” Ansku confirms she is all that but also a lot more. At least, a loyal hype girl, pathetic softie, a bit tough, but deep down a really sensitive soul.
Ansku dreamt of becoming an artist since primary school, but her career in film happened accidentally. After finishing upper secondary school, the doors to the art schools did not open and, in panic, Ansku applied to any further education programme that mentioned the word culture or media. Sitting at the entrance interview for Salpaus Further Education, Ansku was wondering why on earth they were asking strange questions about XLR cables and connections and tried to steer the interview towards comics. Eventually the interviewers asked, “You do know this is an audio-visual media programme?”.
Ansku had thought she had applied to the graphic design programme, so thinking on her feet, quickly replied, “Yes, I LOVE cinema!”
Miraculously, Ansku was accepted and was later able to study film and work in the industry. Throughout her studies, however, Ansku also studied and worked with art and insisted on calling herself an artist.
Today, Ansku makes art across disciplines and her career is currently in transition. Ansku has moved from film more towards festival work, and in her artistic work she has expanded into photography, video and installations as well as 3D and audio works. Stories, not just showing them but also telling them, are at the core of Ansku’s work.
This spring, Ansku is mostly focusing on her role as the artistic director of the Oulu Music Video Festival, which brings all her professional interests together. Ansku has always loved music videos and is a complete “music video freak”. When she realised she, too, could be making music videos, there was no turning back. Ansku started attending the Oulu Music Video Festival (OMVF) first as a video maker and, inspired by the event, she launched a small Musavideorama music video event in Tampere together with Anna Alkiomaa. Recently, OMVF was looking for a new artistic director, Jaakko Mattila, who was leaving the role, suggested to Ansku that she should apply. Ansku has been working as the artistic director of OMVF since 2019.
You have just moved to Oulu from Helsinki. Tell us more! How did you come to that decision? How does it feel now, to live in Oulu?
Many people have asked me “Why would anyone move from Helsinki to Oulu?”. I could write an essay or a short story about it, but I think I’ll just settle for a short “Why not?”. Helsinki was cold and I was longing for something else. I have managed to travel to Oulu once a month for an entire autumn and winter, for one week at a time, so I thought Oulu could could just as well be my home and I could travel from here. I was nervous about the move mainly because my friends mostly live in the south, but people did support my decision! I have always travelled a lot all over Finland, so this was not as radical a choice as it may sound. My mum agreed with my decision and said “It’s great that things are happening elsewhere as well, not just in Helsinki!” My home has always been critical of Helsinki-centredness and I guess that has rubbed off on me.
My relationship with Oulu was purely the result of the music video festival – first as a visitor, then getting more involved with the event and now finally as the artistic director. I have no family here, and before the festival, I didn’t know anyone in Oulu. Through the festival, I had quickly built a very close circle of people and relationships that are important to me. I called it my music video family, and I started spending more and more time here outside my work as well. Summer 2021 was probably the turning point when my thoughts came together. Elektorni, festivals and events, perfect rollerblading routes and bright summer nights completely charmed me. Oulu was flirting with me like nobody or no other place has ever done before!
I must say that the campaign to get me to Oulu was persistent but subtle (these people are professionals after all!) and eventually very successful. So here I am! As my friend Vilma said: “There must be something very special about Oulu for you of all people to move here!”
What are you up to these days? How do you spend your spare time?
I’m great! I moved here about a month ago, so I’ve mainly been tidying up my place, nest building (and building my doll’s house) and hanging around vintage markets (Oulu has the best vintage markets, I have found the best pyjamas, mesh tops, china and homeware here). The first two weeks I spent just unpacking and decorating my place, and the pastel colour scheme is almost ready. It’s time to move my focus to day-to-day life, and at this time of the year this includes writing grant applications.
I was hoping that after unpacking all my stuff I would be just organising my china, lying in bed and drinking endless cups of coffee in the morning. And that’s precisely what I’ve done all February! I’ve found it difficult to read for the past couple of years, but since I moved, I’ve found myself with a book in my hand every day!
This month’s book and other spring-time tips:
Syyskirja by Johanna Venho
Travelling Light by Tove Jansson
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
And so as not to sound more intellectual than I am, I have also been obsessing about the reality TV show Too Hot To Handle. To the point that I’ve found out which of the couples are still together… I never used to watch reality TV but then I came across Fboy Island on HBO and I was hooked!
I am also trying to rest more this spring, before the summer’s hectic festival season begins.
What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?
Climate change as a term is quite dramatic and of course we associate it with the state of our environment and it makes us worry about the future. I have long been a huge fan of domestic travel and I think that surprisingly few people in Finland have travelled widely in their own country. I really want to encourage everyone to embrace the idea of cultural climate change, and if there was anything positive about the coronavirus pandemic, I would hope it is people discovering domestic travel. For example, the Bättre Folk festival draws wide audiences from outside Oulu, which only goes to show that distance is not an issue. After all, people travel abroad to go to festivals.
As a term alone, climate change is shocking in a negative sense while cultural climate change to me means openness, kindness, collaboration and lack of prejudice.
What is it like to work in Northern Finland? How do you find Oulu at this present time?
I think Oulu is a perfect size to work (and to live!). You can make things happen and people seem very open to cooperation and new experiences.
I am constantly positively surprised how I don’t have to spend all day commuting and dealing with some complicated issue, as was the case in Helsinki. I love it that getting about without a car is so easy and quick. The city centre is very compact and I absolutely love that about Oulu! As a festival organiser (and visitor!) this is a real positive – people can easily attend several events in one day and with effective marketing, the pre and post-festival parties can also be squeezed in the same night!
Oulu is like a big park, in a good way. The woods and water are never far away. I am impressed by how many accessible, non-commercial spaces there are in the city centre where people can meet up and spend time.
For most of my career I have worked in Northern Finland during the pandemic, which of course has had an effect on what working in the cultural and festival sector has been like for me. I would like to see more cooperation between event organisers in events marketing (we should have our own Oulu Hypend!). I think there are a lot more young party- and festival-goers that we are not yet reaching. It is also interesting how easy it is to travel from here to Sweden and Norway overland! It will be exciting to see how the connections between the neighbouring countries are utilised in the Capital of Culture project.
What will Oulu look and feel like in 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?
It feels a bit wild to think that far ahead at the moment! I hope that Oulu presents itself as the lovely green city that it is, where the sun is shining and people are busy going to events. I hope to see an even livelier and more accessible, diverse and open-minded urban culture.
I would like to be shocked about how many of my friends have never been to Oulu, but then again, before the music video festival, neither had I. But that shows we should never underestimate the power of culture! I believe that the Capital of Culture title will encourage us to build new networks, venture into unknown territories and organise even more and more diverse events.
I also think that the impact will be seen in Oulu residents learning to appreciate their city and the region more, and in that the appeal of Oulu will be noticed further afield that in Northern Finland alone.
Apr 20, 2022
Oulu2026 and Upeart invite professional artists to participate in an open call for visual artists worldwide. We are seeking international artists to realize a mural in Rajakylä, Oulu, in August 2022. The global Open Call is accepting portfolios from individual artists or teams until 9th May 2022.
The artist invited to create the artwork will receive a fee of 12 000 €. The fee includes travel to Oulu and fee for the sketch. Upeart will provide and cover expenses for all needed production during the visit to Oulu and creation of the artwork for the artist. (Lift, paints and other equipment, housing in Oulu etc.)
Rajakylä was the winning location with over 1,400 votes. Each voter was able to share a story or a memory from the area. These are made available for the artists to seek inspiration.
Background for The Open Call
The city of Oulu, together with 32 municipalities from Northern Finland, has been selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2026. The aim of Oulu2026 is to bring culture, well-being and vitality to the Northern region of Finland. Through Cultural Climate Change the Northern region will also bring art and culture to the forefront in city planning. Oulu2026 region will become a vital cultural driven area that is known for its soulfulness, benefiting its residents from a lively city with a diverse range of cultural offerings, that attract visitors and new residents.
The open call searches for an artist to realize a unique mural. Residents of Oulu have an opportunity to participate, as they will choose the locations for the murals in an annual vote. Each year an artwork will be created into the residential area with the most votes.
Open Call criteria and application here (apply before 9th May)
For more information
Tel +358 50 468 6521