Oulu is the kingdom of great contrasts – positive, but also challenging. Contrasts such as the nightless nights of the midnight sun and sunless days in the heart of winter. Contrasts have the power both to connect and disconnect, but also to create something new.
Cool Contrasts is about rebalancing our communities. There is already a recognised European need to use culture as a means to help reduce health inequalities. Oulu2026 will work with our citizens and with European partners to develop cultural practices that promote positive engagement to re-balance these inequalities. People are literally dying of loneliness in parts of Europe, both in big cities and in struggling rural hinterlands.
Oulu2026 wants to help Europe to reconnect with itself, promoting community life and face-to-face connection and exploring mental wellbeing through sensitive and thoughtful projects.
How do we learn to better understand each other? What new and surprising connections can we create and nourish? We can listen, appreciate, be curious, supportive and interested in each other. Let’s celebrate our differences in the city of contrasts!
Programme Lines – Cool Contrasts
The world is changing at an unprecedented pace, often without consensus on how best to navigate our future through this metamorphosis. This shift affects every aspect of our cultural, political, environmental and technological landscape.
In 2026 we propose to cooperate with artists who work within a similarly shifting paradigm, where technological innovation and traditional art practices meet. This year-long exhibition will tackle issues around climate change and humanity’s relationship with the environment, with
artists who will be engaging locally to shape the content and activities of the exhibition.
Superblue, a social change initiative and ground-breaking new enterprise created by Pace Gallery and The Emerson Collective, is our curator and partner. It is dedicated to presenting large-scale, immersive, experiential art which is as meaningful as it is spectacular, encompassing the belief that art has the potential to change the way we see the world around us.
The heart of The Underground Clash is a specially commissioned piece from Danish artist, Jakob Kudsk Steensen. A ‘digital gardener’, Jakob brings together physical, virtual, real and imagined landscapes in mixed reality, interactive installations, focusing on how humans, technology and natural environments connect. His physical commission will be accompanied by online platforms, allowing the project to be experienced remotely.
The fairy tale wall is a large interactive touch screen that creates a magical immersive space for children. In addition to watching and getting involved with a fairy tale, the screen has an option to create a snowstorm, make waves in a river, build a pile of colourful autumn leaves and even chase northern lights – all that simply by drawing with fingers. There’s also a panel where users can play musical instruments. What makes the screen even more unique is that you don’t even have to touch it: the surface is so sensitive that it reacts to hand waves.
Oulu2026 lounge offers free multicultural performances and live music during Qstock festival weekend
The traditional Qstock Festival takes place in late July, but this year the festival features also free-entry Oulu2026 park in Linnansaari from Thursday 28th to Saturday 30th July. The park is located near the Qstock festival area offering visitors a relaxing place to enjoy festival and culture atmosphere free of charge.
Oulu2026 Producer Heikki Myllylahti tells us that the Oulu2026 programme for the park is now ready for publication!
The travel and event management specialist Go Arctic is the latest business to join the Arctic Food Lab network. Established in 2008, the enterprise is owned by Sipe Åqvist together with Kirsi Eskola. Åqvist says that sourcing locally has always been at the heart of...
The eighth ART Ii Biennial that took place this June featured ecologically sustainable environmental and sculpture art for the northern environment within the areas of significant cultural heritage in Ii and the Ii Environmental Art Park. Involved in the ART Ii Biennial organisation since 2018, Jetta hails from Oulu but has also lived in Lapland for long periods of time.
The first ever whole-weekend Maakinen Martinniemi (the Magical Martinniemi) festival took place this June. The event’s host, Jukka Takalo, says that a multi-artistic community event is extremely important for the entire region. The event was first launched in 2009 when Takalo and J.A. Mäki came up with the idea of staging a cultural event in the controversial Kurtinhauta seaside area.
Music, participatory art and delicious food – Oulu2026 park opens in Linnansaari during Qstock weekend
Oulu was recently elected the European Capital of Culture, which will give us the opportunity to enjoy its growing and enhanced cultural offerings. The European Capital of Culture programme can also be seen in the production of the largest music festival in Northern...
In the Air – Felt by a number of people to be happening, or about to happen. In co-operation with the Oulu2026 –organisation the Art Ii Biennial will present an afternoon of art and art/science discussions in Ii, Thursday 16th June. The event will highlight the art...
Oulu is covered with snow for an average of five months a year. Organising outdoor events is a challenge in this climate: freezing temperatures and limited daylight make most people think twice before they venture outside to see a concert or a play. Oulu2026 will...
The Finnish city of Oulu, European Capital of Culture 2026, announces an Open Call for cultural programme partners
Finland will take the cultural centre stage in Europe in 2026 as the City of Oulu, together with 32 municipalities in Northern Finland, holds the title of the European Capital of Culture 2026. The year will be full of inspiring, diverse and unique cultural offerings...
Folk music and folkdance day is celebrated again on May 14th in Finland. Are you interested in Finnish folk music and folk dance, curious to find out more about the "kantele", the "jouhikko" or national costumes in Finland? What on earth is a "mänkeri" and how many...