Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Arja Huotari


Our cultural personality of the week is Arja Huotari, Director of Cultural Centre Valve and Head of Cultural Services in the City of Oulu. Her main priorities in the job have been to create prerequisites for operations in the cultural industries and for other cultural activities as well as to advance availability and accessibility of cultural services. Huotari’s career in the Cultural Services of the City of Oulu has lasted four decades now and will soon end as she retires.


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! How do you feel about that, Arja?

Oulu winning the bid for the European Capital of Culture is really a great thing and a transformative process that will open up new perspectives on the way. It is an invigorating opportunity to develop the city through art and culture. I believe that the Capital of Culture activities will create opportunities to increase North Ostrobotnian collaboration and the different sides of the region will become even more familiar to us and others.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

When Cultural Climate Change actualises, art and culture are a natural part of the whole community’s activities and its development. Due to the change process that will take place, we will learn to recognise the impact of cultural activities on people’s wellbeing, and cultural activities and artistic content will become smoothly a part of citizens’ daily lives. The goals of Cultural Climate Change and the tactics necessary for its implementation have been described in the Capital of Culture bid as well as in the cultural strategy of the City of Oulu. To me, Cultural Climate Change also means commitment to control actual climate change. It means, for example, improving local cultural services as well as empowering citizens to implement their own cultural activities in their neighbourhood.


How do you find Oulu at the moment?

Oulu is just the right size. The city is large enough to produce and maintain diverse services while also being small enough that it is possible to build accessible services and activities. Oulu is a good and safe place to live. In Oulu, there is also always the opportunity to learn something new and get excited about new phenomena.


How do you spend your spare time?

I most prefer spending my spare time with my family and other people I’m close with. It is particularly nice to run about with small grandchildren. Of course, I’m also interested in art and culture during my spare time, and gladly participate in activities and events in Oulu and elsewhere in Finland. One dream for the upcoming retirement days is to improve my handicraft skills.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026? How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

The Capital of Culture title will bring increased openness and tolerance to Oulu and the whole Northern Finland. Increasing European collaboration will strengthen our own Northern identity and, on the other hand, increase understanding of other cultures.


Photo: Harri Tarvainen

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