Why can’t we take art to where the people are? Karoliina Niemelä from OAMK in Oulu shares highlights from a unique experiment in the heart of the Finnish city.

The push to digitise cultural heritage needs to be accompanied by bold ideas to engage audiences offline. As this experiment from Oulu demonstrates, inspiration can come from unexpected spaces in a city. This activity is part of smARTplaces, a visionary audience development project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

The pop-up exhibition in an empty shop in city centre (Pic: Karoliina Niemelä)
The pop-up exhibition coincided with the LUMO festival which attracts visitors to the city

“The desire to bring life back into these streets was a big motivation for organising a pop-up exhibition in the city centre.”

Hi Karoliina, what inspired you to run a pop-up in the city-centre?
Over the last four years, Oulu has gone through a period of intense development and we’ve ended up with a glut of shopping malls. One unexpected outcome, or perhaps a natural conclusion is that the shops that were once dotted across the city, have been swallowed up by these malls, creating ghost streets. The desire to bring life back into these streets was a big motivation for organising a pop-up exhibition in the city-centre. We also wanted to take The Collection to the people of Oulu, rather than wait for them to come to us.

Images by Stefan Bremer from The Collection were projected in the pop-up exhibition

“Even before we began the project… we had created a feeling that it was going to be an enormous undertaking.”

What was the biggest challenge you faced?
If I am to be honest, it was our mindset. Everyone is so busy, there’s little room to try new ideas out. Any task, no matter how small, can seem like a challenge. As a result, even before we began the project, we had created a feeling that it was going to be an enormous undertaking. In reality, it was just a case of breaking the idea down into a series of logical steps. We also invited collaboration to bring the idea to life.

“Collaboration wasn’t a case of throwing open the doors and asking anyone to do whatever they can to help.”

What kind of collaborative relationships did you set up?
Collaboration wasn’t a case of throwing open the doors and asking anyone to do whatever they can to help. We would have had no time to manage all these relationships. Once we had identified our strengths, we reached out to different groups with a specific request. This clarity created a lot of good will. Everyone was supportive and we ended up working at a much faster pace than what we had anticipated. We also collaborated with LUMO to run the pop-up during the 10-day light festival. Last year the festival attracted nearly 86,000 people to the city. It was a fantastic opportunity to test our idea.

LUMO Light Festival in Oulu

“With this experiment we’ve built a foundation for bigger, more ambitious projects.”

What has this experiment helped you achieve?
The importance of recognising the strengths of your team. The exhibition has received a lot of positive feedback and it has created permission internally for us to focus on important questions — how do we increase access to the physical collection? Can we continue to explore new spaces to this present The Collection to the public?

--

--

I am interested in the context & values of our Digital Identities.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Abhay Adhikari

I am interested in the context & values of our Digital Identities.