Helsinki/Espoo: Culture for Children and Youth

Culture for the future :
culture across education pathways
• Youth
• Civic / democratic participation
• Citizenship
• Access to culture
• Education
• Cross-sectorial collaboration
As capital of Finland, Helsinki boasts several cultural assets, such as
a collection of museums and a vibrand musical scene. Its architectural
ensemble is also of touristic interest, while a unique Design District has
made a name for itself around the world.
Espoo is the second largest city in Finland and is situated in the same
metropolitan area as Helsinki. Some of the most recognised centres
and companies related to the knowledge economy are located in Espoo
such as Aalto University, Nokia, the video game developers Remedy and
Rovio, and the Espoo Museum of Modern Art. Espoo’s development is a
microcosm of Finland: strong population growth, an increasingly affluent
society and modern development as part of a growing, connected and
international metropolitan area.
Helsinki City Council has outlined a development strategy for the years
2013-16. The main areas of the strategy are the well-being of residents,
the attractiveness of the town, urban development and the balance
between economic development and sustainability. Culture has a
place across all fields and is instrumental to tourism, leisure activities,
and entrepreneurship, in addition to cultural services. As far as Espoo
is concerned, its strategy is contained in the document Espoo Story
(2013-17). The strategy underlines to what extent culture can benefit
residents: first, as a top-quality events programme; second, as a tool to
foster open-mindedness and creativity- by putting forward challenging
and original ideas. Espoo aims to become a world-renowned innovation
environment for expertise, science, art and economics. One of the crossadministrative development programmes focuses on the concepts
of youth vitality and participation. Cross-sectorial collaboration in the
metropolitan area has been the basis of many successful projects and
the structural development of the youth and cultural sector.
By tying the cultural sector to the educational field, the cities of Espoo and Helsinki are adapting to the
structural changes the educational sector is facing these days in Finland: the aim, for the next decade, is to
create more flexible learning environments based on new operational pedagogies. The vision is to move the
teachers’ focus from teaching knowledge to instilling the desire to learn. As a consequence, the dialogue with
the cultural sector becomes instrumental in achieving such an objective.
Culture for youth education
Espoo and Helsinki have developed a series of
projects under the wide umbrella of “Culture and
these are separate and independent projects, both
cities closely follow the practices of each other and
exchange regularly their knowledge and experiences.
Kultus is an operation led by the city of Helsinki
to connect schools and cultural services. As the
city believes an equal and inclusive art education,
disregarding social backgrounds, can only be
provided through elementary schools, Kultus is a
plan to ensure that every child and young person in
Helsinki receives a wide range of artistic and cultural
experiences in elementary school. Helsinki’s Cultural
Office has, together with the Education Department,
developed a programme and website to introduce
cultural curriculums and the use of arts and culture
in education. Clear examples of such cross-subject
initiatives are the teaching of math through dancing,
and biology through painting.
A second case, also implemented by the city of
Helsinki, is the “Operation Pulse!” . This project
offers free cultural activities and events based on
the participants’ suggestions. This initiative involves
youth centres but also cultural centres and libraries.
Operation Pulse! is a model of collaboration and
participation between the youth sector and the
cultural sector, targeting youngsters from 12 to 18
years of age. Through the initiative, the young are able
to influence decision-making and make themselves
A third initiative is KULPS!, an arts and sports
pathway programme, developed by the municipality
of Espoo. It provides learning opportunities for
comprehensive school students (grades 1-9) at local
cultural organisations and sport venues. The aim of
the programme is to offer an equal opportunity for all
children in Espoo to engage in local arts and sports
activities. The content for the KULPS! programme is
designed to support the Finnish National curriculum.
Site visits take place during the school day and
students are accompanied by their teachers.
Budget and financing
Kultus: Renewing and developing the site: €120,000
(2014); maintaining the site, normal use: €60,000
Pulse: The budget varies each year as a result of the
negotiations of the actors involved. During the first
three years of the project the budget was allocated
from Helsinki’s Neighbourhood project. Since then
the budget has varied greatly. In 2015, the operating
budget of €40,000, has been allocated from the
Helsinki City Culture Office. The Helsinki Youth Centre
also makes a contribution.
KULPS: €350,000-year (including salaries of the
administration). Transportation costs (€5-child)
All three projects are 100%funded by the municipality.
In the programme Kultus, about 100 cultural operators
(theatres, museums, dance companies, culture
houses, etc.) currently make their programmes and
services available to schools via the website Kultus.
fi and also categorise them. This system on the one
hand encourages access to culture for young people
through the mediation of the school system and on
the other allows for the expansion of cultural venues’
traditional audience . At its peak times has
up to 600 events on offer to the schools.
KULPS! started in 2008. In 2014 over 70,000
students participated in the programme and 45
local organisations benefitted from the initiative. The
programme is a very important means of income for
local museums, theatres and other arts and culture
actors, and increases equality among children of
different socio-economic backgrounds.
In the PULSE programme the most important
successes are the efficient networking cooperation
since 2009, the increase in youngsters’ participation
and influence in decision-making processes, and
the positive feedback from young people about the
quality of the programme.
The main element to consider in the transferability
of the projects is its strong focus on school-aged
individuals, and the close collaboration with the
educational system.
Establishing contacts between cultural operators
and the education system requires perseverance
and planning, and the bottlenecks are linked to the
lack of information and feedback between both.
For instance, the greatest challenge of the KULTUS
programme was to reach the 4,000 Helsinki city
teachers. Although the website has been operational
for 10 years, it is still fairly unknown to the teachers.
The programme is voluntary for schools and not
all children are involved as much as they could be,
owing to the teachers’ choosing not to involve them.
Also, there are many difficulties in involving young
people in cultural activities (such as pressure from
friends, difficulties in participating in organised
activities with unfamiliar mentors) and the culture of
non-participation is strong in some areas.
Art-based methods provide a learning
environment or instrument for any school
Children and youth are priority groups in
both Helsinki’s and Espoo’s strategies. It
is rare that these groups are taken into
consideration, but they are a key element for
the effectiveness of cultural planning in the
long term.
The exchange of information and the
synergies at work between the two cities
allow for complementary action and
experience-sharing on what initiative or
method has, or has not, proven successful.
Management level and partners
The individual projects incorporate the concept of
sustainability into their philosophy, since working
with schools to set up a cultural ecosystem involving
children ensures long-lasting cultural attendance.
Such emphasis on culture from a young age, and often
through schools, is in line with the Finnish educational
shift towards a more flexible learning environment
that supports new pedagogies. The schools will move
their focus from teaching knowledge to promoting
the desire to learn. In this respect, the dialogue with
the cultural sector is naturally to be favoured.
The projects are cross-sectorial collaborations
between the municipalities of Helsinki and Espoo,
the school system and the cultural sector under the
leadership- and financing - of the municipalities. The
objective is to transfer responsibility to the schools
as regards themes and activities, and to achieve a
cultural agenda defined from the bottom-up. The
schools’ rectors as well as teachers would design
and assist the implementation of the culture-based
educational programmes.
Links :
Contact :
Stuba Nikula, Cultural director in Helsinki
[email protected]
Susanna Tommila, Cultural director in Espoo
[email protected]