Art Testers

In the largest support project in its history, the Finnish Cultural Foundation has taken eight-graders to art visits in 2017–2020. Including teachers, the project has reached almost 200 000 people. The Art Testers will continue also in 2020–2021, when half of the funding comes from the government and the other half from The Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland.

The aim of the Art Testers Campaign is to provide young people with an opportunity to experience art, also art to which many would not otherwise have access.

– Finland is a country of long distances, and there are young people who have never visited a cultural institution such as the theatre or a classical music concert. With this project, we can provide new experiences for as many teenagers as possible and thus increase equality within one age group, explains Mr Antti Arjava, Secretary General of the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

A browser-based application that can be used on smartphones or tablets has been created for the Art Testers to evaluate their experiences. They use the application to answer questions about the emotions that the the art experience aroused and whether they would visit an art institution again.

Almost 200 000 Art Testers on the move

The Art Testers campaign is bilingual and is offered in both official languages, Finnish and Swedish. The campaign is implemented in cooperation with the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centre, which is in charge of coordination, arranging transports and administration. The Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centres, a non-profit sector operator with long experience of collaborating with schools and cultural organisations. – The Association focuses on providing children and young people with access to culture and high quality programmes, says Päivi Setälä, Chair of the Association.

The overall costs will be in the region of EUR 20 million. The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland participates in the funding with approximately EUR 1.2 million.

In 2017–2020 about 60 000 young people and their about 5000 teachers have had the opportunity to visit two cultural institutions every year. One destination has been in their own area and the other usually in the metropolitan area. If they live in the capital region, they have travelled elsewhere in Finland. The foundations has paid for the travel and tickets. The Campaign will continue in the academic year 2020–2021 with a one-visit model, where classes will make one art visit in their own area.

“It was great in the sense that I managed to sleep for three hours, so thank you.” (The Magic Flute at the Finnish National Opera)

The Art Testers Campaign strives to offer young people unforgettable art experiences which may inspire a life-long interest in culture. In selecting the art organisations, emphasis is put on the artistic quality of the works but also to information directed at young people in an interesting way. The cultural institutions across the country have been selected on the basis of their applications to provide events or shows to children. These events have included art exhibitions, concerts, theatre and dance performances as well as opera.

The young art testers have been  transported by train, bus and, if necessary, plane. Travel arrangements for long-distance train trips and journeys by plane have been handled by CWT Finland, with which the Foundation has signed a full service contract, with a view to providing easy and cost-efficient travel for children. The travel expenses have accounted for more than half of the overall budget.

Information on the performance, artists and the art form has been provided in advance. At the site, the art testers have had an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the artistic work or what happens before a performance is ready. After the experience, various channels have been open to thoughts, ideas, emotions and opinions.

Thousands of reviews

There are already thousands of reviews on the Art Testers website, and new ones are added after every visit. Everyone can follow what the young people have experienced and what they thought about the experience. The project gives young people a voice, and adults can have a peek into the world of the young.

– We hope that everyone in Finland reads the feedback by these young critics and that adults, too, get excited about the idea. You can see the reviews left by the young people in your region at one glance and read through the open comments to have an in-depth insight, says Mr Arjava.

“The show was nice and it was great to see the actors in real life and not just in films.” (Peter Pan the Musical at the Jyväskylä City Theatre)

The number of stars that your town’s museums, theatre or orchestra have received can be compared with that of other towns and cities. It is also possible to see what the pupils at a nearby school or your former school thought of the art experience.

– Young people’s comments offer a unique picture of their attitudes towards arts. It shows what kind of works resonate with them, says Mr Arjava.

Read feedback left by the teenagers