Art Testers experience culture and turn into critics

In Finnish history, the Art Testers is the largest cultural project directed at young people. The Finnish Cultural Foundation will take three age groups of eighth-graders to art institutions. The aim is to provide young people with an opportunity to experience art, also art to which many would not otherwise have access.

The Art Testers campaign is bilingual and offered in both the official languages, Finnish and Swedish. The campaign will be implemented in cooperation with the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centres, which will be in charge of coordinating it, arranging transports and administration. The overall costs are expected to be in the region of EUR 20 million. The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland will participate in the funding with approximately EUR 1.2 million.

– 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.

According to Statistics Finland, there were 58,855 year seven pupils in Finland in spring 2017. In February and March, secondary schools were offered the opportunity to register for the Art Testers campaign for the academic year 2017-18. Led by their teachers, more than 99% of the year eight pupils, 58,471 teenagers, snapped up the offer.

The first trips were made in September 2017. This academic year, 55 artistic groups or institutions across the country, selected on the basis of their applications, provide events or shows to children. These events include art exhibitions, concerts, theatre and dance performances as well as opera. The youth are guaranteed access to art despite the distances and the location of their home town. Each eighth grade will be provided with an opportunity for two pre-arranged visits. One will take place in their own province or nearby area and the other in the capital Helsinki – or if they live in the capital region, they travel elsewhere in Finland. The foundations will pay for the travel and tickets.

The 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.

Pupils are transported by train, bus and, if necessary, plane. Travel arrangements for long-distance train trips and journeys by plane are 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 will account for more than half of the overall budget.

The project is coordinated by 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 pupils will receive advance information on the performance, artists and the art form. At the site, they will get an opportunity to acquaint themselves with what artistic work is like or what happens before a performance is ready. After the experience, various channels will be open to thoughts, ideas, emotions and opinions.

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

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 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.

The project will continue until May 2020. After that, the national campaign has  reached almost 200,000 pupils and their teachers.

 

Read feedback left by the teenagers

Immerse yourself in the world of year eight

“The play was kind of weird, but in a good way.” (The Imaginary Invalid at the Finnish National Theatre)

“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 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)