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Finnish Cultural Foundation awards granted to Villu Jaanisoo, Heini Junkkaala and Jukka Pekola
Kolme kuvaa ihmisistä yhdistettynä
Heini Junkkaala, Jukka Pekola and Villu Jaanisoo received the 2024 Finnish Cultural Foundation awards. Photo: Riitta Supperi
On 27 February 2024, the Finnish Cultural Foundation presented three awards for significant cultural achievement. The awards, worth 40,000 euros each, were given to sculptor Villu Jaanisoo; playwright, director and dramaturge Heini Junkkaala; and physics professor Jukka Pekola.

Villu Jaanisoo

Villu Jaanisoo (born 1963) is a multidisciplinary sculptor who has had a significant influence on the development of contemporary Finnish sculpture. A native of Tallinn, he graduated from the Estonian Art Academy in 1989. He has been a professor of sculpture at the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts.

As a sculptor, Jaanisoo has embraced not only traditional materials such as stone, bronze, and steel but also unconventional ones, such as recycled car tyres, which feature in his public sculptures Paradise Island (2018) and Elephant (2018). The swaying palm trees in the middle of a traffic circle in the town of Lempäälä and the massive elephant in a public park in Jyväskylä invite viewers to ponder the relationship between art and the urban environment.

Other works such as Kuukkeli (2016) in Helsinki’s Kalasatama district are positioned to allow for encounters with art in everyday life. Jaanisoo’s most recent public sculptures are mask-like reliefs of the famous Finnish writers Minna Canth and Maria Jotuni (2023), created for the lobbies of the Kuopio City Theatre. 

Mies seisoo värikkään veistoksen takana, taustalla korkeita taloja
Photo: Riitta Supperi

Villu Jaanisoo receives the Finnish Cultural Foundation award for his innovative taming of materials and for bringing art into everyday life. 

Heini Junkkaala

Heini Junkkaala (born 1975) is a playwright, director, and dramaturge from Helsinki. She received her Master of Arts in Theatre and Drama in 2006 from the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy, where she has worked as a professor of dramaturgy and playwriting since the beginning of 2024. 

Junkkaala’s work is described as uncompromising and as having a unique voice. Her plays take on challenging contemporary issues such as sexual identity, gender diversity, the generational divide, and the paradoxes of religious belief.

She often explores her themes through private, personal perspectives, but does so in a way that makes the personal experience universal. In addition to her many plays, Junkkaala is known for her biography of Pirkko Saisio, Pirkko Saisio – Sopimaton, which was a nominee for last year’s non-fiction Finlandia Prize. 

Nainen nojaa penkkirivin selkänojaan, taustalla teatterin katsomo
Photo: Riitta Supperi

Heini Junkkaala receives the Finnish Cultural Foundation award for her innovative theatre work and her ability to make the personal experience universal. 

Jukka Pekola

Jukka Pekola (born 1958) is a professor of quantum nanophysics and a long-standing advocate for quantum technology research. He received his doctorate in engineering and technology from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1984 and teaches at Aalto University. He has twice been an academy professor of the Academy of Finland and also has received the distinguished ERC Advanced Grant of the European Union. Pekola is a member of both the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters and the Finnish Academy of Technical Sciences.

Pekola is currently the director of the Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology and leads the quantum phenomena and devices group of the Finnish Quantum Institute (InstituteQ). The institute coordinates collaboration on quantum science by the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland with the goal of preparing Finland to take advantage of the potential offered by quantum technologies. 

Previously, Pekola has received awards for his notable achievements in quantum thermodynamics, metrology, and cryogenics based on nanoscale electronic devices. 

Mies tummassa paidassa istuu laboratoriokoneen takana.
Photo: Riitta Supperi

Jukka Pekola receives the Finnish Cultural Foundation award for his tireless promotion of research into quantum technology and his work to solve the challenges facing humankind.