null Recommendations of the Observatory to the Minister: Comprehensively planned support measures are called for as a response to challenges in the field of arts and culture

The Finnish Observatory for Arts and Cultural Education participated in a round table discussion on the future prospects of the cultural sector organised by Annika Saarikko, Minister of Science and Culture, in September 2020. This blog sums up our recommendations for responding to the challenges in this field.

Arts build resilience, or persistence and ability to cope, needed at the time of a pandemic

Our society's investments in the accessibility of arts and arts education double as investments in building resilience and strengthening cultural wellbeing. We at the Finnish Observatory for Arts and Cultural Education believe that the short-term and long-term development needs of the arts and cultural sector require greater awareness of the challenges and structures of this field from both art and cultural actors and the central government, as well as comprehensively planned support measures.

Arts and culture bring hope during the coronavirus pandemic

During the state of emergency declared because of the coronavirus epidemic, arts and culture play a vital role in helping people to build and diversify their personal relationship with arts and culture and, supported by it, to meet and discuss not only the expectations and values of a good life but also the emotions evoked by the epidemic. In a broad sense, arts and culture can also kindle hope and provide stabilising means of coping in the midst of uncertainty. We also find that participation in arts and culture can significantly support the rebuilding of mutual trust between people and groups and thus promote collective recovery from the coronavirus epidemic.

Arts and culture can promote the development of resilience by such means as encouraging creative thinking, helping to find a balance in life, supporting reminiscences, strengthening self-esteem, and helping to deal with grief and make sense of bad experiences. However, arts do not increase resilience automatically. The development of a personal relationship with arts starts from encountering and participating actively in arts, which requires appropriate guidance. Everything largely depends on how an individual's personal relationship with arts is developed, in other words how pedagogical interaction is realised in art activities.

Support and guidance for professionals during the pandemic

We propose that, over the short term, the government should prioritise measures that help professionals and organisations in the field of arts, culture and arts education to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We currently have a large amount of expertise and potential in arts and culture in Finland: professionals who are in a more vulnerable employment and financial situation than ever due to the pandemic. We believe that it would be wise and far-sighted to harness this potential, sustainably and for the long term, right now.

The offer of both training and guidance, for example in the form of group work guidance, for artists, arts teachers and artist-researchers specialising in arts-based crisis resolution work should be secured. This requires a separate resource allocation to crisis resolution work carried out by organisations working with art, culture and arts education – not only for hiring art educators and artists but also for ensuring the overall development of service concepts that respond to the coronavirus crisis. We find it important that the central government takes into account the special competence and potential of art educators and artists in strengthening the relationship with arts and culture of people of all ages. This may build resilience and thus promote coping with the crisis.

A trial subject in higher comprehensive and general upper secondary schools as a pilot

Children and young people need opportunities to participate in arts and culture in order to learn to appreciate their importance in their own lives and society. We find that the role of arts and crafts subjects should be strengthened in general education. We propose to the government that a new subject be introduced in higher comprehensive and general upper secondary schools on a trial basis as a pilot project. Its aim would be to demonstrate that knowledge of arts and culture, an experiential approach and young people's personal visions lend themselves to extensive use in other subjects, increase young people's interest in arts and cultural heritage and offering, and thus also to lay the foundation for building a lifelong relationship with arts and culture that strengthens resilience and increases wellbeing.

The government must ensure that the digitalisation of teaching, which began during the coronavirus epidemic, will continue. The government should provide educational institutions with financial resources for purchasing appropriate hardware and software as well as for organising training that promotes the digital transformation for teachers and other staff. This will ensure access to teaching in emergency conditions, improve the availability of arts education, and draw on the opportunities of technology in the development of arts education.

More cultural education plans and outreach cultural work

In the long term, we believe that the government should make every effort to, by existing and new means, promote greater consideration for the cultural diversity and differences among people in art, culture and arts education organisations. The government should additionally promote the preparation of cultural education plans and, above all, their implementation in municipalities. The cultural education plans should address outreach cultural work as a means of reaching those children and young people who are at risk of exclusion, in particular. Outreach cultural work refers to offering cultural activities tailored to a child or young person who would otherwise not be able to find their way to or have access to them (Turpeinen et al. 2019). In order to promote the realisation of cultural well-being of all Finns and those living in Finland, the government should also ensure that all Finnish counties have a cultural well-being plan drawn up as a strategic regional document and as part of regional health promotion efforts.

Status of arts and humanities at school

The government should be extremely cautious about the measures proposed by the OECD (Global Education Reform Movement, GERM) as part of coping with the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 virus. In these proposals, narrow economic interests are paramount. A precondition for the conscious preservation and development of the Finnish school model is that arts and humanities play an important role in teaching and that pupils have opportunities for elective artistic activities which support their personal growth.

Making better use of the potential of research

We also find that the government should make better use of the potential offered by research in art, artistic research, research in arts education and cultural research when

seeking multidisciplinary solutions to societal challenges and opportunities. In addition, the government should make a determined effort to promote cooperation between research and the fields of arts, culture and arts education, ensuring that meaningful, evidence-based national data can be collected on significant work in this field.

More agile and equitable art organisations

Organisations working with arts, culture and arts education should take action to improve their resilience and agility in cooperation with each other and when collaborating with other sectors, as well as develop new service concepts and distribution channels. In terms of realising fundamental cultural rights and strengthening cultural wellbeing, it is vital that arts and cultural sector organisations have a higher awareness of and commit to dismantling the mechanisms of inequality that affect the activities and services of the field.

The full statement and its justifications are available by e-mail. To request more information, send an e-mail to