null Art is of crucial significance for surviving the crisis

Art is at the heart of a cultured society. Its significance is especially pronounced when people and communities are faced with difficulties.

Art reaches towards the future, it helps you to see things differently, it awakens imagination and helps you to see light where it's dark. Art brings comfort, because seeing things differently brings out alternative ways to experience meaningfulness and meaning in life.

It is apparent that in exceptional circumstances, people’s creative potential bubbles intensely and searches for new forms and channels of expression. The need that arises in people to express and share their experiences could be channelled as part of addressing the ongoing crisis, sharing and expressing of experiences, building of images of the future, and raising hope.

Art cannot save the world, but it can play a crucial role in the survival of individuals and communities. Art can also be a part of a wider societal change towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Aesthetic experiences improve our perception ability and make us more sensitive for identifying the changes taking place in nature and in our cultural environment. Appreciating and protecting diversity is also the foundation of a democratic society. Art can give a voice to the voiceless and highlight ills that are not reached by rational linguistic expression.

A wise society fosters art and culture in the midst of a crisis and sees its value for the building of the future. An artistic hobby is particularly important for children and young people, as it can strengthen their belief in their opportunities to exert influence and support their courage to express their views on the direction of the future.

Several Finnish and international studies (e.g. Metsäpelto & Pulkkinen 2015; Catterall, Dumais & Hampden-Thompson 2012) support the idea that personal experiences in art generate not only immediate experiences of meaningfulness for children and young people but also cultural inclusion and, consequently, positive spillover effects that reach far into the future.

It is important that this crisis will not undermine the initiatives included in the Government Programme aimed at giving children and young people more equal opportunities to engage in arts and culture. Engaging in arts and culture is particularly important for children and young people who are now experiencing loneliness, anxiety and fear and who do not by themselves find ways to express and share their experiences.

Many other vulnerable groups are also being deprived of their normal basic services, including opportunities to deal with their emotions in a communal manner. The means of art and art education would provide many of them with invaluable opportunities to feel that they are cared for and heard, and that even their human dignity is indivisible.

How could the healing power of art be further strengthened and supported by means of public interventions?

Finland has a huge number of arts and art education professionals. Even in normal conditions, their livelihood is often composed of small streams. Now the streams have run dry for many of them.

In the current crisis situation, it would therefore be important for artists and art educators to hear from the government not only that due consideration has been given to the collapse of their livelihood and that it will be addressed, but also that the work of art professionals is crucial for the survival of our society.

It is time to say out loud that art is not mere decoration and a source of aesthetic pleasure for a privileged audience of the selected few. Art is a fundamental need and a basic service that, even under human rights treaties, belongs to all citizens. Strong common intent and goal-oriented action on the part of the State is needed to enable the meeting of people’s needs with competent professionals.

Our society is currently facing unprecedented challenges. Instead of seeing art as an expense item and as a savings target, it should be seen as a central element in resolving the crisis.

There is competence and will in our country, and placing art among the most important solution measures will not significantly increase the cost effects of the crisis. Instead, investing in art as part of coping with the crisis is a humane, socially and culturally sustainable choice.


Eeva Anttila


University of the Arts Helsinki


The article was originally published in Turun Sanomat on 28 April 2020.