2040: Where will we be?

Jun 15, 2023 | Blog, News

During the third week of April, the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux welcomed its Executive Board to Brussels. Chair of the board Suvi Innilä, as well as members Paula Raitis, Lieven Ameel, Martti Kivistö, Iiris Kivimäki and Kalle Jämsén gathered at the Institute office with staff members and were joined online by our newest board member Marja Rislakki.

For two days, we discussed the strategy for 2024–2026. We asked: What do we seek from collaborations? What role do diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives play in our programming?

As part of the Strategic Planning sessions, we welcomed Tommi Laitio, Chair of the Board of the Finnish Institute in the UK and Ireland to share his expertise and experience. Laitio is an inaugural Bloomberg Public Innovation Fellow at the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation at Johns Hopkins University. During the session, Laitio discussed the future of the cultural field as well as a vision for the Finnish institutes in the years to come.

According to Laitio, it is important to combine agile methods, like open calls, with long-lasting relationships with festivals and venues. Laitio also advocated for more joint projects between Finnish institutes. For the future, Laitio hopes that the funding from Finland remains stable, and that the Finnish Institutes will be bold and approachable liaisons, producers, and experts.

For me, the most important message that came across was that the role of the board is to be a predictable partner for the Institute’s director and team. Clear governance practices on what is decided by the board and what by the team allows the institute to react to changing circumstances and seize opportunities. Laitio talked about the role of the board as a critical friend, with both words carrying equal weight, and reminded of the importance of diversity in skills and backgrounds in the board. According to Laitio, good governance and diversity create conditions for bold and strategic work, especially as external circumstances become unpredictable and complicated, e.g. in the wake of Brexit – or in our case, rising inflation, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis.

So how to remain relevant in places where the cultural landscape is saturated in terms of cultural offer, as is the case in the Benelux? What is the future of the Finnish Institutes and cultural exchange? Are we still relevant in, let’s say, 2040?

In my opinion, the relevance of the Benelux will continue to grow in the coming years. An overview of the art scene in Flanders by the Flanders Arts Institute says that Brussels has been enjoying a rigorous rise as a new hot spot for e.g. the visual arts. Growing foreign interest in what Brussels has to offer, as well as its context, is supported by a fruitful cross-pollination between affordable working spaces, residency possibilities, internationally oriented exhibition spaces, and galleries and collectors from both Belgium and abroad. With the arrival of a new contemporary art museum, KANAL Centre Pompidou, the museum scene will also change.

When it comes to long-lasting relationships, I agree with Tommi Laitio. We want to utilise the power of cultural exchange and co-production on a long-term basis. This allows us to create more impactful projects and be relevant still in 2040. Our new strategy will be ready before the first frost arrives in the autumn. You can follow the process on our channels.

Laura Boxberg

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