Photo: Veikko Kähkönen

Artists and the revolution of work

Artistic competence can be used to solve the challenges of the future, in business as well as in the public sector.

Grief is often wordless. It is something you can feel in your entire body. So why not express it through the body, for instance, by dancing? This idea comes from Marja-Sisko Pohjola, a dance artist who created the concept of dance prayer – now a commercial product available for anyone, for instance for the funeral of a loved one.

Paula Tuovinen, Vice Rector of Uniarts Helsinki, names Pohjola as an example of how art can infiltrate society in new ways. “Artists have an increasingly permeable relationship with society. The myths surrounding artists are a thing of the past, and romantic notions of artistry crumbled a long time ago. Of course, we still find genius conductors, for instance, but most artists are increasingly working outside the traditionally artistic institutions.”

Tuovinen gives more examples: researcher Satu-Mari Jansson has employed methods from the theatre in coaching corporate leaders; visual artist Timo Tähkänen is working at a service centre for dementia patients; and visual artist Tiitus Petäjäniemi works from the premises of a legal firm. “Petäjäniemi makes art at the office and then observes the impact of his work”, explains Tuovinen.

The borders between art and traditional working life are, in other words, falling away. At the same time, the creative fields are Artistic competence can be used to solve the challenges of the future, in business as well as in the public sector. experiencing rapid growth. In Great Britain, the creative industry has been the fastest growing sector since 2008. Also in Finland the number of people working with art, entertainment and recreation has increased by more than 30% since 2005.

Tuominen believes there is still scope for society to utilise artists in a broader context than it currently does. They could play an active role in solving the challenges of the future, in the corporate world as well as the public sector. This is also something Uniarts Helsinki is preparing for: the most significant research project at the university, with a view to reforming society, is ArtsEqual. It investigates the impact that artistic activity and art pedagogy have on equality, and how they can be used to prevent, for example, marginalisation.

Role-playing in preparation of working life

The changing role of the artist has also meant that an increasing number of artists are working as entrepreneurs. According to the most recent (2016) career follow-up survey, 11% of Uniarts Helsinki graduates either have a company or work as freelancers or independent entrepreneurs. The corresponding average rate for all universities taking part in the survey was 3%. “The situation has changed completely from the years when support systems for the arts were put in place. Take actors, for example: their income now comes mainly from elsewhere than the theatre. We do need to remember, however, that one reason for the increase in entrepreneurial artistry is sheer necessity”, says Tuovinen.

A successful entrepreneur needs other skills besides creativity and vision. That is why Uniarts Helsinki has introduced modules to help prepare students for working life. The university’s shared teaching platform, the Open Campus, has developed study modules to meet the need for working-life skills and entrepreneurial know-how. “One popular course has been “Working life LARP”, in other words a course where students get to role-play assignments that an artist may face in working life. Studies include practicing how to apply for grants and making offers”, explains Tuovinen. A lecturer specialising in working life skills will also begin at Uniarts Helsinki this autumn, with the aim of bringing more mentoring and sparring partners to the students. Two special programmes for artists will also launch in autumn 2018, teaching, for example, the development of art-centric service concepts.

But wait a minute. Wouldn’t students of many other fields also benefit from role-playing working life? Along with artificial intelligence and other digital innovations, more and more graduates will find themselves in the role of employer or entrepreneur. We are on the cusp of a huge trend, as Tuovinen states. “Artists have always experimented with the work of the future. They will be the ones pointing the way to what the future will look like, also in other fields.”

The text has originally been published as part of Uniarts Helsinki’s annual report. Read more stories here or browse the pdf version of the annual report.