Significant funding for research on equality in the arts and arts education

The ARTSEQUAL research initiative, coordinated by the University of the Arts Helsinki, examines the arts as public service, with equality as the starting point, and explores how the arts can meet the social challenges of the 2020s.

In autumn 2015, University of the Arts Helsinki will launch the ARTSEQUAL research project, funded by the Academy of Finland. The six-year project will study the power of the arts to generate social innovations for Finnish society. 

The Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland has awarded funding to the ARTSEQUAL project until the end of 2017. The council funds research which promotes solutions for the regeneration of Finnish society and produces ideas for the future of businesses and industries while, at the same time, disseminating research knowledge in order to provide support for evidence-based policies in leadership across society. Strategic research funding is a new form of research funding launched in the autumn of 2015. 

The multidisciplinary ARTSEQUAL initiative, coordinated by University of the Arts Helsinki, enacts a radical shift of perspective towards the arts and arts education as public service. According to Heidi Westerlund, professor of music education at University of the Arts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy and director of the project, ARTSEQUAL addresses a central question: what if the arts were understood as public service with equality as its starting point?

The project will explore the potential of the arts as public service to increase participation, well-being, and active community engagement. The research will apply systems thinking to understand the societal impact of the arts. Its objective is to provide evidence-based knowledge and recommendations to support governmental policies and decision-making and to establish new arts-based services. 

The research will analyse interventions implemented in, for example, schools, basic education in the arts, elderly care, multicultural youth services, and prisons, and their impact on well-being.

ARTSEQUAL is unique in involving the users of the new knowledge gained through the research from the outset to the conclusion of the project. The project will collaborate with comprehensive schools, institutions providing basic education in the arts, the Finnish National Board of Education, the Arts Promotion Centre Finland, and various ministries, municipalities, and NGOs. 

The initiative is led by Professor Heidi Westerlund and Dr Kai Lehikoinen, University Lecturer at University of the Arts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy. The research consortium is comprised of six research teams within University of the Arts Helsinki, the University of Turku, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research CUPORE, and Lappeenranta University of Technology. 

ARTSEQUAL will employ more than 30 researchers for periods of varying duration. Four of the six research teams will be led by researchers from University of the Arts Helsinki: In addition to Westerlund and Lehikoinen, Professor Eeva Anttila of the Theatre Academy and Professor Lauri Väkevä of the Sibelius Academy will lead two of the teams. The two other teams will be led by Docent Pia Houni of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Docent Sari Karttunen of the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research CUPORE. The teams will include researchers from the three academies of University of the Arts Helsinki.

The ARTSEQUAL initiative has been approved to become part of the Academy of Finland’s Equality in Society programme. Details concerning the funding and its annual allocation will be agreed upon with the Academy of Finland in October. 

The ARTSEQUAL research project and some examples of the impact of the arts on well-being will be presented at the project’s kick-off on Saturday 14 November in connection with the National Music Education Congress Fisme at the Helsinki Music Centre. 

For additional information, please contact: 
University Lecturer Kai Lehikoinen, , +358 50 439 0517
Project Coordinator Tuula Jääskeläinen, , +358 40 710 4321