Fine arts student: The best thing about studying is the encouraging community spirit

Master’s student in fine arts Minni Havas talks about how she ended up studying at the Academy of Fine Arts and shares her most memorable experiences.

Petri Summanen

Who are you and how did you know that you wanted to study at Uniarts Helsinki?

I’m Minni Suova, or Minni Havas by my artist name. I’m studying painting in a master’s programme. I had thought about completing a master’s degree for a long time. I had completed my bachelor’s degree in clothing design at Aalto University and also started studying for a master’s degree but didn’t finish it. I knew that I wanted to complete a master’s degree, but somewhere else. I got the idea of Uniarts Helsinki when my friend Inka Bell started studying printmaking at Uniarts Helsinki. We both have families, so through her example, I could see that a degree is possible also as someone with children. Inka told me about Uniarts Helsinki’s good facilities and encouraged me to apply.

What do you remember about the application process or the entrance exam?

There is no entrance exam for master’s studies, and instead, you apply to the programme with a motivation letter and a portfolio. I applied for studies twice. On my first try, I felt like I didn’t know how to write. When I read my motivation letter afterwards, I felt that the letter didn’t reflect me at all. When I applied again, I decided to write the motivation letter with a confident, personal touch. Then I thought the letter turned out well and I advanced to the interview stage. The interview felt relaxed. I was myself, and I felt good after the interview. I didn’t know what to expect after the interview, but of course I hoped for the best and eventually things turned out well and I was admitted to the academy.

What is the best thing about studying?

I think the best thing has been the people who I have gotten to know here. From the very beginning, we’ve had a really good community around us and a really good team spirit. The atmosphere is really encouraging and supportive. I came to Uniarts Helsinki kind of from outside the fine arts circles. I hadn’t painted in a long time, and instead, I had worked on designing and drawing. My group had a lot of people who wanted to help and share their personal knowhow. I felt like I was able to get a quick start thanks to their help. I’ve also learned a lot here. I think the teaching that Uniarts Helsinki provides is really good, especially material studies have been a big, revolutionary thing for me.

What has been the most challenging thing about studying?

The most challenging thing has been understanding that not all time is reserved for painting at the university. But painting is required, and a big part of the independent studies consist of painting. It has been challenging to find a balance in time management and not to worry about when to get to spend time on painting. I was first nervous about finding uninterrupted time to advance my artistic work, but I’ve always managed to make time.

What have been some of the most memorable experiences for you during your studies?

Malla Tallgren’s course in material studies was the most memorable experience for me. Materials have been the starting point for my practice in fashion design and design in general. Also in visual arts, I find it important to learn about the materials that I start to work on. Material studies were an important eye-opening experience for me, and I got a lot out of them.

Another memorable experience has been the Kuvan Kevät project. The project was separate from other work done within the university. What made the experience memorable was the sense of community, profound reflection on all the works as a whole and the exhibition of the work.

How have international aspects been visible in your studies now or in the past?

I participated in a course that was led by visiting lecturers Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers from the Kaya collective. Brätsch and Eilers create cross-disciplinary art and are based in New York and Berlin. The course was organised at Kallio-Kuninkala and students from all subject areas were able to apply for the course. Brätsch’s and Eilers’s artist friends from Germany and Italy were also invited to the course. Through that course, I was able to gain an understanding of what the current art scene is like in other countries. I also got to draw international artists’ perspectives into my own practice.

What kinds of biases did you have about your school and what do you think about them now?

I didn’t really have any preconceived notions of Uniarts Helsinki. I had once visited a studio in the old facilities of the Academy of Fine Arts. My sister is studying for a degree in a five-year programme at the Academy of Fine Arts, but I had heard about her experiences on a fairly superficial level. One of my friends who studied a different subject area than me had had a more negative experience. I understood how big a role the fellow students play. We’ve had an extremely good community spirit, so my experience has been really positive.

My expectations were exceeded in the sense that I didn’t assume that the school had resources to give students materials for their works. I was used to having to buy all the materials on my own, so it was wonderful to get this freedom, because it’s not possible to work during the studies.

What do you dream of doing after your graduation?

I hope I get to continue the artistic practice I’ve started at the Academy of Fine Arts and delve deeper into the projects that took shape in connection with the work I did for Kuvan Kevät. I would also love to keep in touch with my closest student friends. Doing things together and sharing thoughts will surely continue on some level.