Eija Ahvo, Markku Kaikkonen and Outi Pieski selected as Uniarts Helsinki’s Alumni of the Year

This year, the title of Alum of the Year was awarded to three artists who have contributed to the building of a diverse and equal society through the means of art.

Actress-singer Eija Ahvo, a Theatre Academy graduate from 1977, is known as one of the most charismatic performers in the history of the Finnish theatre. Ahvo has worked for Culture Hub Kassandra together with artists who have come to Finland from around the world, and for over 14 years, she has led a theatre called Veikkolan kartanoteatteri, which is a countryside theatre where amateurs and professional take the stage together and give a voice to their home region. Ahvo has also served as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador since 1986. 

Music pedagogue and composer Markku Kaikkonen, a Sibelius Academy graduate from 2007, has had a long career in participation-oriented music education and music activities. Kaikkonen works as the principal of the Music School Resonaari and director of the Music Centre Resonaari, which operates as part of the charity organisation HelsinkiMissio. The Music School aims at giving people with intellectual disability and other diverse learners the opportunity to learn music in a goal-oriented way. In fact, Kaikkonen feels that his life’s mission is to make music studies accessible to various kinds of learners and listeners.

Visual artist Outi Pieski, a graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts from 2000, explores themes such as indigenous rights, nature relationship, equality and sustainable development in her art. The history and future of the Sámi people is at the centre of Pieski’s art, and she is also an active defender of the Sámi culture. Nature and culture play an important role in Pieski’s paintings, collages and installations, as do her masterful artisan skills. Pieski is one of the artists featured in the Helsinki Biennial 2021.

Uniarts Helsinki is the biggest higher education institution for artists in Finland, and its artist and expert graduates have a major impact on the Finnish arts sector and society at large. The title of Alum of the Year is awarded each year to a few alumni who have highlighted the unique value and role of art and artist education in an exemplary manner through their work. Learning more about the career paths of alumni offers inspiration for people who are currently studying to become artists or who are thinking of pursuing a career in the arts. 

“Art has the ability to help us understand the past and imagine the future from various perspectives. Amid the crisis that the cultural sector has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to highlight work that has shown the impact of art in the Finnish society and that builds our faith in the future of art. The Alumni of 2021 are examples of artists who have changed the world through their work and art and promoted diversity and equity as fundamental values in society. Each of the selected alumni have introduced very diverse people into the arts and gave them a voice, all in their own way. Their work has highlighted issues that do not always gain enough visibility in the public,” notes Rector of Uniarts Helsinki Kaarlo Hildén. 

Every year, Uniarts Helsinki selects three Alumni of the Year, one from each academy. The Alumni of the Year were announced in the opening of Uniarts Helsinki’s academic year on 2 September 2021.