Each year, Uniarts Helsinki selects three artists as Alumni of the Year, one from each academy. According to Rector of Uniarts Helsinki Kaarlo Hildén, the goal is to make arts education more prominent and have a discussion on the impact that Uniarts Helsinki and artists have on society.
“This year, our selected Alumni of the Year are artists who have contributed to the power of the arts sector also during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have made the social impact of art visible through their work and actions and inspired many people by setting an example. Art offers us an experiential way of viewing the world, which has a positive impact on the development and wellbeing of society. That’s why its role should be fostered at all times, but its significance is especially critical in times of crises and change,” Hildén said.
The Alum of the Year from the Theatre Academy is dramaturge, actor and musician Paula Vesala who graduated in 2014. She also has a master’s degree in playwriting from the University of California, and she has studied at the Sibelius Academy, as well.
“Everybody knows the music creator side of Vesala. It’s perhaps less well-known that Paula is an alum of the Theatre Academy: a skilled, gifted and innovative professional in the field of theatre. She has worked in nearly all artistic roles possible in theatre, from sound design to directing, writing and acting. When the COVID crisis silenced the entire field of performing arts, Vesala acted immediately and leveraged her fame to raise the voice of the cultural sector and event industry among the public as well as among decision-makers. Besides advocacy work, public demonstrations and influencing on social media, Vesala also took on concrete measures, for example by directly financially supporting the often-invisible professionals in the industry who slipped through all the safety nets during the crisis,” the Theatre Academy alumni association Teatterikorkeakoulun alumnit Ry commented the choice.
The Alum of the Year from the Academy of Fine Arts is media artist Adel Abidin, who graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2005. Abidin represented Finland at the Venice Biennale in 2007, after which his works have been on display globally in major exhibitions. Abidin was a nominee for the Ars Fennica Prize in 2011, and in 2015, he was one of the recipients of the Finland Prize, awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture for professionals in the cultural sector.
Abidin was selected as the Alum of the Year thanks to his bold contribution to the arts sector during the pandemic, for example through his piece Musical Manifest 2022, which deals with topics such as identity, power, fear and clichés. Musical Manifest is Abidin’s most recent work – a six-channel video installation that premiered in Europe at Flow Festival in the Suvilahti area of Helsinki in 2022.
The Alum of the Year from the Sibelius Academy is conductor Dalia Stasevska, who began her studies at the Sibelius Academy with the aim of becoming an orchestra musician. Stasevska played the violin first before switching to viola. After seeing Eva Ollikainen in a conducting class, Stasevska became interested in pursuing conducting as a profession and travelled to study under the tutelage of Jorma Panula at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Stasevska later returned to the Sibelius Academy where her teacher was Leif Segerstam, and she completed her orchestral conducting diploma with the highest distinction in 2012. In just a short amount of time, Stasevska has become one of the most sought-after conductors in the world. Currently, she is the chief conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the international Sibelius Festival. She is also the principal guest conductor of the world-famous BBC Symphony Orchestra.
“After her studies, Dalia has taken on an active role as a developer of the field, and she has also been an important partner for the Sibelius Academy. The academy management has appointed a team consisting of influencers in the music industry and in music education, and Stasevska is one of the team’s members tasked with sparring the Sibelius Academy on its activities, future vision and role in society. Recently, Stasevska has distinguished herself as an active commenter on social issues. She has been vocal about peace and human rights in the media, already before Russia’s attack on Ukraine,” the selection decision stated.