Theatre Academy’s key years and rectors

Read about the Theatre Academy’s important years and rectors from the time before the University of the Arts Helsinki.

The birth of the Theatre Academy coincided with major reforms and revolutions within the worlds of academia and the arts in the 1960s and 1970s. Dr Timo Kallinen’s book Teatterikorkeakoulun synty (“The Birth of the Theatre Academy”) describes how the Theatre Academy evolved from a vocational school to a polytechnic and a higher education academy.

Key years of the Theatre Academy

  • 1866–68: Finland’s first theatre school operates at the Nya Teatern.
  • 1904–40: Finnish-language actors are trained at the Student School of the Finnish National Theatre and at the private Finnish Stage School.
  • 1908: The Swedish theatre school, Svenska Teaterskolan, is established at the Svenska Teatern.
  • 1943: The Finnish Theatre School opens. The first rector of the school is the distinguished theatre leader Vilho Ilmari, who stays at the helm until 1963.
  • 1956: The Central Library of Theatre opens.
  • 1962: The higher education department of the Finnish Theatre School begins to train directors and dramaturges.
  • 1971: The acting department and the higher education department are merged into one. The merger establishes the joint education of actors, directors, and dramaturges.
  • 1973: The first continuing professional education programmes start.
  • 1979: The Finnish and Swedish-language schools are merged into a single national and bilingual theatre academy. The Central Library becomes part of the academy, and a training centre opens at the library.
  • 1983: The dance programme opens to its first students.
  • 1986: The sound and lighting design programme opens to its first students.
  • 1988: The doctoral programme is established. The Department of Lighting and Sound Design moves to Tampere.
  • 1991: The first Licentiate of Arts/Theatre and Drama degree is completed at the academy.
  • 1992: The academy moves from its facilities in Eira and Töölö to the Helsinki Hall of Culture and the nearby industrial facility Paahtimo. Only the Dance Department and the Department of Lighting and Sound Design stay at the old premises.
  • 1993: The new facilities of the Department of Lighting and Sound Design are completed in Tampere.
  • 1994: The Departments of Directing and of Dramaturgy are merged into one.
  • 1995: The academy adopts a two-cycle degree structure leading to a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The Central Library of Theatre and Dance moves to Paahtimo. The Helsinki Act festival is launched.
  • 1996: The Department of Art Pedagogy opens. The Degree Programme in Musical Theatre opens as part of the Department of Acting.
  • 1997: The teacher training master’s programme is launched at the Department of Art Pedagogy.
  • 1998/99: The Nordic master’s programme in theatre starts.
  • 1999: The Theatre Academy celebrates its 20th anniversary. The first Doctor of Arts/Theatre and Drama degree is completed at the academy.
  • 2000: On 1 June, the Theatre Academy moves to new facilities on Haapaniemenkatu. The official opening ceremony is held on 18 January 2001.
  • 2001: The Degree Programme in Performing Arts and Theory is launched.
  • 2003: The Department of Dance celebrates its 20th anniversary.
  • 2004: The Theatre Academy celebrates its 25th anniversary.
  • 2006: The Department of Lighting and Sound Design celebrates its 20th anniversary.
  • 2007: The Department of Lighting and Sound Design moves back to Helsinki from Tampere. The Department of Dance and Theatre Pedagogy celebrates its 10th anniversary.
  • 2009: The Theatre Academy turns 30 and celebrates its first doctoral conferment ceremony.
  • 2010: With the new Universities Act, the Theatre Academy’s legal status changes from a government accounting office to a public corporation.
  • 2013: The Theatre Academy Helsinki, the Academy of Fine Arts, and Sibelius Academy merge to become the University of the Arts Helsinki.

Rectors 1979–2012

  • Eero Melasniemi, 1 August 1979 – 31 December 1982
  • Jouko Turkka, 1 January 1983 – 31 July 1985
  • Outi Nyytäjä, 1 August 1985 – 31 March 1987 (on leave of absence from 1 January to 31 March 1987)
  • Marianne Möller, 1 January 1987 – 31 July 1988 (as a substitute until 31 March 1987; acting until 31 July 1988)
  • Marja-Liisa Martón, 1 August 1988 – 31 July 1990
  • Raila Leppäkoski, 1 August 1990 – 31 July 1991
  • Kari Rentola, 1 August 1991 – 31 July 1997*
  • Lauri Sipari, 1 August 1997 – 31 July 2005
  • Paula Tuovinen, 1 August 2005 – 31 December 2012

 * In accordance with section 20a of the decree on the Theatre Academy (813/91), the rector and vice rector were elected from among the full-time teachers as of 1 August 1991. Prior to 1 August 1991, the academy had rector’s and vice rector’s posts.

Assistant rectors and vice rectors 1979–2012

  • Marianne Möller, 1 August 1979 – 31 December 1982
  • Johan Simberg, 1 January 1987 – 31 July 1988
  • Marianne Möller, 1 August 1988 – 31 May 1989 (on leave of absence from 1 June 1989 to 31 May 1991)
  • Johan Simberg, 1 September 1989 – 31 July 1990 (as a substitute)
  • Martin Kurtén, 1 August 1990 – 31 May 1991
  • Johanna Enckell, 1 August 1991* – 31 December 1992
  • Lauri Sipari, 1 January 1993 – 31 December 1996
  • Marja-Liisa Kuuranne-Autelo, 1 January 1997 – 31 July 1997
  • Marjo Kuusela, 1 August 1997 – 31 July 2000
  • Juha-Pekka Hotinen, 1 August 2000 – 31 July 2005
  • Erik Söderblom, 1 August 2005 – 31 October 2009
  • Maarit Ruikka, 1 January 2010 – 31 December 2012
  • Esa Kirkkopelto, 1 January 2010 – 31 December 2012

* By the amendment of the decree on the Theatre Academy (813/91), the assistant rector’s post was changed to vice rector and became an elected position open to full-time teachers as of 1 August 1991.

The Theatre Academy main building – a piece of industrial history

On 1 June 2000, the Theatre Academy moved to the Sörnäinen district of Helsinki from five different addresses. Standing on the corner of Sörnäisten rantatie and Haapaniemenkatu, the low-rise building was built in 1912 as the factory of coconut butter manufacturer Kokos Oy, after which the building was later named Kookos (“Coconut”).

The building was designed by architect Albert Nyberg. In 1926, the building and plot were purchased by Kone Oy, and a second storey was added to the building. The company, a manufacturer of elevators, built its factory and headquarters on the site. Kone Oy operated in the building until 1967. After that, the premises accommodated small industries, repair workshops, storage facilities, factory shops, offices, and a gym, for example.

The building had been empty since the start of the 1990s. The Helsinki Society (Helsinki-seura) and Architectural Society (Rakennustaiteellinen seura) campaigned to save the building instead of demolishing it. In 1990, Oranssi association occupied the building, which was significant for its preservation. After the Haka Corporation went bankrupt, the property was purchased by Merita Kiinteistöt Oy in spring 1996. The Theatre Academy initiative was launched in 1997. In January 1999, the property was sold to the Local Governments Pension Institution. The renovation and design of the Theatre Academy’s facilities were entrusted to the architecture firm Stefan Ahlman Oy.

In 2021, a new Kuva+ building will be finished for the use of the Academy of Fine Arts on Sörnäisten rantatie next door to the Theatre Academy. Together, the buildings will form the Uniarts Helsinki’s Sörnäinen campus that will focus on fine arts and theatre and dance education.