Photo: Veikko Kähkönen / Uniarts Helsinki

A groundbreaking professorship of art pedagogy in higher education donated to Uniarts Helsinki

The professorship, established with support from the Saastamoinen Foundation, will focus on research in the education of professional artists.

For years, artist training has been based on the idea that artists teach artists. Hardly any research has been conducted on the theoretical basis and the methods of higher education provided for artists. That is why Uniarts Helsinki will now establish a new five-year professorship of art pedagogy in higher education thanks to funding from the Saastamoinen Foundation.

Art pedagogy in higher education is a new theme that has not been explored much in research, not even internationally speaking. As far as is known, the newly founded professorship at Uniarts Helsinki is, in fact, the first of its kind in the world. An international recruitment procedure will be launched to fill the position next year. The selected professor will set up a research group that will focus on university-level artist training and forge international networks in the field. 

“Uniarts Helsinki has a national responsibility to provide the highest possible education in the arts in Finland. We want to take an ambitious approach to art pedagogy in higher education and act as a forerunner in this new discipline,” says Jaana Erkkilä-Hill, Uniarts Helsinki’s Vice Rector responsible for research.

The professorship will focus on research in the higher education of professional artists, in particular. In this sense, the field is different from art education, which relies on pedagogical research. Art education has a long history, and it is a field of education and research also at Uniarts Helsinki in music, dance and theatre. Experts of art education work in basic education in the arts, for example. 

The focus in the newly established professorship is on the education of visual artists. Later on, the aim is to branch out and carry out research also in other fields represented by the university, namely music, theatre and dance.

“The education of professional artists is largely based on tradition. But in the context of a university, the teaching provided for students should be research-based when it comes to not only the content of teaching, but also the teaching methods. We don’t have a sufficient amount of research-based knowledge and critical examination on what future artists should be learning and how they should be taught. The new professorship will meet exactly this need,” notes Johanna Vakkari, Vice Dean of Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts.

“The Saastamoinen Foundation has a long history in providing support for Finnish fine arts. This professorship complements the internationalisation programme that we launched with Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts already in 2015. We find that education in the arts and the research sector are international by default, and this new professorship opens up possibilities for engaging in a dialogue with an impact that extends beyond Finland,” says Marja Karttunen, board member of the Saastamoinen Foundation. 

Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts and the Saastamoinen Foundation have a long history of cooperation with the goal of developing education in fine arts. The Foundation was one of the biggest supporters in the matched-funding campaign of Uniarts Helsinki in 2016–2017, and the Foundation has also supported the internationalisation of the Academy’s students and alumni through e.g. sponsoring a long-term mentoring and residency programme. Thanks to the collaboration with the Foundation, the Academy of Fine Arts will host the fifth keynote lecture, held by Argentinian researcher-curator Andrea Giunta, in February 2020.