New Honorary Doctors of the University of the Arts Helsinki: Kaija Saariaho, Seela Sella, Ralf Långbacka and ten other influencers in the arts

The first joint conferment ceremony in the University of the Arts Helsinki (Uniarts Helsinki) invites the public to the programmed procession.

Uniarts Helsinki will organise its first joint conferment ceremony (a celebration of the completion of university studies) on 8–10 June. During the ceremony, graduated masters and doctors from the academies of Uniarts Helsinki will be conferred. 13 Honorary Doctors will also be conferred. The title of an Honorary Doctor is the highest acknowledgement that the university can grant. The new Honorary Doctors are composer Kaija Saariaho, actor Seela Sella, director Ralf Långbacka and ten other influencers in the arts.

Kaija Saariaho is the best-known Finnish contemporary composer. She has composed operas, works for symphony orchestras, vocal music and chamber music. Through the years, Saariaho has been granted many notable awards and recognitions, most recently the Frontiers of Knowledge Award that she was granted last February, which is one of the most important music awards in the world.

Seela Sella has worked as a professional actor for 60 years. She has acted for example in Turku and Hämeenlinna City Theatres, Finnish National Theatre, TTT-Theatre and Theatre Jurkka. Sella has been granted several acknowledgements and awards, such as the Pro Finlandia Medal, State Prize for Theatre and both a Jussi and a Venla award.

Ralf Långbacka is a theatre and film director, scriptwriter, theatre director and academic. He has directed about 140 theatre and opera performances and led the Åbo Svenska Teater, Turku City Theatre and Helsinki City Theatre.

The title of Honorary Doctor will also be granted to visual artist Satu Kiljunen who participated in launching doctoral studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, and visual artist Markus Konttinen who was the Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in 2010–2012 and Dean in 2013–2017. The other Honorary Doctors conferred are choreographer, art academic and founder of the Raatikko dance theatre, Marjo Kuusela; Chairperson of The Kone Foundation Hanna Nurminen; investment banker and Chairman of the Board of Leonora ja Yrjö Paloheimon säätiö Foundation, Lauri Paloheimo; Canadian artist and philosopher Erin Manning; American conceptual artist Mary Kelly; American jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg; Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili; and British musician and professor Derek Scott.

“The first joint conferment at Uniarts Helsinki honours art and artists across the borders of different art forms. The Honorary Doctors are pioneers in their fields in Finland and around the world. Together with the masters and doctors, they are celebrating the power and meaning of art as a builder of the future,” says Rector Jari Perkiömäki.

Invitation to the programmed procession!

One of the most spectacular events of the conferment is the joint procession of the Masters, Doctors and Honorary Doctors of Arts and Uniarts Helsinki staff through Helsinki city centre on Saturday 9 June from 1.30 pm onwards.

During the procession, there will be programmed greetings on the Kiasma museum balcony and on the steps of The National Museum of Finland and the Parliament House. The greetings have been created with dancer and choreographer Pia Lindy and a student group. There will also be video art by the students of the Academy of Fine Arts displayed on the media wall of the Helsinki Music Centre.

The public is welcome to watch the procession. It will start at the Helsinki Music Centre at 1.30 pm and proceed to Temppeliaukio Rock Church and Kunsthalle.

Uniarts Helsinki offers the highest education in the arts in Finland, and it is a strong influencer in the society. Uniarts Helsinki was created in 2013 as the Academy of Fine Arts, the Sibelius Academy and the Theatre Academy were merged together. The roots of these three academies are deep within the Finnish heart, Finnish art education and art history.

Conferment ceremony

The first joint conferment ceremony for masters and doctors is held at Uniarts Helsinki  on 8–10 June 2018. The ceremony is a three-day event that confers masters, doctors and honorary doctors. During the event, the conferrees i.e. the promovendi celebrate the completion of their studies and the beginning of a new life after their studies. The tradition began in the Middle Ages as the universities wanted to celebrate the conferment of academic titles. Originally the conferment ceremony was the celebration of completed studies where the candidates and licentiates were granted the title of master or doctor after having completed their masters studies or doctoral studies. Nowadays the conferment ceremony is no longer a ceremony where the degree is conferred; its meaning as an academic celebration has become more significant. Conferment ceremonies for masters and doctors have been organised at the Sibelius Academy in 1997, 2003 and 2012, and at the Academy of Fine Arts in 2006. The Theatre Academy organised a doctoral conferment ceremony in 2009. The tradition is almost one thousand years old in Europe, and in Finland conferment ceremonies have been organised since 1643.

Further information

Eveliina Olsson
Head of Communications
tel. 050 598 649