Detail of image by Kirsi Syrlin
WHAT IS HIAA?
The Helsinki International Artists’ Association was founded in 2008 by Susan Wilander as a registered artists’ association as an inclusive association for residents of Finland. It has grown into a successful association with over 100 members, all artists who live or work in Finland but hail from all around the world. With their diverse backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, artists from HIAA work together to create a place where artists can meet, talk and create.
HIAA organizes a variety of activities throughout the year, ranging from workshops to exhibitions and participating in festivals as well as supporting its member’s solo exhibitions and events.
The board is dedicated to displaying our international member’s work to the public and creating a community that supports and expands the international culture in Finland.
HIAA is a member of Union of Finnish Art Association’s (www.skjl.fi) since August 18th, 2016.
THE HISTORY OF HELSINKI INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS’ ASSOCIATION RY.
The birth of HIAA lies in the gloomy, dark Helsinki November in 2006. Susan Wilander had just returned to Finland after ten years abroad and the Finnish reality hit hard on the face in the form of wind, cold and slush (not The Slush, though). She wanted to join an international artist community to discuss, share experiences, talk about art and also exhibit together – as the Helsinki gallery rents were already then exorbitant.
Susan had been a part of an association of this kind in Brussels, the API – Art Perspective International, and had fond memories of that time. A group of different nationalities put together seemed to create the kind of out of the box thinking that was fresh and exciting and the local members of the group could help the newcomers learn the ropes of the art community.
After some searching it was clear that there was no such group in Helsinki yet. Susan put a posting to an expat discussion forum looking for other artists interested in collaboration. She received a reply from Canal Jägerroos, and they met in the cold of the January 2007 at Café Ursula to discuss the possibilities of starting a new association. As the spring grew closer, plans were formed. The two of them put out advertisements around the town and distributed invitations in social media and art schools to get artists to the first meeting of the new international artists’ association. The meeting was held in a rented venue in Kruununhaka.
The meeting proved more successful than Susan or Canal could have guessed with about 40 attendees present. They discussed about the hopes of the future members – what was it that the artists wanted from this kind of an association and how it should proceed. It was clear that two factors rose above everything else – the possibility to exhibit together and the chance for social contacts between artist colleagues.
The new group started to plan future activities and the first group exhibition was held in September 2007 at Wanhan Aseman Makasiinit in Porvoo. The founding meeting was held and the first board included Susan Wilander as the chairman, Canal Jägerroos as the deputy chairman and members Tea Jarma-Vartiainen, Sini Anttila-Rodriguez, Semra Türkmen and Hong Liu-Sertti (who also designed the original logo for the association).
The association’s registration came through in 2008 and the official base for the activities was founded. Group exhibitions were held at least once a year, usually more. Some of the most important activities in the early days were the regular meetings and the board meetings. They were held in various places ranging from cafes to studios, library meeting rooms to museum lobby. Every now and then the subject of getting an own place or even a gallery for the association rose up, but the financial realities and responsibilities connected to it made it non-feasible. Thus, the association has held exhibitions in almost all of the Helsinki cultural centres, in Sanomatalo, various galleries, libraries, studios, hospitals – even in a shop window.
From the early beginning HIAA has been open to cooperation with other organizations in the cultural field. Excellent collaboration and discussions with for example the then Regional Artist Outi Korhonen and Catalysti, Helsinki cultural centres such as Caisa, and several other actors of the international arts field in Helsinki from individual artists to gallery owners have helped to form the association.