ITE. Contemporary Folk Art in Finland

by | Jul 20, 2013 | From the Road


One never knows where the winds of this Mr. YooWho’s Summer Holiday Finnish tour will lead.  One of the first performances is at the wonderful Vanha Savu Art Gallery in Merikarvia, an older wooden fish smoking house lounging the tiny little harbor.  Turns out my show is part of the gallery’s opening of a new exhibition of ITE, which is quite an amazing contemporary art movement in Finland.  To quote the Ite Art Museum’s webpage:

ITE art is Finnish contemporary folk art. The acronym ITE comes from the Finnish words ‘itse tehty elämä’, i.e. self-made life. ITE is art which is dependent on its maker’s environment and experience; it is a way to live a good life that emphasises aesthetic values.

Indeed,  after seeing the artworks, I feel lucky to be landing here, especially as many of the artists are present.  Until a few hours before, it was just an event on paper on a calendar. No clue I would be at an art gallery by the sea.  The art sparks my camera to life, which in turn, motivates this post-the photos are below!  Jouko Ilvonen, who runs the gallery (and the town library,) is also coordingating this event.  His son, and a bandmate, are there to  offer up several sets of bluegrass folk on guitar and mandolin. Yes Johnny Cash and old Dylan way out in Finland.  We set up the stage on the wooden dock hugging the corner of the building, somewhat sheltered from steady wind blowing off the Baltic. The stage has it’s own spirit guardian, a  Finnish totem pole of sorts (photo below.) I do my best to shelter the cigar boxes and wind-up penguin from blasting wind gusts that spontaneously appears now and… Zen… Imagine preparing to balance, on your nose, a precariously placed crystal glass of water standing on top of a flimsy stack of light cigar boxes.  And just what is the wind going to do ???

Afterwards, inside the gallery, Jouko introduces all the artists and their art, we toast our success. We all  receive nicely wrapped slices of smoked fish, and applause, and then we all head out to have pizza together at the local doner spot….and while we wait for the pizza, we head to the gallery to sea a life size statue of the tallest man ever, this Finnish 8 foot giant who lived mid twentieth century. There is a great video report, and photos, and newspaper articles. Even a couple of his shoes, and his especially made bicycle are displayed. Dang is he huge!

Turns out that one of my next tour stops is the town Pietarsaari, for their annual Jacobs Dagan week.   Just 30 kilometers up the coast in Kokkola is the Official Ite Museum. I am planning to make a little visit up that way broaden my horizons….

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