Blog: Government programme aims to invest in international operations of art

Frame’s Director Raija Koli reflects on her blog post, what the newly published Government programme means for the visual art field and arts professionals in Finland.

The newly elected Finnish government’s programme for the 2023–2027 parliamentary term was published last Friday. The programme A strong and committed Finland contains a chapter (starting on page 102) for culture-related entries, but in addition, proposed changes to tax and social policy will also affect arts and culture professionals in many ways. The government formed by the National Coalition Party, the Finns Party, the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland sends a mixed message to cultural professionals.

The government programme recognises the value of culture, stating how the growth of the cultural sector supports society as a whole, strengthening its well-being, creativity and sustainability. The programme also recognises the employment and growth potential of the creative industries. However, the measures to promote growth in the sector remain unclear. The preparation of a cultural policy report as set out in the programme will hopefully also specify concrete actions along with funding directed at the cultural sector, and provide an opportunity to build a long-term cultural policy in Finland. Increasing the share of the creative sectors in GDP, as envisaged in the government programme, will not be possible without additional investments. 

Instead, the gradual cut of EUR 125 million in state subsidies to the Ministry of Education and Culture over the term, as set out in the government programme, also hangs over the cultural sector, but the programme does not yet specify where the cuts will be targeted. Although no cuts to the culture budget have been agreed upon in the programme, the objective of a ‘Culture Budget Percentage’  which the sector has been pushing for, will probably remain a dream for the next government term. 

There is no specific reference to the visual arts in the government programme, although the Ministry of Education and Culture has recently identified it as a key area for development. The visual arts are already in a very weak position in terms of state funding. Further stagnating funding, not to mention possible cuts, will significantly hamper the growth and development of the sector. Indirectly, the visual arts sector in particular will be affected, for example, by the increase in the VAT rate from 10% to 14%, which will also affect most first sales of visual arts. The change will certainly not make it easier to grow the art market in Finland.

In addition to closer cross-governmental cooperation between ministries involved in the cultural sector, what is encouraging in the government programme is its desire to support and strengthen the conditions for the international operations of art and culture. As a means to achieve this, the government mentions improving the operations of Creative Finland and strengthening the role of culture in the country’s branding strategy. It is to be hoped that the strengthening measures will also focus on supporting international exhibitions and work opportunities for artists and arts organisations, which rarely happen through traditional export and instruments meant for businesses in creative industries. Frame and other Information centres are happy to help in creating effective ways forward.

However, while there is a desire to invest in the international operations of the art scene, there is a risk that it will become more difficult for international art professionals to work in Finland. The planned tightening of immigration policy is also a matter of concern for art professionals. Employment in the arts is by its very nature often irregular and already often falls through the cracks in the social security system. Tightening unemployment periods and residence permits threaten to jeopardise the position of international talent working in Finland – and Finland’s reputation as an attractive country to live and work in. International connections and opportunities do not only take place outside Finland’s borders. It is equally important to enable and secure the work of artists and other art professionals in Finland.

This week, Sari Multala of the Coalition Party was appointed as the new Minister of Culture, followed in two years by Mari-Leena Talvitie. We invite both of them to engage closely with the visual arts community and hope that together with them and the sector as a whole, we can create a more robust, more international and prosperous visual arts scene. A united effort by the whole cultural sector and an active dialogue between decision-makers and cultural operators is needed urgently to turn the government programme’s goal of cultural growth into reality.

– Raija Koli

Director, Frame Contemporary Art Finland

This blog is a platform for reflecting work, current issues and discussions in arts by Frame staff members and other contributors. This blogpost was published in English and Finnish.