A battle of the worlds is being waged in the office of the Finnish Minister of Culture, Paavo Arhinmäki. A tiny globe rolls on the playing field, kicked by plastic Shiva and Christ figurines. Finally the strains of “halleluiah” sound in the air. The minister’s team has won 5–3.
What is your view of the significance of culture and art in today’s society?
Every nation needs culture. It unites people and promotes a sense of participation. Culture brings joy and wellbeing to people, and the inventiveness of art has a stimulating effect. On the other hand, art also addresses social injustices.
We live in very interesting times, when the boundaries between popular and high culture are changing, they are no longer as clear-cut as they used to be. Art is difficult to categorise, which is a good thing.
Is there a way to make art and people come together?
The consumption of culture is very concentrated: the people who enjoy art and culture do it on a broad front. Meanwhile, some people never attend any cultural events.
One way of improving the accessibility of art would be to ensure that there is art in public buildings, such as hospitals or schools. Moreover, art should not be confined to indoor spaces, it should also be brought to residential districts, for example. Also, the idea that one should be knowledgeable about art before one can enjoy it, should be dismantled.
What kind of culture resonates with you personally?
In my free time, which is very rarely these days, I attend all sorts of cultural events. I visit exhibitions and galleries, I like to go to the theatre and I listen to music. And I follow football.
I find it delightful that art can already be found in so many different places: on construction site hoardings (such as the one behind the Finlandia Hall!), in the streets and in brownfields.
The subtitle of the Thank You for the Music exhibition opening in January is How Music Moves Us. What kind of music moves you?
Although I don’t confine myself to any specific genre, it’s mostly popular music. Finnish rap, American rap music from the 80s, 90s British pop, Finnish popular music in general...
Are you a fan?
I not very comfortable with the word fan, particularly if it involves the idea of fanaticism. I mainly associate fandom with football, and I prefer to think of myself as a supporter rather than a fan. Supporters are the truly loyal people, but also the critical ones. In music, I can imagine myself getting a fan experience at a gig of, say, Oasis or Noel Gallagher, but I would never lose my head even if I met Noel Gallagher face to face.
Will Finland play in the Football World Cup in 2030?
I should hope we will participate in championship games even before that. But to achieve that we must get young players more time in the Veikkausliiga division. We also need more qualified coaches for junior players.
But I think the greatest contribution here comes from schools. The time after school ends and before evening hobbies begin is long, and schools should be encouraged to organise activities for the afternoon, such as providing opportunities to play football in the yard, for example. Schools have a responsibility n both sports and culture. When the status of art and physical education is improved in the school curriculum and schools are given better resources to support sports and the cultural activities of children and young people, everyone gets an equal opportunity to develop their skills and engage in rewarding activities.