Oulu2026 Cultural personality: Marta and Kim


Our cultural personalities of the week are Marta Alstadsæte from Norway and Kim-Jomi Fischer from Netherlands, artist duo known as Marta and Kim. Their main focus is creating and performing with circus and dance, and in Oulu2026 they will be doing it in collaboration with Pirjo Yli-Maunula from Flow productions. Marta and Kim thinks that Pirjo has a talent for bringing people together in Oulu and they are very excited to take part in that. Marta and Kim are already collaborating on an immersive performance in 2022, so keep an eye open on flowprod.fi if you are interested to meet them!


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! How do you feel about partnering with Oulu2026, Marta and Kim? 
It is of course a very good incentive for collaboration within Finland as well as internationally.
On a personal note, we are very happy to know already that we will come to Oulu in 2026 -it makes it easy to put efforts into our collaborations in Oulu when you know that it is a “long-term relationship”.

Marta: Also, growing up in the north of Norway, I know how important it is to facilitate international cultural exchange in the north. The reality of time and connection is just very special up there, where communities are small and we stay close to nature, and there is a lot of creative energy. But in my experience art and artistic processes grow through sharing, and you need different influences for it to really unfold.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you? 
There is this saying “you have to change to stay the same”. And by that we are not thinking in terms of improvement or innovation, but simply of being alive and moving. So to us it means that we should not get ourselves stuck in systems and ideas that keep us from participating in life. Of course climate and diversity are important topics of this time. And in the future there might be other urgent topics. But creating an environment where we take care of each other and safely can exchange ideas and thoughts, keeps us from stagnating and getting stuck.


The European Capital of Culture highlights the importance of collaboration between the Oulu2026 region and the rest of Europe. What can we learn from each other? 

We don’t know yet what we will learn, but we are sure the human strength lies in collaboration -that is how we learn. Every experience, whether we like it or not, shapes us. And that’s why it is so important to pop your bubble. Everything you know and understand was new at some point, and the moment you decide to only linger with what you already know you decide to stop living. Experiences that connect us are crucial.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026? 
Vibrating with life and energy, a bit like now but also a little different.


Send your greetings to Oulu who is now continuing their journey to the European Capital of Culture 2026. 
To the people of Oulu, we are looking forward to meeting you and hopefully to have nice conversations! To the city of Oulu, we are really excited about working on cultural projects at this level of involvement. Big international commitments like this will of course attract a lot of commercial interests, but it is also a great chance to facilitate really interesting and high quality projects, which will keep Oulu breathing and moving long after the events have passed. You will remember quality long after you forgot the price tag, so we hope you will take this opportunity to set up sustainable art projects for the people of Oulu.


Picture: Loes Schakenbos

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Jonna Kalliomäki


Our cultural personality of the week is Jonna Kalliomäki, a 35 year old visual artist (BFA, Visual and Performing Arts) with a masters in Applied Visual Arts and Nature Photography, from Kuusamo. In addition to art, photography, various types of content creation, and creative projects, Jonna acts as the Photo Competition Chairman of Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival, and as the Project Coordinator for Kuusamo in the international innovation network of artist residencies project. The project is currently piloting the Kuusamo Arctic Residence Center ARK. The residency programme in Kuusamo will collaborate with the area’s travel and nature services, as well as Northern universities, with who new operating models and ways of collaboration will be developed between art, science, nature and travel. “It feels great to offer artists and researchers around the world the opportunity to be inspired and work in this scenery. I believe that new cultural projects will make our lives even richer.” says Jonna about the residency project.

Jonna’s seaside hometown of Kristiinankaupunki was left behind long ago, and now she has been surrounded by the rugged forests and fells of Koillismaa. This new, Northern living area has captivated Jonna, and the local culture and nature have had a big role in it. Jonna’s work and spare time activities have always revolved around creative industries and she feels a extremely grateful that she gets to do work in an area she is passionate about.


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! Jonna, how do you feel about that? 

On our level, this is probably one of those moments when you will be asked if you remember where you were when Finland won gold in IIHF World Championships, or what were you doing when Oulu won the title of Capital of Culture. I remember both moments. For the latter, I was in Kuusamo. I thought that finally something that has been worked hard for, yields a well deserved outcome. That joy was easy to identify with. It also felt in the first place like a common achievement, and I believe that this will unite us all even more.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you? 

When I heard what the theme was, I considered it from the perspective of art, and where culture is en route to from that perspective. Back in the year 2006, I remember being excited on my coffee break in my summer job, because I had been accepted to study visual arts. That was a breathless moment that has been drawn into my mind. However, I do notice that arts’ meaning in wellbeing, the economy, and regional development have been highlighted. I hope the same happens for all culture, so that an open-minded atmosphere would be the air we breathe and from which we absorb positive influences to ourselves. I want to believe that in the future, art and different forms of culture are part of our everyday life, so that it shows and is heard everywhere, and creativity is seen as an opportunity which will open new doors. By changing, things stays interesting.


How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland? 

There is something unique and exotic about the North. The Capital of Culture title will bring just the right amount of contrast to strengthen the region’s unique atmosphere. By means of art and culture, places become meaningful and collaboration between different fields will increase. I predict that creative industries will grow, and their meaning will be highlighted in the society.


The European Capital of Culture highlights the importance of collaboration between the Oulu2026 region and the rest of Europe. What can we learn from each other?

Things are always examined from the perspective of the place we operate in. When creating something new, it is good to pay attention to the local culture and environment and strengthen it, while also respecting that specific area. Art is a great tool to tell about one’s place of residence, traditions, culture, and to disclose things important to us. This creates conversation and information exchange. Interaction is the key to understanding and, if we are open, our spectrum will widen and we might see and experience something novel.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026? 

I would like to think that during 2026 we will see something that no one has even dared to envision and innovate before. Brave openers, experimental culture, experiences, taking over the city space, communality and participation. More than anything, Oulu2026 is a way of life through which creativity appears as an opportunity to express yourself and create something meaningful, thereby strengthening the bond to one’s own place of residence. Art and culture will be part of the environment, sustainable development, and the cityscape, thus highlighting the unique characteristics of the area. Oulu2026 will create a new zeitgeist. The North in the year 2026 will be something that everyone wants to experience.


Photo: Eeva Mäkinen

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Jimi Heikkinen

Our cultural personality of the week is Finnish Baseball player Jimi Heikkinen, a 39 year old entrepreneur and athlete originally from Vuokatti, who has spent the majority of his career playing on the Sotkamon Jymy team. Lighthearted and open-minded, Jimi has lived in Oulu for two years now and has made himself at home with the help of the city’s rich cultural offering. He is now playing for the Oulun Lippo team, and is calling for cooperation between different cultural operators.


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! How do you feel about that?

As the 2026 European Capital of Culture, Oulu has a wonderful opportunity to show how life here in Northern Finland is, as well as what kind of elements our cultural climate consists of. Authenticity, creativity and originality are my words.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

A human is a psychophysical entity. To me, culture means comprehensive wellbeing from both the perspective of psyche, as well as physicality. As an athlete, I see a lot of potential in Cultural Climate Change, for example in young people’s different hobby opportunities and in preventing social exclusion. As an entrepreneur, I believe that Cultural Climate Change will show in the form of new partnerships, work opportunities, and the creation of jobs.


How do you think the Capital of Culture title will impact Northern Finland?

I hope the Capital of Culture title to create liveliness as well as surprising and vibrant combinations between people. The title will certainly refresh the reconstruction field after the silence forced by coronavirus thereby creating communality and participation in Northern Finland. This is something that the rest of Europe could learn from – why not the rest of Europe too.


The European Capital of Culture highlights the importance of collaboration between the Oulu2026 region and the rest of Europe. What can we learn from each other?

Finland is unique in many ways; nature, people, technological knowledge, growth development into new sectors… Reciprocity with the rest of Europe is in my opinion the sharing of versatile and multifaceted know-how, and refining them into one but without flattening the typical characteristics of each country.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026?

In the year 2026, Oulu will shine as a vital capital of Northern Finland. It has been formed into a community with idea rich networks, and is even more courageous about grabbing different collaboration opportunities. This will certainly be reflected in the cultural wellbeing of the whole city of Oulu.

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Alice Sharp

Our cultural personality of the week is Alice Sharp, the Artistic Director of Invisible Dust, an UK based organisation she set up in 2009. The organisation works with visual artists and scientists to explore the climate crisis and environmental concerns through art. In response to both COVID-19 and climate change, Alice developed an international online programme for Invisible Dust, Forecast, to bring together different perspectives to explore our uncertain future. She believes that artists give people a confident starting point to form their own course of action that will eventually lead to them having their own personal relationship with climate change.


Oulu, together with 32 Northern Finnish municipalities, is the year 2026 European Capital of Culture! Alice, how do you feel about partnering with Oulu2026?

I’m very excited! To have the opportunity to work with the Oulu team and Oulu region residents on the theme of highlighting environmental issues through culture. This is so close to our own Invisible Dust mission of working between artists and scientists on climate change! Since I set up Invisible Dust things have moved on and the urgency to address the climate crisis has increased.

I’m looking forward to bringing my experience from speaking at many organisations across the world on the importance of art and science to a sustainable future to Oulu and working with artists to explore the local and European perspectives and ideas. My recent experience that I will bring includes talking at Davos 2020, Future Earth’s (set up by the UN to support scientists working on Sustainable Development) interdisciplinary conference SRI2021, and New York Insider Magazine who asked me to speak at their sustainability event in April for 85,000 people online!

COVID-19 has brought home the sense that I already had with the challenge of climate change. We are all connected internationally. A universal language is required so that we can understand climate change and decide what we want to do locally as well as globally. I see art as a universal language, for example, an artwork such as a sculpture can be understood wherever you are in the world, whatever your language or customs.


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

Since I started developing ideas for a permanent sculpture project to address the ‘Culture Climate Change’ theme, the pandemic has changed our world and brought the importance of working through culture to address climate change even more to the fore.

For me, it is artists who give us a real sense of value and connect to the personal. For example, if you wanted people to understand the importance of water quality. The scientists would give us data on the pollution in the water, the economists might give you the price it would cost to clean up a river but an artist might create a wonderful film which shows things such as the joy of anglers fishing in clean water and families having picnic by the riverside. The film would enable us to connect to water quality on a personal level. I believe that people make positive sustainable changes when their heart leads them, and they are personally connected. The circumstances of COVID-19 give a vital opportunity for people like me that work with artists to ensure they are given opportunities to work with communities and on international projects to increase awareness on the effect of our own behaviour on everyone else. Cultural Climate Change is the way forward!


The European Capital of Culture highlights the importance of collaboration between the Oulu2026 region and the rest of Europe. What can we learn from each other?

Oulu has won the bid and I am delighted this is the case. I think it is vital to tell the story of how climate change is affecting the subarctic climate in the region. There is not enough knowledge or press coverage across Europe on how it is affecting the colder regions. I hope that my project ‘Climate Clock’ and the other Oulu2026 projects will raise awareness and profile of the local situation and enable a broader vision of climate change across the length and breadth of Europe.

The COVID-19 pandemic like the climate change crisis has reinforced for me the importance of working together across Europe for a positive future. With these international challenges it is vital to work together, to share ideas and to learn from each other. Many aspects of climate change are not solvable in one country, let me give a couple of examples: plastic pollution in the sea or supporting endangered bird species. The pollution moves from one part of the sea to another and birds fly to different countries. It is much more effective to work together across different parts of Europe to create solutions to environmental problems like these. It is a huge strength to a project on climate change to work Europe wide as both climate and COVID-19 affect everyone, everywhere. I would like to inspire people across all the municipalities to connect and support each other both on a local level and internationally.


What will Oulu look and feel like in the year 2026?

Energising, exciting, atmospheric, creative, thought-provoking and sharing a positive environmental message.

Bringing together both local and international artists together to spark and inspire new art. Drawing from the Oulu region’s history, culture, art, science and technology. Involving communities in their own creativity and forming connections to climate change across all the municipalities and attracting visitors from all over the world. With the legacy built into every project to benefit Oulu in tackling climate change.


Send your greetings to Oulu who is now continuing their journey to the European Capital of Culture 2026.

Well done to the Oulu2026 team! I am looking forward to working together to make it amazing!

Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Uusi Rakkaus


Our cultural personality series is still not returning to its familiar mould, as also this week we are introducing an entire band, Uusi Rakkaus, instead of one personality.

Uusi Rakkaus is a rock band consisting of six members: Niko Laamanen, Juha Pääkkö, Aleksi Kauhanen, Juuso Kumpulainen, Lasse Jauhola and Lasse Rasinkangas. The band from Oulu just released their debut single “Hullunkiilto”, which was produced with the help of Mara Salminen, who has been working with for example Zen Café, and new songs are to be recorded during June. The sextet is enthusiastic about the summer and future gigs – and they have all already gone swimming after the winter, of course at Tuira’s sauna raft!


Uusi Rakkaus, how does life look like and feel now during these exceptional times?
“Life looks bright, looking towards summer and the opening of the world. We have agreed upon gigs, are already practicing live performances and will record more new songs during June.”


How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?
“Oulu looks really lively, especially its cultural sector. The last year has afforded plenty of time for making art, and new bands/publications appear every week. There is a great level of competence and many active people in Oulu. It’s great to be a part of this group.”


Oulu, together with 32 other municipalities, is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). Why would northern Finland be suitable to win the race?

“There has always come a lot of culture from northern Finland. Due to the remote location the culture is unique, and things develop in a close connection to each other. Oulu presents culture pervasively and by acknowledging the people behind the work. In Ouluian culture one can perceive simultaneously the high professional level as well as the laid-back attitude towards doing things, which is often associated to northern Finland. People come from smaller towns to live in Oulu, so this can be considered a meeting point of cultures.”


What does our leading theme, cultural climate change, mean to you?

“Cultural climate change means for us the return of rock bands and band music, like it had never been gone in the first place! In these times there is a lot of talk about forgetting culture, but exceptional times have always had a similar affect in this respect. So we are excited to find out what the post-pandemic time brings with it.”


Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture

“Greetings and a lot of love from the entire orchestra. We are rock and we want to be that together with you!”


Image: Raisa Koskela



Oulu2026 Cultural Personality: Jakob Kudsk Steensen

Jakob Kudsk Steensen

Our cultural personality of the week is the Danish artist, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, whose work focuses on how humans, technology and natural environments connect. He is known to bring together physical, virtual, real and imagined landscapes in mixed reality, interactive and immersive installations.


Jakob, how does life look like and feel now during these exceptional times?

This year has given me the opportunity to refine my focus to the hyper local, the sensory and to opening up the idea of the creative process. Life feels more organic, chaotic and less bound by traditional barriers and expectations. For me, this means a more organic approach to exploring an artwork. First, I engage with the physical and environmental, and to bring this energy into the virtual. This allows other poets, artists, creators and musicians to join and also bring their own unique inspirations and energy into the work as an evolving organic matter, much like life right now.


How do you feel about partnering with Oulu2026?

I am very excited to partner with Oulu for the 2026 European Capital of Culture! The approach I use is based on investigating overlooked perspectives of the local environment. I am looking forward to spending quality time and immersion in Oulu as I develop the artwork, learning and seeking inspiration in its many forms, including a collaboration with local choirs and musicians, by which I am very much inspired.


Oulu, together with 32 other municipalities, is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). Why would Northern Finland be suitable to win the race?

Northern Finland, strong in its character, is also at the edge of the arctic and facing change at a greater than ever pace. Now is the time we must pay attention and celebrate the culture of this region. How can we experience what this precipice of change looks like throughout history and across perspectives?


What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?

With the advance of climate transformations worldwide we are entering a new landscape, geographically, politically – but also emotionally and sensory. When the exterior world changes, our inner states also transform and adapt. I am interested in exploring the unseen and unsung perspectives of these Cultural Climate Change, and weave wonderment from the past to the future, beyond timescales, through new ways of sensing and feeling each other and the natural world around us.


Photo: Courtesy of the Artist