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Our cultural personality of the week is Henna Ryynänen, an illustrator, a children’s author and a visual artist, who is currently working on the third book, to be released in the summer, in her children’s book series that follows a dog called Myry. Despite the pandemic, Ryynänen is enjoying a surprisingly social life at the moment as a part of the artist community of Pikisaari. As a counterweight to making books Ryynänen, who describes herself as a “wool sock footed Ouluian”, makes illustrations for companies and associations, paints and felts.

Henna, how does your life look like and feel now during these exceptional times?
“Right before the start of the pandemic I rented an office in Pikisaari from kulttuurikiihdyttämö TILA together with four other artists. There is a lot of bustle in the Telegram group of the tenants of the building as people are sharing their thoughts about future events, workshops and cultural activity. Once the restrictions are removed there will be a lot of open doors events and opportunities to familiarize with the work of the artists.

It’s nice to be a part of a congenial and enthusiastic art community. I have now been a solo entrepreneur for eight years and due to the working space in Pikisaari the year has brought a change to a more social direction, as funny as that may sound under the current circumstances.”

How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?
“I just went for a walk and the wintery Oulu is at its best right now. When you look at the sun dancing in the crowns of the pines and hear the birds singing, you can not feel anything other than joy and peace”

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?
“The potential of the north is diverse. The closeness to nature combined with a positive cultural bubbling brings an interesting dimension. When basic things are done well there is room left for creativity. The most important strength comes from the people who live here.”

What does our leading theme, Cultural Climate Change, mean to you?
“For me Cultural Climate Change means taking into consideration the small everyday things. There is a lot of hidden potential here that just needs to be realized. An example of this are the city’s dozens of high-quality playgrounds, which are located next to good bicycle lanes. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else. A rental place for box bikes could be set up somewhere, and it would be great if you could also get a map to the different playgrounds and to other fun sights. The city center and its surrounding areas are full of interesting statues, beaches, park forests and ice cream kiosks. Art could be combined with this route idea. And of course winter cycling as well, which is certainly an experience for many, although for oneself it might just feel like a sweaty everyday activity.”

Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture
“This is a great achievement, but this is only the beginning!”