Diversity and new possibilities – areas of focus for new experts


Photo by Alexander Brenner. From left: Emile Péronard, Dina Afkhampour, Kaarel Oja.
Photo by Alexander Brenner. From left: Emile Péronard, Dina Afkhampour, Kaarel Oja.

Most of the grant programmes administered by the Nordic Culture Point have a number of experts in culture whose task is to allocate the programme funds according to how they assess the quality of the project proposals. These experts have different backgrounds, but all are professionally active in the field of culture and art. In the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture the expert groups assess projects for three years. During the first Tuesday and Wednesday of February the newly elected group for 2018-2020 received a warm welcome at the office of the Nordic Culture Point in Helsinki where they participated in a start-up meeting.

During the first day, the participants received an introduction to the grant programmes, their guidelines and the application process. Day two was more focused on hands-on exercises where the experts worked with, among other things, the Rimbert application system and participated in a role-playing exercise. In this latter activity the experts pretended to be potential applicants to the grant programme and were instructed to respond to a number of claims. If they agreed that their respective character could match the claims, they had to move forward on a “privilege walk”. If not, they remained still.

Turið Johannessen, one of the Nordic Culture Point’s programme advisers, explained to the experts that the point of this exercise was to “help make you aware of diversity as a quality” as well as to discover how, for example, an applicant’s cultural background or art field might influence their application process. Another factor may be how well the programme applicants are able to express themselves in writing, one of the experts pointed out who had played a dyslexic character with a really good project idea.

One of the participants, Kaarel Oja, found himself in the unique position of having been chosen as an expert for the second time in the past nine years. However, he had no doubts about agreeing to this as he only had fond memories from his previous three-year period. “Last time I evaluated projects in the Funding for artist residencies programme” he says, “Now I have the opportunity to work with Network funding, which I’m looking forward to.” Then, as now, Kaarel represents the cultural expertise of Estonia. He talks about how 7-8 years ago there were no organisations which were fully focused on running artist in residency programmes in his home country. “But thanks to the Funding for artist residencies, the needed funds and competency could come to Estonia and accelerate the development of these.” Today, he tells us, there are some really well run centers in the country.

Dina Afkhampour comes from Sweden and she can see great opportunities for what the programme can achieve. “The work we are going to perform is important since we are influencing the representation of all kinds of Nordic people and can have a hand in that creating an accessible platform for, let’s say, minority groups working with culture”, she says. “Culture is the meeting point of so many people. It’s not something you can create on your own – you need that clash of creativity to build societies.”

From Greenland hails the expert Emile Hertling Péronard. He currently resides in Copenhagen, but has maintained a strong bond to the country where he grew up and works with, among other things, trying to kickstart the Greenlandic film scene. Emile is convinced of the benefits of Nordic cooperation (which in this case, includes the Baltic countries). To him it feels natural to work with the fellow the nations of the North and to strengthen their cohesion. “It’s important,” Emile explains, “to recognize that people can make a dynamic society through cultural collaboration – and how government funds can be used to stimulate this.”

When asked what message the interviewees would like to send to future applicants of the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture, Kaarel proclaimed: “I encourage everyone to apply who has read the programme requirements and understand their aim. Apply! And apply again if it doesn’t work out the first time because you need to develop your idea“. Everyone agreed with this statement.

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