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Veikko Halmetoja to Curate Mänttä Art Festival 2018

Mänttä Art Festival has selected gallery owner, art critic and curator Veikko Halmetoja (b. 1977) as the curator and artistic director of its 2018 exhibition.

Veikko Halmetoja is an all-round expert on visual arts, not least because he spent his childhood and youth in Mänttä. He first became involved with the Art Festival as an 18-year-old intern in 1995, when the exhibition venues included an entire block of flats in the Mänttä Town Centre. Last summer, at the age of 39, Halmetoja himself got to curate an exhibition set in a condemned block of flats in Mäntyharju.

– I have always been more of a hands-on than a scholarly type. This might be due to my past in Mänttä. I have learnt that ultimately, art workers always have to sink their hands into clay, Halmetoja reflects.
He thinks that exhibitions aren't curated in study rooms, but rather by living among the artists and their works and experiencing the artworks first-hand in the exhibition space.

Empowering, Experiential Art

– In art, I prefer to seek experiences that get under your skin rather than an intellectual challenge.

Halmetoja promises the XXIII Mänttä Art Festival to be an exhibition both down-to-earth and tangible, featuring a wide variety of artists and artworks.
– I want this exhibition to be an integrative and empowering experience.

The paths of the Art Festival and Veikko Halmetoja have run parallel for quite a while and crossed on several occasions. During 2007–2010, he even served as the Art Festival's Executive Director.

The summer of 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary of the first Mänttä Art Festival. Halmetoja is excited to take on the challenge.
– I feel that they were curious to see what kind of an exhibition could be curated by someone who knows every inch of Pekilo, the Art Festival's main venue.

Exhibition-wise, year 2017 has been quite hectic for Veikko Halmetoja. His schedule has included both smaller solo exhibitions and extensive group exhibitions.
– Apart from the block of flats in Mäntyharju, some of the more laborious projects have included Bridge at Helsinki's Virka Gallery, an exhibition delving into the intertwining national identities of Finland and Estonia. Another big project was ITEpäisyys which opened in Kokkola and travelled to Joensuu. The exhibition harmoniously combined contemporary art, outsider art and contemporary folk art under one roof.

For the coming year, Veikko Halmetoja has been clearing his schedule. He has refused offers to curate other group exhibitions and promises to focus solely on Mänttä Art Festival.

– I have seen every Mänttä Art Festival exhibition from the very first edition of 1993, most of them numerous times. My goal is to curate an exhibition intertwining all the ideas invoked by my visits to the Art Festival exhibitions during all these years.

Veikko Halmetoja's earlier projects include curating the exhibitions The Snowball Effect 3 (Kemi Art Museum & Aine Art Museum, 2016), The Sin (Serlachius Museum Gösta, Mänttä, 2014) and the 5th Triennial of Pirkanmaa (Tampere, 2012). He has written art reviews for newspapers Aamulehti in 2002–2007 and Helsingin Sanomat in 2010–2014. A popular lecturer, he has also worked as the editor of the art magazine 1/2, written extensively about visual arts for various publications and, since 2010, served as the publicist for Kajaani Poetry Week. Veikko Halmetoja is also the artistic director of ARTag Gallery in Helsinki.

Mänttä Art Festival has been organized by its founding association 'Mänttä Art Lovers' since 1993, first as a biennial and, since 1999, annually. The event was recently awarded the prestigious Finland Prize, recognizing its long-standing work in the field of Finnish contemporary art. Since 2002, the main exhibition venue has been Pekilo, a former animal feed refinery next to Mänttä's tallest chimney-stack.

The artist list will be released in late January, 2018.

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Summer Summarized at Mänttä Art Festival

Wed June 7, 2017

The XXII Mänttä Art Festival opens its doors to Summer this coming Sunday, June 11, 2017. The exhibition extends from the main venue of Pekilo across the Mänttä town centre and all the way to Vilppula with the creative efforts of 37 artists and two artist groups. The exhibition, curated by Pirjetta Brander, transforms the 'Art Town' of Mänttä-Vilppula into a parallel universe of summer activities, crystallizing this wonderful and woeful season.

Mänttä-Vilppula presents all the weathers and mental landscapes of summer at one go. At Pekilo, visitors are first hit with 'blackberry winter' as they are greeted by Winter Garden, an installation by Kalle Turakka Purhonen. The artwork is compiled of TV screens and monitors with engraved plant motifs. After this frosty moment, Eija Keskinen's large pencil drawings and rag carpets will get your blood circulating again in the installation Strawberry Patch 2 (All Roads Lead to Green). Marja Pirilä's wall-sized camera obscura photography emanates ambiances of summery haze and sweaty languor.

Sailing and Rolling Around

Nature is a powerful presence in the exhibition, with water in its many forms being one of the recurring elements. Logbook, a three-channel video installation by Kati Åberg, follows the fascinating life led on traditional sailing ships. The screening venue of Heidi Romo's video piece, Recollection, is a shipping container. The rowing trips of childhood summers are heavily present in the artwork. The gliding group of jellyfish by Emilia Niskasaari candidly greets Jussi Valtakari's and Antti Ylönen's collaborative sculpture installation, Archipelago. Harri Larjosto's fictional short film, Inheritor, reveals the downside of human activity; the pollution and transformation of a summer vacation spot due to mining.

On each floor of Pekilo, the exhibition guests are watched over by Yasushi Koyama's cute animal sculptures, whereas the rolling and cavorting horses made from birch bark, plant fibre and steel are Jenni Tieaho's contribution to the Art Festival.

From the Sandpit to a Sauna and a Swim

This spring, artist Mika Helin has gotten his boots and hands muddy on the wasteland located between Pekilo and Myllyranta. Excavation, an installation resembling an archaeological excavation site, literally hides and reveals.

During Summer, visitors also get the chance to go to a sauna and take a plunge into a lake in a more special way. The installation designed and built by Jan-Erik Andersson incorporates a soundscape created by Shawn Decker, reactive to the sauna's temperature. This sonic sauna, Sounding Nest Sauna, is located in Myllyranta, only a couple of hundred metres from Pekilo.

The Call of the Verdant Trees

Senja Vellonen's birch-themed watercolours evoke the magical atmosphere of the midnight sun. In the video piece by Marko Lampisuo, Summer in Finland... and Other Seasons, we look towards the treetops, experiencing the whole annual cycle and the amount of daylight.

Botanical life also extends to the outdoor artworks of the Art Festival. The community art project headed by Viva Granlund, 100 +++ Trees, is a celebration of Finland's centenary and all the residents of our country. The mural was painted with the help of local residents on the exterior walls of a deserted two-storied concrete building. This long-abandoned building has been given new life and a new chance by Art Town residents of all ages. The colourful artwork is part of Tampere Region Festivals’ project The Story of Freedom of Expression and the official Finland 100 programme.

The trees of Taavetinsaari Island, located on the Joenniemi Estate next to the Serlachius Museum Gösta, have been given new attire in celebration of Summer. For her forest installation, Episodes on Some Island, artist Riikka Aresalo has created knitwear for trees that wish they were birches.

The XXII Mänttä Art Festival also offers a side programme. In addition to curatorial tours and artist meetings, Pekilo will see a summer game day including mölkky and darts on 29 July and, on 12 August, we'll get to enjoy Summer Film Festival screenings at the Bio Säde Cinema.

The opening of the exhibition will also mark the release of the Summer exhibition catalogue with artist interviews and portraits by curator Pirjetta Brander.

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XXII Mänttä Art Festival Reveals the Glorious and Gruesome Summer

Wed March 8, 2017

The theme of this year’s Mänttä Art Festival is Summer. It lays out the whole spectrum of the season in all its gruesome glory. The 2017 exhibition, curated by Pirjetta Brander, includes 37 artists and two artist groups. The exhibition opens to the public on June 11th.

– I chose a theme that everyone has a connection with. Everyone has their own hopes and expectations when it comes to summer, and they always go back to the same childhood fantasy, Brander says.

– Summer seems like an absurd operation. It is a flurry of frantic activity with lake house trips and parties. There are lots of things to carry out and get done in only a few weekends. Then, once the bad weather ruins your plans, you book a last-minute flight deal to a beach vacation. This exhibition acts as a parallel reality to all this activity, the curator explains.

The curator has invited to the exhibition people of various ages working on various fields and fringes of art from all over Finland. As a visual artist, she has found it interesting to interview colleagues and to hear about their ways of thinking and creating art.

– All the artists I have chosen are truly skilled artists and craftspeople. I have known many of them for a long time, having followed their work in the course of my studies, my teaching work and my organizational activities.

Sauna at Myllyranta,
A House of 100 Trees

This summer, the Mänttä Art Festival invites you to visit an 'art sauna' and to cool off with a dip in the Keurusselkä Lake, when Jan-Erik Andersson from Turku and Shawn Decker from Chicago build a bird’s nest sonic sauna on the lakeside at Myllyranta. Visitors will also get to see what kind of discoveries artist Mika Helin might make at his archaeological excavation. Taavetinsaari Island, located on the Joenniemi Manor grounds right next to the Serlachius Museum Gösta, will be Riikka Aresalo‘s domain this year.

The Mänttä Art Festival is also branching out from the Mänttä centre to the neighbouring Vilppula. Viva Granlund, the recipient of the 2016 Helsinki Culture Award, will paint a two-storey building located at Kauppakatu 17 in Mänttä and also create a street painting on the Vilppula Square – both with help from volunteers of all ages, including kindergarten and school groups.

Granlund’s work is Mänttä Art Festival’s contribution to Finland’s centenary celebrations. The artwork, titled 100 +++ Trees, will reflect the participants’ perceptions of Finnish forests and the trees of our country, and it is part of Tampere Region Festivals’ project The Story of Freedom of Speech, which branches out to various parts of the region.

Media Art, Sculptures and Paintings

The four floors of Pekilo will display artworks from various fields of Finnish contemporary art. The exhibition includes installations from media artist and 2010 Ars Fennica recipient Charles Sandison; an artist traversing borders between photography, film and performance art, Heidi Romo, and installation and performance artist Timo Tähkänen.

Artists representing the field of drawing and painting include comics artist Otso Höglund; Ella Tahkolahti, who usually focuses on installation and performance art; painter, graphic artist and Finland Prize recipient, Risto Suomi, and Senja Vellonen, whose watercolours encapsulate the most ethereal atmospheres of summer. The audience will also be greeted by Yasushi Koyama’s large and adorable animal figures and Airi Salosmaa‘s mysterious sculptures brimming with symbolism.

– Most of the artworks have been created especially with this exhibition and theme in mind: for example, media artist Harri Larjosto’s short fiction film about nature and Kati Åberg’s video piece about the unique subject of sailing on a traditional windjammer, Brander reveals.

There are also some family ties included in the artist mix. Last year’s recipient of the State Prize for Visual Arts, textile sculptor Pauliina Turakka-Purhonen and multi-disciplinary artist Kalle Turakka-Purhonen are a married couple. Barbara Tieaho, whose sculptures study the relationship between nature and people, and Jenni Tieaho, whose willow sculptures comment on the Finnish summer landscape, are mother and daughter.

– I hope that the Mänttä Art Festival will reach a wide and diverse audience, who get to explore this versatile group of artists and artworks, curator Pirjetta Brander concludes.

The Mänttä Art Festival opens on June 11, 2017 and includes curator tours, artist meetings and workshops. A more detailed side programme will be published in May.


Erika Adamsson
Jan-Erik Andersson & Shawn Decker (USA)
Markku Arantila
Riikka Aresalo
Kenneth Bamberg
Tyko Elo
Tom Engblom
Leonora Fredriksson
Viva Granlund
Bo Haglund
Ihana Havo
Mika Helin
Otso Höglund
Petra Innanen
Inka-Maaria Jurvanen
Jussi Juurinen
Eija Keskinen
Yasushi Koyama
Marko Lampisuo
Harri Larjosto
Leevi Lehtinen
Emilia Niskasaari
Olga Palomäki 

Sergei Pietilä
Marja Pirilä
Heidi Romo
Airi Salosmaa
Charles Sandison
Risto Suomi
Pekka Syrjälä
Ella Tahkolahti
Barbara Tieaho
Jenni Tieaho
Kalle Turakka-Purhonen
Pauliina Turakka-Purhonen
Timo Tähkänen
Jussi Valtakari & Antti Ylönen
Senja Vellonen
Kati Åberg

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XXII Mänttä Art Festival's flyer is here!

Mon February 18, 2017

Let the curator Pirjetta Brander conduct you to the world of the upcoming exhibition. Read the English translation below.

(Illustration: Benjamin Bergman)


SUMMER | 11 June –31 August, 2017

The most notable summer exhibition of contemporary art
with the artistic direction of Pirjetta Brander

Mänttä Art Festival
Pekilo, Tehtaankatu 21
FI-35800 Mänttä, Finland
+358 (0)44 259 9194

Group Bookings and Guided Tours:

(Photo: Marko Marin)

Pirjetta Brander, Curator


Summer hymn. Growth period. Vacation, song birds, midnight sun. Lawn, dandelion, trampoline, grill, sausage, flies. Cottage, pier, boat, swimsuit. Strawberry, pea, detective novel. Grandma’s house, cousins. Sunscreen, air mattress, tan lines. Festival, tent, outhouse, campfire. Summer hit and summer car. Ice brick, summer bachelor. Beer. Summer night’s dream, flirting, condom. Wedding. Midsummer dance, bonfire, lake. Midsummer spell, meadow, butterflies, clover, cow. Birdhouse, hammock, bilberry, bee, cumulus. Lawn mower, vegetable patch, summer job. Confirmation camp, new potatoes, heat. Summer dress, bikinis, shorts, flip-flops. Carpet washing pier, sea, seagull. Ball, water-wings, shade, cliff. Ice cream. Lido. Sun, sunglasses, terrace. Market square. Theme park and cotton candy. Sauna, steam, bucket, water dipper, scoop. Rag rug, rain, attic. Frog, fishing pole, cork, perch. Sports events. Blue.

Rain. Wind. Rubber boots, lizard and snake. Bike, gravel road, scratch. Backseat, sweat, Little Tree, roadworks. Attic. Baseball cap and tank top. Beer, beer, beer. Booze, intoxication and mosquitoes. Horsefly. Deer fly. Fracture. Band-Aid, cast, popsicle, cotton candy. Burn, sausage. Hay. Fever. Weeds and mosquito repellent. Death. Drownings. Ants.

The Finnish summer is full of hopes and expectations. It is a fantasy that sustains us throughout the long winter.

The theme of the XXII Mänttä Art Festival is Summer – in all its glory and gruesomeness

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Viva Granlund, the Mänttä Art Festival and Tampere Region Festivals celebrate Finland's centenary

Thu 9 February 2017

Viva Granlund
is a Helsinki-born visual artist, who has worked with public city spaces for quite a while. Her work takes place on the borderlines between art and activism. In the cityscape, she beautifies ‘non-places’ such as corridors or underbridges that we usually barely notice or just choose not to look at. In late 2016, she was given the Helsinki Culture Award.

Granlund’s artworks are artistically laudable, meticulously planned and full of detail. They draw the viewer in for a long time. Granlund doesn’t merely replicate a ready-made idea or concept, but she masters many different techniques and styles of working. Each of her artworks is original and unique. These include the ‘Opintoputki’ pedestrian tunnel at the Helsinki University metro station and the mural in the Kamppi underpass of the Baana bicycle route. In addition to her own artistic endeavours, Granlund teaches children and youths at the Northern Helsinki Art School. She has headed several collaborative art projects in public spaces. 

On the centenary of Finland’s independence, the curator for the XXII Mänttä Art Festival, Pirjetta Brander, has invited Viva Granlund to paint all the surfaces of an entire two-storey building. Located in the centre of Mänttä, the building will be a 'Gesamtkunstwerk' titled 100 +++ Trees. Granlund will also host a workshop bringing together locals and people from different cultures to create a street painting on the Vilppula Square.

Granlund’s work in the streetscape of Mänttä-Vilppula is a perfect fit in Tampere Region Festivals’ ‘Finland 100’ project called ‘The Story of Freedom of Expression’. Street art in particular has been a controversial topic in Finland for quite some time, having been branded as criminal daubing and considered marginal even in the Finnish art scene.

At its finest, street art displays more and more potential to express issues about society and its phenomena with surprising efficacy. Street art is equally visible to all in the public space, in the streetscape usually dominated by advertising. This mode of creation also allows for a collaborative community project for people of various ages and from various cultures. With the seasoned guidance and instruction by the the artist, this artwork might become a significant voice in the ceremonious agenda of Finland’s centenary.

The theme and artist list of the XXII Mänttä Art Festival will be announced in full in the beginning of March.

The artist's website:
Community Art Projects:

Viva Granlund in front of her work in the Baana bicycle route, Helsinki (photo: Pirjetta Brander).

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Pirjetta Brander Named as the Curator of the XXII Mänttä Art Festival

Wed 19 October 2016

Visual artist Pirjetta Brander (b. 1970) has been invited to curate the Mänttä Art Festival exhibition in 2017. Brander operates extensively in the art field, from sculpting to media art. Her works include paintings, drawings, animations and installations. In recent years, Brander has been focusing on stone and bronze sculptures, honing her craft during several residencies in India. The artist’s colourful and abundant artworks interlace joy, pain, beauty, anxiety, raunchiness, horror and childlike humour.
– I aim to learn and understand how the world and people function. This can be best achieved through art. Although people and circumstances are different, art offers us common denominators; artworks that console and amuse us.

Pirjetta Brander has contributed her art to Mänttä Art Festival twice, in 2000 and 2011, when she exhibited her installation, Giant. The invitation to be the curator of Mänttä Art Festival was a dream come true for the artist. Brander has previously curated a number of exhibitions, written about art and collaborated with other artists, and she now sees this as an opportunity to display her versatile skills.

The basis for Pirjetta Brander’s curational work is a strong trust in the professionalism, artistic ideas and approaches of the chosen artists. The artistic director promises the exhibition to be serious but hysterically funny.
– As a visual artist, I am curious and indulgent, even fanatical, when faced with a new area of interest. The upcoming exhibition will be developed similarly to my own artworks: through strong contrasts.

After having lived in Helsinki for a quarter of a century, Pirjetta Brander has recently moved to Mänttä. She already felt the spark for the Art Festival and the town upon their first encounter in 2000.
– The atmosphere of the Art Festival fascinated me. It was altogether so different from any similar fine arts events. During the years, the festival has grown more professional, but the atmosphere has still remained the same, Brander states.
– In Mänttä, there are a lot of opportunities for creative projects as well as nice people and friends. This is an incomparable town for Finnish Art, second only to Helsinki, the new curator notes, adding that she has been made to feel very welcome.

Pirjetta Brander was awarded the Cable Factory Art Award in 2003, together with Eija Keskinen. In 2012, Kunsthalle Helsinki saw her extensive solo exhibition, Les Fleurs du mal. That same year, she was awarded the William Thuring Prize by the Finnish Art Association. Brander has also worked as the editor of ½ art magazine, published by the Rajataide Association based in Tampere. The artist was awarded a three-year grant by the Arts Council of Finland in 2011, and she is currently working with a three-year grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

The Mänttä Art Festival has been organized by its founding association 'Mäntän kuvataiteen ystävät' since 1993. Since 2002, the main exhibition venue has been Pekilo, a former animal feed refinery by the tallest factory chimney in the town of Mänttä.

The list of artists will be revealed in February, 2017.

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Mänttä Art Festival Breaks Attendance Record

Tue 6 September 2016

More than 17,000 guests visited the ‘Going Commando’ exhibition curated by Anssi Kasitonni at the XXI Mänttä Art Festival. The previous attendance record, set in 2014, was 14,500 visitors.

The exhibition, which closed last Wednesday, 31 August, attracted new audiences with a wider reach among young adults, middle-aged men and families with children.

– Most of our visitors still arrive at the Art Festival with their own cars or the Serlachius Bus, Executive Director Tiina Nyrhinen notes. The number of bus tours saw no increase this summer, but the stream of visitors remained steady throughout the summer. The busiest days were experienced in early July, when more than 420 guests visited the exhibition during a single day. In August, Mänttä was further energized by school excursion groups, who for many years now have gained free access to the exhibition at the start of their school year.

The fantastic turnout can be attributed to the appeal of curator Anssi Kasitonni and the crowd-pulling selection of artworks he put together for the exhibition.

The visitors were fascinated by artworks such as the world’s biggest garden gnome by Kalle Mustonen, the crocheted police car by Kaija Papu, the trio of installations in the outdoor silos by Pekka and Teija Isorättyä, the drawings by Kalevi Helvetti a.k.a. Pertti Kurikka, the masterful airbrushing of Simo Riikonen and the 3D shadow installation by Risto Puurunen.

One of the American reinforcements of the exhibition, the Hollywood actress and artist Lucy Liu and her serigraphs, also created a buzz. The allure of the exhibition was added to by the skate ramp built in the back yard of Pekilo and the pop-up store in conjunction with Vilunki 3000’s installation, Pub Hallukarvinen and the Travels of Gulliver's Second-hand Record Shop, which was opened for business in July and August.

– This year, our threshold into the world of contemporary art was set very low, but the quality was still maintained high, Nyrhinen concludes.

– I would like to thank the Art Festival, the artists and all the people who came to Mänttä, enthuses the humble Anssi Kasitonni who, instead of himself, would like to name the first-class artists and the whole Art Festival team as this summer’s star attractions.

The previous attendance record was from the year 2014, which saw the exhibition Hetkinen / Carpe Diem, curated by journalist Minna Joenniemi with a versatile side programme. The Spirit of Truth, Kaarina Kaikkonen’s installation draped over Mänttä Church, was the big draw of the summer, which also saw the opening of the Gösta Pavilion of the Serlachius Museum.

The curator for the 2017 Mänttä Art Festival will be announced in late October.

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