Yesterday I boxed up and shipped out 5 pieces to Finland. I sent them off with hopes of landing an invitation to take the Admissions Course at the University of the Arts Helsinki this May. Ultimately, of course, I hope to receive a fat letter from them that begins, “Congratulations.” Living abroad and going to art/graduate school are two lifelong dreams. To do it with my children, my family, well – fingers crossed.
Of course everyone asks, “Finland? You have family there? What’s your connection?” This all began last year when I started hearing about the Finnish public education system. As a parent and a teacher my ears pricked up when I learned that their children don’t start school until they are 7-years-old, they experience shorter school days, a shorter school year, little to no homework and receive no testing until about 15 years of age. At high school age, the children get to choose an academic path or a high tech path. If they get into the work and feel they’ve made a mistake they can change their mind. All of this and they are consistently ranked in the top three (#1 in 2006) of world leaders in academic achievement. (See PISA rankings). Yeah – that got my attention.
Anyway – I started chasing a rabbit. Through the bendy, winding path I learned about an art school program that feels custom designed for me and that was it – I was off – which brings me here, to today, in love with Finland – Helsinki in particular – and filled with hope and anticipation that my family and I might get to experience first-hand the magic of full immersion in this Nordic wonderland. I find out on May 13 if I made the first cut.
The things I loved about the application were 1. Its simplicity and brevity – two pages; and 2. They only accept original works (up to five pieces). They do not want to see websites or emailed portfolios – only the real deal. I felt challenged and excited by this. Here was an opportunity to dive into the Finnish culture, root around and get inspired. It didn’t take long for me to run across The Kalevala – Finland’s Odyssey/Creation mythology. The stories are rich and colorful and magical and vicious. The roster of characters and their doings is enough fodder for years of work. I picked out a few of my favorites and got busy.
I started with some parameters: my work needed to be small so I could afford to send it. It needed to represent the kind of work that I hope to enlarge on at school (their guideline). It needed to be made from materials that would clear customs with no hiccups. The work needed to be really good. I cannot say how many things I have made and re-made, trashed and abandoned only to return to after making several alternatives. I have wrestled with reinterpretation, process, materials and my ugly and unrelenting perfectionism. I have not wanted to show the work to anyone. When you share work, when I share work, oftentimes people feel it is an invitation or expectation to make judgments or corrections or some other exclamation. I did not want that this time. This work is small and quiet and meticulous and fragile. I was these things in making it. Now that the box is sealed and shipped, I can quit holding my breath. I trust that it will get where it’s supposed to go and do its job.
I will be happy to share the work and news of my adventures in Finland when I go and return in May. It was so incredibly expensive to send the work (almost as much as a ticket) and a friend suggested I go whether I get to do the Admissions Course or not, so I thought, why not?! I cannot wait.
Thanks for dropping by.