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Unlocking creativity and connecting cultures: artist testimonials from the Turku Workshop Week

We hosted in October 2023 a 5-day Workshop Week in Turku, Finland. The event brought together 26 artists from across Europe to share, learn, and collaborate. This gathering of creative minds left a profound impact on the participants, fostering personal growth, artistic development, and lasting connections. Through their own words, let’s explore the experiences and transformations of four individuals who took part in this transformative workshop. 

A life-changing experience

I learnt so many new and inspiring things during this Workshop Week. I was inspired by the other Maltese and international artists who I became good friends with. I learnt a lot from them adding new skills into my toolbox. I got exposure and visibility as a professional artist with a learning disability, and I was treated and seen as an equal. I also made friends with the Italian team who were a group of dancers, and they invited me to collaborate with them on a new creative project that combines my writing and my dancing. This will use a series of monologues I have written surrounding my experience as a person and performer with Down Syndrome and how I navigate the stage and my life.

Another new experience for me was to be abroad alone for one whole week with a group of people from Malta, who I didn’t know before the trip. During the time spent together, we became good friends and I really wish that I get a chance to collaborate with them! It was a real life-changing experience for me getting to be in a new country where I have never been before and experiencing Finnish culture such as the Finnish cuisine, sauna and hot tub, and walking in a forest!

Angela Bettoni, writer, Malta

Woman presenting a white board and two women cheering at the backround.     

A stepping stone in my artistic journey

Participating in the program was very useful for my development as an artist, my personal growth and improving my English and communication skills. I met many interesting people. This Workshop Week gave me a better understanding how such artistic projects and also Erasmus might work. It also gave me ideas for processing my future art. More important than support is not to give up even if things don´t look good right away and to have patience with your work.

It was great to visit Finland and get to know the culture. I especially liked the lecture about the Sami people. One of my favorite moments was having to face my own fears by presenting my art in English before an audience, something I´m really proud of.

Natalia Bozikova, visual artist, Slovakia

Group of people looking up in large space.  

Gaining confidence in my art

As a self-taught pyrographer, I am an artist without a degree; whatever I have done in my lifetime has been done covertly. In fact, until my attendance in this project, I was never confident in what I do.

The PMP project targets artists from many prisms of life with added openings for those artists whose professional opportunities may have either been missed or overlooked. It brings talented visual and performing artists together to share between themselves, methods to better their artistry in a professional way within the digital media.

During this Workshop Week, we were introduced to practical uses of various forms of digital media presence through a variety of applications ranging from social media presence all the way up to Artificial Intelligence. We were also shown how to use these applications inexpensively for our own digital presence.

In fact, until my attendance in this project, I was never confident in what I do.

Although a few of the talks were not in workshop form and had a tendency of projecting tedium, I realise that their message was necessary since the presenter’s digital media experience and expertise was a shared necessity.

After this Workshop Week, I returned to Malta with a clearer idea on which of the digital media areas I will be using to demonstrate my artwork in a more professional technique. It has made me look forward to my two-month residency in Finland with Irena because I can now confirm my worth in pyrography art which I can also share in exchange with her worth in digital illustration as well as screenwriting.

On a more personal basis, I thank Prisms Malta, David Yoken and all the other organisers of this project to have given me this most wonderful opportunity of creating true bonding multi-cultural friendships.

Karen Briffa, pyrographer, Malta

   Man drying up to a towel stand on a pier by the sea.

Empowered and inspired

The Finnish culture and my week in Turku have taught me to respect myself more as an artist. I’ve found deep recognition of my work which has left me motivated to create more and to actually share more of what I do, also on the social media platforms.

The like-minded peer artists and the interesting discussions can also serve as a springboard for future collaborations leading up to multidisciplinary projects.

Gabriel Lia, writer and photographer, Malta


New ideas and a lot to think about

On Monday morning we got to see the premises of Turku University of Applied Sciences. It was nice to know what kind of people were there and I told someone that it seems like there are a lot of kind and friendly people. The group was big and during Monday’s mocktail party I only had time to get to know new people just for a while. The program was quite concise, there was a lot to talk about and you had to speak English. On Monday, I exchanged information mainly with the other Finns.

Getting to know the Game Lab on Tuesday was interesting.  I am not familiar with the game industry and had some prejudices towards it. However, it was nice to get a broader picture of the possibilities of the gaming world. Virtual galleries are an interesting concept, but it still has a lot to develop. It will be interesting to see how the gallery and museum industry will change in the future. On Tuesday we went for a walk in the center and were getting to know each other. Turku is a beautiful city with lot of history.

It’s wonderful that you can change the world with dance.

Wednesday in beautiful Ruissalo was wonderful. Roosa Wingström‘s lecture on ´AI and New Media Artists´ was informative and gave me a lot to think about. There was another lecture in the afternoon, and it was refreshing to get to the sauna and swim. In the evening we went to rainy city center and were chatting in a restaurant.

     3 people talking

Thursday started with a walk to the old marketplace called Vanha Suurtori. We got to know the premises of Photographic Center Peri and the art loan office and gallery of the Turku Artists’ Society. The most rewarding visit was the visit to the painter Minna Poikonen‘s studio. She told about her own path as an artist. After lunch, we headed back to the Turku UAS campus. Thursday’s workshop was good, we got to talk and started brainstorming about different art projects. In the evening we spent a long time at the hotel discussing about art and being artist.

Now it is the time to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

On Friday morning, the performance of the Ukrainian dancer Nina Bulgakova was impressive. We laughed and we cried. I was impressed by the video clips of the dance piece. It was powerful and the subject matter was scary. It’s wonderful that you can change the world with dance. I’ve already marked her ballet company´s show in Oulu to my calendar, I’m definitely going to see it. The afternoon lecturer Janne Hirvasvuopio was also thought-provoking. It is good to hear that even one person can change things. Poet Gabriel Lia read his own poem in Maltan language. It was very powerful.

Man talking with a woman in front of a painting     Dancer performing

There was a lot to chew on from the week. I got my notes of the lectures. I also got new ideas. Last year an art gallery had asked me for a group exhibition. I already had several ideas ready, but I haven’t found suitable artists who are interested in the same subjects. Now, when I saw other people’s paintings, I noticed the same themes and symbolism there that interest me. I thought about whether I could produce that group exhibition here in the north of Finland. After all, I already have an idea, a gallery and artists. Now it is the time to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Another idea relates to poetry. Internationalization in poetry seems to depend on money and the cost of translation. I don’t write poetry myself, but I enjoy people’s voices. I think a poet can read his poems in his own language even if the audience doesn’t understand the words. You hear the most important things with your heart. The poet’s soul reaches the listener. I was already thinking about suitable places to organize a poetry evening and during the Workshop Week I already had a conversation with one person. I wonder if I could organize a poetry evening in my hometown?

Anna Alm, visual artist, Finland


Thank you all the artist that made this week special and meaningful!


Photos: Eliška Kondelíková


Related article:

You can watch 3 of the guest speaker presentations here:
Turku Workshop Week presentation recordings.