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A damn good hockey player

By Panu Minkkinen

By the time you read this, Jali Wahlsten, our Arts Administrator since 1996, will have left the Institute to pursue a career in arts management as an entrepreneur.

Jali’s programme was one of my main connections with the Institute’s past. As a newcomer, I was expected to tune in to a tradition that would subsequently guide the decisions that were made about our future. In the arts, the programme stood for something that had been done right, something that we had been successful in. Was there a secret formula?

If you know anyone from Turku, you will also know that Jali is not the best person to put a successful project into words, however lucid and well thought out its execution may have been. My first six months have attempted just that: I have tried to articulate in words, for my own sake and for the benefit of us all, just what it is that defines a successful project.

I have come up with at least two guidelines. There must firstly be a crystal-clear vision of what you do and why you do it. Without such a vision, we tend to forget who we are. And in addition, the vision and its individual manifestations must be packaged and promoted correctly. Otherwise our activities will inevitably miss their mark.

We do not "make" art. Like it or not, our job is to "sell" products, and our achievements can be judged only by the way in which we do so without distorting the product or compromising the integrity of the artist. This is also how an artist can evaluate the professional quality of, say, a given promoter.

But visions are tricky because your public either loves them or hates them. Jali’s programme was no different. It left no-one cold, and his admirers and critics could often be told apart by a crude numerical figure: age.

If the former can be accused of exaggerating the significance of the positive hype that the programme attracted, the latter were at times degrading to the point of malevolence. In supposedly amusing chit-chat, Jali’s colourful past as a sports pro was used to account for his alleged "misjudgements".

I would like to think that these critics were simply ignorant of why he was appointed in the first place: he had a degree in the philosophy of art (or aesthetics, as we Finns still call it) and a solid professional background in arts management. A pro in two different ways, then.

I always thought it was the other way around: Jali is a damn good ice-hockey player for a philosopher of art! 


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