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Korundi becomes center point of cultural, social gatherings

08 Apr 2019, 21:05 ( 3 Months ago)

DF Report by Ben Espinola
Korundi Culture House in Rovaniemi. DF Photo.

Situated on the west of the Rovaniemi city center, a bit outside the bustling pedestrian core of shops, restaurants and hotels frequented by tourists, lies a large but unassuming brick building, one of the few to have survived the fire that nearly destroyed the city during the Lapland War.

The building which was once the Postbus Depot serves today as the home of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra and the Rovaniemi Art Museum. Its evolution from a transport hub to a cultural center has several distinct chapters and reflects the resilience and the community of the city surrounding it.

Originally built in 1933, the Postbus Depot was damaged during the war, but was partially reconstructed and expanded using rubble from the ruins of the city collected in a horse-drawn cart by a man known colloquially as Vikke the Gypsy. In 1986, the building was re-purposed as the Rovaniemi Art Museum and in 2011, it was renamed the Korundi Culture House after a process of architectural expansion and modification.

The name Korundi comes from the Finnish word for Corundum, the second hardest mineral on the earth. Corundum is well known for its gem varieties, ruby and sapphire. The mineral can be found in Lapland and when ground and polished, it is sometimes called “Star of Lapland.” The name was chosen by a local resident and was selected through a contest.

The building today feels both old and new, with the concert hall for the orchestra, which was part of the 2011 expansion, sticking out as the most contemporary architectural element. The art museum inhabits the older part of the building, with a cafe and gift shop occupying the space in between.

In a conversation with Daily Finland, Aira Huovinen, Curator of Exhibitions for the art museum, disclosed details of the workings of the art museum.

While standard practice in many museums across the world prioritizes permanent exhibitions, Korundi takes a different approach. Instead of always displaying the same works of art, exhibitions at Korundi change frequently. In effect, it is a different museum each time you visit. “The art world is in constant change. There is no point in keeping everything still,” Huovinen says.

There is, however, consistency. Many of the artworks come from the collection of the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation Collection. The collection of nearly 3,500 pieces of art forms the base of many of the exhibitions being shown at Korundi. Huovinen says, “It is a very flexible collection, rich, constantly growing and with an eye for the new.” While it would be impossible to simultaneously show all of the works of the Wihuri Foundation Collection, its works can be organized and presented in a myriad of different ways by curators. Currently, there are four exhibitions going on at the museum, three of which display artworks from this collection.

The collection and other exhibitions shown at the museum fit in a convergence of themes: predominately, Finnish contemporary art, but emphasis is also put on indigenous art, northern art, and local art. Korundi promotes an artist of the month chosen by the Artists’ Association of Lapland.

While art, particularly contemporary art, can be seen as pretentious or elitist, Korundi hopes to debunk this notion. “Korundi is a place to see, an attraction. It’s not about considering yourself an art lover, if you are you must come, but if not, come anyway. There is this misconception that you have to be an art lover to enjoy an art museum. This is not the case. Contemporary art is easy. You can think whatever you want. The main thing is to get you thinking (because contemporary art tells about humanity). Art is best when you have someone to share it with,” Huovinen explains.

Korundi seeks to be part of the community. While the museum does attract some tourists, Korundi as a whole has many local regulars. Many events like lectures, guided tours and workshops have proved to be quite popular. Additionally, Korundi welcomes around 3,000 schoolchildren (plus also children from daycare) every year who come for visits and individualized workshops. There is also a great deal of collaboration with the University of Lapland. Students from the university frequently contribute to the curation of exhibitions and educational projects with visiting children.

The Korundi Culture House represents a home for both visual arts and music. Concerts are held frequently at Korundi. People who attend concerts are free to walk through art exhibitions as well.

Korundi welcomes visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from 11–18 and the entry is free on Thursday from 18–20.

 A detailed list of forthcoming events can be found here