My Corners: Jaakko Blomberg

Jaakko Blomberg
Age 33
Urban activist and producer, Helsinki Urban Art

Bringing Street Art to Helsinki
“For a long time, I’ve been interested in street art and the equality and alternativeness that go with it. I’m also tempted by urban environment and changing it. The time I spent as an exchange student in Berlin influenced my thinking. In Berlin, there was a lot of street art with great variety, and the whole attitude was completely different than here in Helsinki. I thought that it would be great to have the same kind of culture here in Helsinki. I got to know the artist Maikki Rantala in 2014 and we decided to do something about it. The city had already moved forward in a lot of ways – an open wall had opened in Suvilahti, many construction site fences had been opened up for painting and so on, but we wanted to take it further. A few years ago we founded the Lisää katutaidetta Helsinkiin project (More Street Art to Helsinki), and this year Helsinki Urban Art continues this work.”

On Helsinki Urban Art
“Our association consists of six founding members, who are street artists and producers. Some active individuals have also joined us, and in total we have dozens of people in our network. When people talk about street art in Finland, they usually mean art done by painting, but we want to expand the concept, and that’s why we call ourselves Helsinki Urban Art. Simply because it’s about Urban Art. For example, it can be stickers, installations, dance and even street music can be included in it, even if we concentrate on painting.”

On Pasila Street Art District
“I’ve had the idea of Pasila as a street art district for long. Five years ago in 2012 we tried making moss graffiti in Pasila to give some colour to the neighbourhood. For anyone who is interested in moss graffiti, I can tell you that they don’t work, even if the internet is full of instructions. Anyway, my dream is for Pasila to become a district that’s full of art and that people would come to see it from far away. The grey surfaces in Pasila can be turned into its advantage and full of possibilities. We started painting in the area in August, and there’s already a lot of art from different artists. However, the project is just starting and there’s still a lot of things to do. The next works will be painted in September and there’s going to be a bigger painting session in May next year.”

Street art in the World
“Each city creates its own unique street art culture. Even if it’s a global phenomenon, the local living environment and culture always have an effect on the arts. There’s a lot of interesting street art in other places than Berlin and New York, for example. The street art in South America had the biggest effect on me, especially in São Paulo. Speaking of street art districts, I think the most interesting one is in Portugal, in the Quinta do Mocho area in the city of Sacavém. It’s an outlying and a poor neighbourhood that’’s gotten a whole new look because of street art, and it has completely changed the way that local and other people feel about the area. It’s a good example of how you can have a positive effect on the environment through street art. I’d like to see something like that in Pasila.”

Street Art is Created Together
“When we made a mural in Roihuvuori, the neighbourhood inspired the style and the colours. The locals wished for an owl, so they influenced the visual contents as well. When making the mural on Tuubapolku street, as also in Vaasanaukio square, we got the locals involved in designing the work and painting it. The way people see a place has an influence on a work, but the work also influences the way the people see the place afterwards. For example, people can change their routine routes to see the paintings and a lot of people come to see them from other places. Painting usually gets a lot of people to gather around to see the work being made. There’s a clear communal effect, even if the people aren’t painting themselves. In some works, the people can join in the painting too, and that makes it even more personal for them.”

Change of Attitude
“We are living in interesting times in Helsinki. The graffiti and street art culture is really moving forward. People are starting to realize that street art and graffiti are possible, and the artists who haven’t been involved before are getting interested. The established graffiti people are getting more exposure as well. It’s great that the city has started to give a big support for graffiti and street art, because it has a big influence on the whole atmosphere. Attitudes have become more open and positive, but it’s going to take more work to ease and streamline the procedures.”

The Wish of an Urban Activist
“The procedures with permits is not too flexible or fast. There should be a separate category for street art permits, which would be processed faster and faster. At the moment, the procedure takes so much time and is so obscure that it causes a lot of problems. The permits can also cost a lot, which means that many projects fail. There should be a complete change in the way of thinking of what street art is about. We’ve gotten too used to the practice that only big companies can change the cityscape, and the big companies get charged for it. We haven’t gotten used to the idea that also individual people or associations could do it as well.”

The map shows you Jaakko’s Corners. Click on a place to read what he has to say about it.

TEXT: KAROLIINA SAARNIKKO
PHOTOS: MIIKKA PIRINEN