Turku Artists’ Association

The Turku Artists’ Association is an association for professional visual artists in the Turku region. In October 2017, the Association has 211 members. The Association works to advance Finnish visual art, to promote it to a wide audience and to supervise the professional interests of its members. Membership applications are accepted year round.

The Turku Artists’ Association is a member of the Union of Finnish Art Associations. Furthermore, a large part of its members also belong to other local or national artists’ associations such as the Artists’ Association Arte, the Artists’ Association MUU or the Finnish Painters’ Union.

A brief history of the Turku Artists’ Association

The Turku Artists’ Association was established in 1924. It was set up to build a closer relationship between artists from different fields, between artists and the public and to promote Finnish art. Initially the Association was open to artists from every field of art but consisted mainly of visual artists. From the outset the aims of the Association have been the following: to organise art exhibitions, to build relationships between the artists and the public, between the Association and other artists’ associations in Finland and abroad and to develop the artistic scene in Turku.

From 1920s onwards the Association regularly organised art exhibitions in Finland and abroad. The yearly exhibitions were held in Turku Art Museum. The Association also organised international art camps and visual art competitions for its members. In the year 1933 the planning of the Association’s ten-year anniversary exhibition caused disagreements between the older and younger members of the Association. As a result, the older members resigned to form a new group: the Pro Arte Association.

In the 1950s the Turku Artists’ Association was very active and at its best it had over 700 members. Its activities were more diverse than today and it had members from every field of art. The Association held different groups such as the Literary Group, the Theatre Group and the Film Group. In the year 1959, the Association underwent radical reformations. Visual artists resigned from the Association and formed an association of their own – the Turku Visual Artists’ Association. Because of the changes, a further 14 artists resigned from this new group and formed the Arte Association in the year 1960.

The period of 1964-65 was one of the most important in the history of the Association. The Turku Visual Artists’ Association changed its name back to the original Turku Artists’ Association. Moreover, the Association opened its first own exhibition space in Uudenmaankatu and the new gallery turned out to be a success. In the 1960s a much-discussed issue was the social standing of the artist: the pension, the taxation and the general position of the artist in society. On the Association’s initiative, the Visual Arts Committee was established in Turku at the end of the 1960s. Furthermore, the Association was given a new exhibition space in the centre of Turku, in Kauppiaskatu 1. The exhibition space was expanded in 1968 and it became known as Taidehalli. Because of its central location it was an immediate success.

In the 1970s the Turku Artists’ Association launched a new activity. It wanted to bring art directly to the people and did this by setting up exhibitions in workplaces. The Association was forced to give up the exhibition space Taidehalli in 1985 and following this the Association’s activities and exhibitions moved to a new gallery in Käsityöläiskatu 20. The Association also held exhibitions in the restaurant Pinella and in a small gallery called Majakka on the east side of the river Aura.

In the 1990s the Turku Artists’ Association worked together with the Turku employment office in a project called Pysäkki and succeeded in employing over 20 long-term unemployed visual artists. The Association’s 70-year anniversary exhibition was held in Turku Art Museum in 1994. The same year, the Turku Artoteque opened its doors in the Old Town Centre of Turku. The Association’s new art gallery JUST moved to the Vanha Raatihuone in the Old Town Centre of Turku in 1995. The gallery Majakka was closed in 1997. At the end of the 1990s the Association found new premises in an old factory in Jokikatu.

The Jokikatu art complex attracted a lot of attention in the beginning of the 2000 when there was disagreement between the artists and the City of Turku about whether to keep the building or pull it down. In the spring 2007 the City of Turku discharged the artists and artists’ associations from the Jokikatu building and the Turku Artists’ Association was left without premises. In the new millennium the Association has taken part in the Kulkulupa events in Turku, organised exhibitions in Finland, coordinated two international environmental art exhibitions Fluxations and Flux Aura and developed a new residency programme in Senegal. The Association’s new exhibition space, Gallery Å, opened in 2010.