Mural Rural: the Mural Painting Festival in the heart of Finland

di Camilla Castellani

When Frode last May told us, we could hardly believe it: “I’m going to Finland to paint, I’m doing an artistic residency in Malax: it doesn’t seem true to me”. Yes, because last May the pandemic was going crazy: everyone was closed, no movement was allowed except for health and work reasons, and what until then had been the most cuckolded and bitted of options (art) now was becaming the only choise able to open a glimmer of light and give us all the chance to return to hope.

This is how, in our imagination, the Rural Mural has become one of the protagonists of this 2021 recovery. That’s why we were pleased to follow, with a couple of live broadcasts, Frode’s trip to those cold lands and why we decided to fly (at least with imagination and storytelling) to Malax, a Finnish municipality in the region of Ostrobothina, which in 2006 became a UNESCO site, to tell this wonderful festival and its history.

Green and rocky, Malax is in fact a place to promote and preserve: a natural oasis and a historical and cultural treasure chest with traditions that start from the Iron Age up to the present day of the most contemporary trends. Such as Urban Art.

And it is here, in the heart of Finland, that Mural Rural was born. The Mural Painting Festival cuts the ribbon of its first edition in 2021. The festival consist of two parts, the first in May 2021 – in which the italian Frode was one of the artists invited – and the second in August.

Curious to know more about project and festival too Scratch met Bekim of Malakta, the association organising Mural Rural.

2021 is the year of the first edition of the Mural Rural – Mural Painting Festival. Can you tell us something more about this project?

This project aims to create a net of site-specific artworks around the countryside of Malax commune, therefore, to initiate an open-air “museum” accessible to everyone at every moment. We researched for high-quality and professional artists from different parts of the world to participate as we consider diversity a fundamental value and, of course, including local artists in an active way too.

Exhibition opening during the first part of the festival(Frode’s canvas painting on display)

Mural Rural. What is the connection between “mural” and “rural”, two terms apparently belonging to two different worlds? And what is your goal?
Yes, they are apparently contradictory to each other as we ordinarily associate “rural” to nature and “mural” to the city but, this fact makes it more interesting and challenging for artists and audience to see the result. How can you approach an unordinary wall in the countryside surroundings? By doing this thing. We aim to decentralize artistic life and way people think about the city. But also rural areas and cultural activities within them.

First edition is made up of two parts. The first one (May 2021) involved Köysti Linna – from Finland – and Domenico Frode – from Italy. How was that experience? And what is about to happen in the second part? Who are the artists for round 2?
The first part (May 2021) involved two different groups: the first one was “Katso merta” with Köysti Linna – from Finland – and Domenico Frode – from Italy. The second group was “BlackBoxGenesis” with Bekim Hasaj and Valentina Gelain – local artists with their piece called “Growing”. Both results we really great! The public keep visiting and sharing pictures of those artworks on social media. The second part of Malakta is happened in August and we are very happy to have here other two different teams: the first with Ericailcane – Italy – and Bastardilla – Colombia -, and the second with Weak and Bikko, Urban Artist from Poland.

Frode and Kyosti Linna, MuralRural, May 2021

Mura Rural is a project by Malakta. When Malakta was born? And why? What are your vision and mission?

Art in Malakta rf is an association that manages and oversees the artistic and cultural activities and programs at Art Factory Malakta located in an old dairy in the rural area of Ostrobothnia. The Art Factory was established in 2007 and the association was founded in 2017. Malakta has since the beginning worked for and with professional artists representing a broad and varied spectrum of art forms. One of the main goals is to support professional art practitioners and to make art and culture accessible and available to general public: collectivity. These aims are realized through among other AiR residency programs that attract both national and international artists: Labs (intensive workshops) for professionals; public events such as Artist Talks, art and wellbeing events and Art Saturdays for families.

GROWING, Mural Rural Festival 2021, Bekim Hasaj and Valentina Gelain, BBG team

Malakta has tre keywords: “action”, “sustainability” and “inclusion”. How are these words related to Malakta? And how are they developed in “Mural Rural”?
We try to include these concepts in most of our multidisciplinary activities because are fundamental for us. The same we did with “Mural Rural” by acting as a platform for the creation of unique artworks by including local, national and international artists in relation with local actors, organizations, and the community around us. During Malakta Festival we offer also Urban Art workshops with the local artist Jon Gredmark.

As Mural Rural and Malakta too, you give an important focus on cinema – in particular in documentaries. Are you also involved in filmmaking? Or documentary is a way to spread themes?
Malakta is divided in Malakta rf (association) and Malakta Film (film producing). Cinema and in particular documentary film is an important part of Malakta history. For us cinema is a precious “tool” to spread and share with everyone this festival’s experience, including those unseen parts of the work in progress. We also organized film screening events of “Banksy Most Wanted”, in collaboration with Elokuvakeskus Botnia ry association in different cities around the region of Ostrobothnia as a collateral event of Mural Rural.

What is the relationship between Finland and Art? And with Urban Art?
Finland has a strong relationship with every type of Art and especially with Urban Art. It is mostly developed in the southern cities of the Country but nowadays it became a trend and has a lot of good competitors operating on a national scale.

How is Urban Art detected by Finnish?
People here are very curious about Urban Art although many are still skeptical but still choose to accept it as a form of artistic expression.

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