Annual Review 2020: Alumna of the Year is film director Zaida Bergroth

In the annual review of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture success enablers were awarded and the 150th anniversary of higher education in art and design in Finland was launched.
vaaleahiuksinen nainen mustavalkoisessa asussaan katsoo hymyillen suoraan kameraan
Photo: Riitta Supperi

The virtual event was held on 19 February, with the departments presenting their results and achievements from last year. In between the presentations and speeches, the audience got also glimpses into student works in form of short videos.

In his opening remarks, Dean Tuomas Auvinen stated that the corona pandemic had a significant impact on the school’s operations. He thanked the community for the quick and smooth adoption of the 'new normal'.

‘Year 2020 truly demonstrated our global fragility. Still, it has shown us that we possess enormous strength and resilience as a community. Let’s not go directly back to the way we were! Instead, let’s create a new and more evolved normal, a world more just, kind, and creative’, Auvinen stated.

The annual review was also an opportunity to thank the success enablers of the community.

The Jussi Award winning film director Zaida Bergroth was named Alumna of the Year. Her several films have been screened in some of the most important festivals in the world. She is also a regular and well liked visitor in ELO film school, generously giving her time to aspiring film makers. Bergroth’s latest film is about the Moomin creator Tove Jansson.

‘I want to thank Aalto University for creating a wonderful environment for learning, and what’s probably most important, for failing. To fail continuously and still feel safe and protected is a valuable gift’, said Bergroth in her video greeting.

The School of Arts, Design and Architecture Act of the Year award was presented to Manager of Academic Affairs Iiris Kauppila and the learning services team, which ensured the continuity of educational activities in the midst of the pandemic. Study coordinator Eino Paananen at the learning services was awarded as the Success Enabler, for his strong contribution to the development of co-operation with teaching staff.

All the awards can be found at the end of the story.

Art and Design higher education 150 years

In his speech Dean Auvinen opened the anniversary year: in 2021, the highest art and desugb education has been given in Finland for 150 years.

‘Our school, the students and alumni have throughout history influenced the direction of Finnish culture and design,. They have also achieved extensive international recognition with their work. This anniversary is an opportunity to take a look back and pay tribute to all the giants whose shoulders we now stand on’, Auvinen said.

‘But it’s also a time to find our own way and keep changing the world! In the midst of the complex challenges the societies are facing today, it is increasingly important that we in the creative fields are able to give meaning to things and create human-oriented as well as planet-oriented solutions.’

The School of Arts, Design and Architecture was founded in 1871 as the Craft School. It began its operation 11 January, 1871. Decades later, the school moved to a location within the Arabia factory complex in 1986. The area is known as the Arabianranta district, which over the years has grown into an internationally significant industrial art and media centre as the result of an art and design city project created around the school.

In 2010, the University of Art and Design Helsinki, the Helsinki University of Technology and the Helsinki School of Economics merged to form Aalto University. In 2018, a new Väre building was completed for the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at the Otaniemi campus.

Today, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture is is one of Finland’s most internationally known schools. It is the largest in its field in the Nordic countries and one of the most respected in the world – it is ranked seventh in the world in the field of art and design (QS Ranking 2020).

During the anniversary year, the school organizes numerous events, which are so far mainly virtual due to the pandemic. The events will be compiled on a forthcoming website, which will also present the achievements of education, research and impact in art and design, as well as the insights of many experts.

The awards 2020

Research Award: Kirsi Niinimäki

Professor Kirsi Niinimäki has the ability to make the impossible possible. Her many research efforts are implementing a systemic, sustainable approach in the textiles and fashion industry. Sustainability starts with material, colour and production method choices and reaches new business models as well as a new consumer behaviour model. Kirsi’s multifaceted, transdisciplinary research is rooted in design. It makes an impact through national and international visibility.  

Teacher Award: Matti Niinimäki

Lecturer Matti Niinimäki leads the major in New Media Design & Production within the Department of Media. Matti has proven to have broad critical insight and technical expertise, which have been applied to the challenges that have been faced by students, especially, since the school’s transfer to Väre. Before the Corona crisis hit us all, Matti was a key person in advancing the students’ requirements for programme Home Bases and in working with colleagues in technical services and Aalto Studios towards ensuring that students’ independent studies and related production could be better facilitated. This effort has been to the benefit of all the students of ARTS.

Matti is a well-liked colleague and a teacher who has received the praise of students for his outstanding and often time-consuming efforts in facilitating their work and improving their working environment. Similarly, Matti’s knowledge, expertise, insight and his personal, diplomatic style in tackling day to day challenges has brought praise from colleagues, throughout the organisation.

During the Corona times Matti helped in providing possibilities for our students to have a more humane, and more informal community than one that is limited to endless lectures and tutorials in Zoom. There’s no doubt that Matti is a teacher who truly cares for his students and constantly facilitates their creative work.

Act of the Year: Iiris Kauppila and the ARTS LES Team

The Corona pandemic has severely impacted our education and teaching arrangements during the past year. Manager of Academic Affairs Iiris Kauppila and the whole ARTS LES team handled the challenges promptly. They ensured the continuity of our educational operations, while at the same time successfully supporting the Teaching Evaluation Exercise, which coincided with this dire time of social distancing. 

Alumna of the Year: Zaida Bergroth  

Zaida Bergrothis an ELO graduate, multi-time Jussi nominee and one-time winner, with several films in some of the most important festivals in the world. A director known for both her cinematic talent and ability to keep up a positive, creative atmosphere in the often stressful situations in film shoots. She is also a regular and well liked visitor in ELO film school, generously giving her time to aspiring film makers whenever her schedule allows. Her latest film got great reviews from critics and has also been an audience success, which will certainly continue after cinemas re-open. The film is of course Tove, the wonderful biopic about Tove Jansson and the talented director Zaida Bergroth!

Success Enabler: Eino Paananen

Study coordinator Eino Paananen has given a remarkable input in the flow of the Bachelor programmes of the Department of Architecture. His collaborative, positive and analytical way of working has had a positive impact in, for example, study times. Eino’s work keeps up the high quality of the Department’s BA studies. Eino is the tireless, just and kind expert all of our lecturers need to perform in the best possible way. 

On top of his work at the Department of Architecture, Eino has contributed to the induction of new teachers at School level. He has carried out this important task in a very teacher-oriented manner and has helped new teachers from different departments to get to know each other in joint orientation sessions.

Dissertation Award: David Muñoz Alcantara

The ARTS dissertation award is presented to David Muñoz Alcantara for his doctoral thesis Aesthetic Praxis in Translation - Introduction and Translation of Alberto HíjarSerrano's: Aesthetic Praxis. The Aesthetic Dimension of Liberation. Muñoz Alcantara’s dissertation is an innovative research that introduces translation as artistic practice, scientific methodology and arts-based inquiry. The dissertation is a rigorous, original and significant contribution to knowledge in the fields of artistic research. It does not only introduce new knowledge on Mexican cultural theorist Alberto Híjar Serrano’s work but it also proposes a new approach to research, and new methodologies of artistic inquiry and creation in a creative and unique way.

Artistic Activity Award: Hanna Weselius

In addition to actively developing course-based teaching and serving her students, University lecturer Hanna Weselius has written numerous articles for international and domestic publications, as well as published two brilliant novels.

Loyal to herself, Hanna only deals with current and important issues. In 2016, the mycelial novel Alma! was published, which won both the Helsingin Sanomat's ‘First Book Award’ and the ‘Tulenkantaja’ award. Later, at the turn of the year, we got to read excellent reviews of her new novel, The Rainbow Stairs (Sateenkaari Portaat, WSOY 2020). Hanna Weselius has an unshakable ability to make visible the strange phenomena of our time. At the same time, her works are surprising, amusing and delightful with their original expression.

Hanna is definitely an advocate for just causes and an active player who lets her creativity expand into the community. She curated the Polku collection of photographs by photography students and alumni, whose works were made available for loan at the Töölö Library throughout 2020. An experimental collection of short stories is also currently underway, which will also involve several students. All this diversity serves the photography programme of the Department of Media and the teaching of the whole school in an excellent way.

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