A Guided Tour of Art & Culture Centre Kalevan Navetta

Episodes 50 & 51

In April 2021, myself and Glenn Murray visited Art & Culture Centre Kalevan Navetta in Seinäjoki. This building has a varied history, an re-invigorated present and, surely, a long future of bringing art, craftwork, culture and community to Seinäjoki.

Show Notes & Links

Art & Culture Centre Kalevan Navetta

I first visited Kalevan Navetta in 2020, shortly after it opened, and it is an impressive looking building but I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the place. What parts are open to the public, where could we go and which areas should we pay to visit? So, when we were looking for subject for a podcast and video, this seemed like the ideal destination. I reached out to Päivi Alaniska, Project Coordinator at Seinäjoki City Cultural Services, and she agreed to take us on a tour. But first, a little history…

The History of Art and Culture Centre Kalevan Navetta

In the first podcast episode, we talk about the history of Kalevan Navetta, here are a few facts.

Kalevan Navetta is located in the Itikanmäki area of Seinäjoki, which was named after Itikka – the meat producer that became Atria – one of Finland’s largest food producers. The name comes from the insurance company, Kaleva – that once owned the building – and Navetta meaning barn although, as Päivi explains, it was never really used as a barn for housing livestock, it did once pay host to an agricultural fair! During its life, Kalevan Navetta has been used as a baize and frieze factory, a headquarters for the Civil Guard, a warehouse for the Finnish army and as an agricultural shop (almost returning to its original purpose!)

A Tour of Art and Culture Centre Kalevan Navetta

When we visited, Päivi was joined by Elina Teitti, art educator and acting Exhibition coordinator at Kunsthalle Seinäjoki – two expert guides to all that Kalevan Navetta has to offer. Below are the various areas of the building, along with a photo gallery for each.

1st Floor – Open to the public

When you arrive at Kalevan Navetta, the whole first floor (UK: ground floor) is open to the public. Here you will find Äärellä restaurant, serving high-quality food at lunch time and weekends, this is the sister restaurant of Juurella featured in my episode Finnish Food: The Good, The Bad & The Weird. Adjacent to Äärellä, you will find the Taito shop which offers a selection of locally-made souvenirs, arts and crafts and materials for your own handicraft projects. This is where you can buy tickets for the exhibitions (6€ adults, 4€ pensioners, students, unemployed, under-18 free).

In this area you can also explore the art and craft workshops. A cluster of brand new workshops offering classes and courses in many different handcraft skills; metal and woodwork, painting and drawing, textiles and more. The neat aspect is that the internal walls are, essentially, glass display cases: Although you cannot access the workshops unless you have enrolled in a class, these ‘glass walls’ allow you to view examples of the art work, as well as see into the workshops.

(All photos by Satu Wiltshear)

Kammio – music practice and performance space

Also on the first floor (UK: ground floor) – although not open to the public – is the music practice/performance space, Kammio. This small red brick room used to be the boiler room, when Kalevan Navetta was a factory, and the the faint smell of oil adds to the ambiance. The room also has a red brick ceiling and metal pillars and girders made from railway tracks. If you get a chance to play or watch a performance here, I’d recommend taking it. Surely the most intimate show you’ll every see.

(All photos by Satu Wiltshear)

Staircase art

As you make your way from the public area upstairs to the exhibition halls, you can see another display of art. Kerä – “Ball of String” Tiina Laasonen, 2020 – is made from Finnish hardwood and has been designed to look like a ball of yarn that is unravelling through the very fabric of the building; from a loosely wound ball of yarn on the top of the staircase, down to a woven pattern at the bottom. This is also free to view for all visitors.

(All photos by Satu Wiltshear)

Halli exhibition hall

To access the Halli exhibition space, you need to buy a ticket from the info desk at the entrance to the Taito Shop. When you climb the stairs to the second floor (UK: first floor), you need to scan your ticket on the machine and the door opens automatically. Halli is a dark, austere space with a low ceiling and harsh concrete surfaces all around you. The utilitarian look is augmented by the doors spaced at regular intervals along the wall, each one bearing a number from its days as a military warehouse. These, however, also give flexibility to this exhibition hall, both in the size of the exhibits that can be displayed and to the amount of light that can be let into the exhibition.

When we visited, we saw an exhibition named “Calix” by local artist and sculptor Päivi Rintaniemi. As you can see from the photos, her delicate looking ceramic bowls, vases and EGGS, in white clay from the earth of Etelä-Pohjanmaa, stand out in stark contrast to their surroundings.

(All photos by Satu Wiltshear)

Hugo Sali function room

Named after Hugo Grönlund – the owner of the baize factory at Kalevan Naetta from 1909 – Hugo Sali is an interesting room. Although it’s not generally open to the public, it is available to hire for parties, events and performances. In line with the cooperative ethos of the Kalevan Navetta venue, this room is administered by Äärellä restaurant who handle the bookings and provide catering services. As you can see from the photos below, if you are lucky enough to attend an event in Hugo Sali, you will be in a space that provides an intriguing backdrop to any photography or video of the event.

(All photos by Satu Wiltshear)

Vintti exhibition hall

The top floor of Kalevan Navetta is the third floor (UK: second floor), naturally, this is where you’ll find the exhibition space Vintti, which means attic so, of course you’d find it at the top of the building! This is the complete opposite to the Halli space downstairs, a high ceiling that reaches its apex in the middle, covered in pale wooden panels and a recurrence of the red brick feature wall. Also recurring here, is the use of steel railway tracks as pillars and beams to support the ceiling, a nod to the railway line that runs close by Kalevan Navetta. These features combine to give the room a church-like quality and a feeling of calm and tranquility.

Taking pride of place (not just of Vintti but the entire building) is the large, round window set into the brick wall. It is larger than it appears in the photos and was also the inspiration for teh logo of Kalevan Navetta (see below). When we visited in Springtime, bright daylight was pouring through the window, brightening the room and the exhibition. This only added to the ambiance of the “Stump of Prometheus – Stay together” exhibition (Prometheuksen kanto: Pysykää yhdessä) which combines artwork inspired by nature, with a soundscape created by connecting living plants to electronic equipment to generate an eery atmosphere in this quasi-ecclesiastical setting.

(All photos by Satu Wiltshear)

Watch & Listen To This Episode

Watch the Nordic Tourist video: Art & Culture Centre Kalevan Navetta

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