Author: Jana Eisenberg
Get your Finn on Oct. 9-13. FinnFest USA 2015 takes place in Buffalo this year. Founded in 1983, FinnFest USA is an annual cultural, entertainment, and educational symposium, celebrating Finnish and Finnish-American customs, history and heritage. One of its goals is to unite modern Finland with historic and contemporary America.
Buffalo won the festival this year through strong community support and our Finnish connections.
Several of the main ones are: Kleinhans Music Hall, which was designed by Finland’s best-known and -loved architects, father-and-son Eliel and Eero Saarinen. FinnFest 2015 is centered around the building and the 75th anniversary of its completion. This year, and in conjunction with FinnFest, the BPO celebrates Finland’s Jean Sibelius, its most famous composer and one of the founders of modern Finland.
Also, Janne Siren, the director of the Albright Knox Art Gallery and one of the presenters at FinnFest, is a much newer Finnish import.
In addition, FinnFest 2015 features collaborations with many organizations including the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Road Less Traveled Productions, Just Buffalo Literary Center, the National Statler Center/Olmsted Center for Sight, First Presbyterian Church, the Jewish Federation of Buffalo, and the Episcopal Diocese of WNY. Events take place throughout the city and county.
Programming highlights include presentations, activities and performances (full schedule at events.finnfestusa.org/events/):
- Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen
- Composer Jean Sibelius, including his influence on Charles Burchfield, who famously painted to music
- Semi-staged production of the English language premier of the Finnish play “Dear Mr. Sibelius” by the Road Less Traveled Productions
- Film screenings of Finnish films
- Lectures, panel discussions, and receptions
- Community flag-raising free programming, including a children’s day-camp, at the Central Library to recognize Finland’s national tradition of honoring both literature and author Aleksis Kivi
- Concerts at Kleinhans, First Presbyterian Church and St . Paul’s Cathedral
- Visual and performance art exhibits at the Albright Knox, Burchfield Penney, and the Buffalo Airport
- Genealogy workshop hosted partially at the Central Library
- Multi-faith singing of “This is My Song,” across the region, throughout the weekend
- Finnish style market with vendors, goods, crafts, etc.
- Food trucks, including a Finnish ingredient cook-off
There will be plenty of “merry-making”—food, fun, and Finnish polka! Buffalo will host its own “Dancing with the Stars.” Towards the end of the weekend, a Finnish band, a Finnish-American band, and a Buffalo polka band will face off and lead the fun while guests, dignitaries, and Buffalonians cheer them on, and learn a few new steps.
Dignitaries and scholars from Finland and across the U.S. are also expected, including:
Kirsti Kauppi, Finnish Ambassador to the U.S.
Simon Livson, Finland’s chief rabbi
Aleksi Randell, Mayor of Turku, Finland
Timo Virtanen, editor-in-chief of Jean Sibelius Works, The National Library of Finland
Susan Saarinen, a landscape architect whose father was Eero Saarinen
Juhani Pallasma, Univ. of Helsinki, contemporary architecture, design and art culture
Nicholas Adams, Vassar College, Professor of Art, Art History & Urban Studies
James P. Leary, University of Wisconsin–Madison, folklorist and scholar of Scandinavian studies
Börje Vähämäki, University of Toronto, professor emeritus of Finnish studies; founder of Aspasia Books in Canada
Jukka Pietilä, cantor, Cathedral Church of Turku, and Kalevi Kiviniemi, renowned organist
Stephen Kuusisto, professor at the Center on Human Policy; poet, author of several books including Planet of the Blind: It’s Not as Dark as You Think (awarded NYT Notable Book of the Year). He has been blind since birth.
Beatrice Ojakangas, member of the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, author of 27 books; her first book, The Finnish Cookbook, is now in its 38th printing
Let’s all be “Finnspired”! This refreshing and unexpected event is a vehicle for our community to experience the arts, culture, and humanities, and especially examples of Finland’s civil society, as the basis for our ongoing conversation about our own community. Sisu!