Young People’s Experiences of Art Visits and Cultural Participation in the Art Testers Campaign

Sofia Laine & Maaria Hartman


In this study funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, senior researcher Sofa Laine and researcher Maaria Hartman from the Finnish Youth Research Network examined young people’s experiences of art visits and their cultural participation in the Art Testers Campaign. Over the years 2017–2020, the Art Testers Campaign is ofering every eighthgrade pupil in Finland two art visits: One visit will take place in their own region and the other in the Helsinki area – and for those living in the capital region, a trip elsewhere will be arranged. Te activities have been initiated and funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Swedish Cultural Foundation, and the campaign is coordinated by the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centres.

The research started with a pilot study in spring 2018, and the actual study material was collected over the 2018–2019 academic year in 10 schools selected from all over Finland: participating in the study were the largest towns in the regions of Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, North Karelia, Central Finland and Lapland. From each of these regions, a smaller town with a much narrower selection of culture services than the largest in the region also participated in the study. Initial and follow-up interviews were carried out on the same pupils who had consented to the study at each participating school. The total number of pupils interviewed in the study is 116. In addition to the interviews, the researchers also performed ethnographic observation by travelling with two classes to the art destinations in the Art Testers Campaign and by carrying out observation at other art destinations in the study in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area during visits by the study classes. Tree students from the Johdatus etnografseen arviointitutkimukseen [Introduction to ethnographic evaluation research] course organised by the University of Helsinki also assisted in carrying out the study in the case of the research material for Helsinki.

The study found that the young people’s experiences of art visits in the Art Testers Campaign were very varied. Tus, a holistic approach is important when studying the experiences: everything that happens before the art visit, at the location and after the visit all defne the young person’s experience of the art. Individual and social factors must also be considered, especially the fact that the project is being implemented in the context of a school and class. Te research publication examines young people’s cultural participation on a four-level model of participation. Te research results show that the Art Testers Campaign achieves the frst two levels of participation: availability and accessibility of art and reception of the art and culture. Some young people in the Art Testers Campaign also have the opportunity to get involved in the planning, implementation and development of the art or making decisions about it. However, these young people only make up a small minority.

According to the study, the lack of young people’s possibilities to refect the art experiences after the visits is the major obstacle in strengthening the young people’s art experiences. Most of the art institutions produce high-quality educational materials for schools, but, for one reason or another, the schools hardly ever complete this work, in particular the assignments that is meant for post-visit phase. A separate event where young people could analyse their experiences of an art visit would be necessary in addition to any audience discussion that is arranged at the art location. Refection and analysis of the experience produced by the visit would help to deepen the young people’s experience of the art. Te follow-up interviews in this study gave the study participants an opportunity to discuss their experiences: the young people first recalled their experiences independently and then discussed them in a peer group.