ITE Art opening speech by Helka Ketonen

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of Outsider Art,

I bring warm regards from the Finnish ITE artists and the enthusiastic audience in Finland who admire their creativity. We are very delighted and happy to see ITE art-works in Amsterdam, which belong to Mr and Mrs Ammann Collection. Big and warm thanks of this collaboration with your museum and with Korine and Max E. Ammann.
The fame for ITE art is growing in our country. Important art museums are more and more willing to exhibit ITE art, and to combine ITE in connection with professional contemporary art. There is also a growing phenomenon where foreign bloggers, artists and adventurers come to Finland to visit ITE Art Environments. Last week we had on opportunity to meet personally one of them, the famous blogger Sophie Lepetit from France. She is right now on her ITE tour in Finland and was seemingly impressed of what she found.
ITE exhibitions have been shown also abroad with good success. We have organized in different partnerships travelling exhibitions in London, Paris, Budapest, Tallinn, Bratislava, Rotterdam, Berlin, Moscow and many places in Scandinavia.

Firstly, I’d like shortly go through the relationship between Outsider Art and ITE Art.

I.T.E. is an abbreviation of the words Itse Tehty Elämä, which means Self Made Life. The title wants to underline the strong role of art and creativity in people’s everyday life: how they can define their life and take it in their own hands by artistic expression.
The creators of ITE Art are common people. They don’t have any professional art education. They are self-taught. They generate their methods and techniques by themselves. Very often their expression is like on obsession. Their art-works spread out to their environments shaping and filling their houses and yards.
This kind of making art and being a self tought artist in in close relation to the wide concept of Outsider Art. The nearest relatives for ITE-art is most likely in the USA, where they talk about the contemporary folk art.
Very often ITE artists live in small villages, away from centers and cities. They are vry humble and make no fuss about themselves. Most certainly it in not often easy to locate them.

How do we make acquaintance with new ITE artists?

Our organization, Association for Rural Culture and Education, started some 20 years ago look for visual creations of people without art education. We wanted to find out, what kind of artistic expression there are in people’s every-day life in the country. We wanted to study the forms of it and present it to the audience. My colleague Mrs Raija Kallioinen has actively worked on this work from the early beginning.
During the first years 20 years ago, we gave some announcements in newspapers and to people working in cultural field. We got about 300 discoveries and received wonderful stories, letters and photos throughout the country. It was obvious that the survey should be done more carefully, and there would be many hidden treasures in our villages.
Our method is to organize regional searching projects, an area after another. We send our documentarists to the field to make contacts to cultural activists and local people. We share leaflets, write announcements to media etc. This inspires people to send their remarks of extraordinary creators to us. Then our staff will go to meet the creators in their homes, interview them and make documentations. In the end the works of the new ITE artists will be exhibited in social media, blogs, local museums, films, maps, printed books etc.
With this method, we have now searched half of the Finland and the mapping is still going on. To our knowledge our method is one of the most systematic processes for searching, documenting and exhibiting contemporary folk art.

ITE collection and ITE museum

In the ITE Collection, owned by our Association for Rural Culture, almost all the most important artists are represented. But there are some very important artists who absolutely deny for selling any of their works, but we have good contacts to them and have barrowed their works to our exhibitions.
Very important partner for our Association and ITE art is Kokkola town and their municipal museum, K.H.Renlund museum. Museum Director Kristina Ahmas is leading the work, and she is also here in our delegation today.
Together we work in partnership, called ITE Museum. Our Association takes care of the on-going work for new discoveries, and we own the ITE collection. Kokkola town takes care of the professional museum work, they run the collaboration with other museums and take care of the ITE collection. Mrs Elina Vuorimies is working in the museum permanently as a curator for ITE art.

Thank You!

Our dear friends Korine and Max E. Ammann have visited us and toured around Finland since 2004. Their ITE collection has expanded year after year, and now here we can admire the best of their collection. We have had a very close and good relationship during all these years, meeting each other regularly.
This lovely exhibition in our Outsider Art Museum is reflecting the rich world of I.T.E. = self made life. I and my dear colleagues warmly wish that this will give you an idea of the life of the Finnish contemporary folk artist.
Hope you will have an enjoyable experience with the exhibition!
And again, very warm thanks for the great collaboration with Mr and Mrs Ammann and the Outsider Art Museum Amsterdam – and congratulations on the fine exhibition.

Helka Ketonen, Director for Cultural Affairs, Association for Rural Culture and Education
Opening speech at 13.6.2018 in Outsider Art Museum Amsterdam