Salla Karvonen: Behind Turku’s Cultural Events

Words by Roos Hekkens; Photos by Joonas Mäkivirta

Turku is a vibrant city with many attractive venues to visit and places to see. But it is people that drive this city’s special cultural life. CC:TKU gets to know some of the people who live and work here.


See what keeps Salla busy at:

Cultural producers play an important role in bringing events to life in this city. One of Turku’s finest female cultural producers is Salla Karvonen. She is a true facilitator of cultural events, and at the moment is working for multiple productions. It is hard to keep up with all the work she does but let’s give it a try!

How did you find yourself in this job?

My background is in cultural production, which I studied in Helsinki. In 2013 I got involved with ILMIÖ through an internship, and was introduced to Turku. After that we founded the cooperative organisation Umlaut to produce the H2Ö Festival in Ruissalo’s shipyard. During these summers in Turku I found this city to be my home and decided to move here after I graduated. Through this experience I met a lot of people and got involved in many different production jobs.

Besides ILMIÖ I also work for Jazz City Turku, where I am responsible for the Turku Jazz Orchestra, and soon I will start as a producer for the New Performance Turku Festival. On top of these producing jobs you can also occasionally find me behind the tap in Bar Ö. When it’s listed like this it seems like quite a lot, but that’s how this field works! I just went for new exciting opportunities that came to me!

What do you enjoy about your workplace?

Obviously I enjoy culture myself and I have always wanted to be involved in this scene. I learnt that my skills lie in organising and started to focus on that. To me it’s important to work in a meaningful job, and because art and culture are relevant to me I feel that it is essential to work in this field.

I also like the fact that production projects are mostly temporary: you work hard over a short period of time, and that’s something I like. The feeling you get when you finish a project successfully is something compared to a big sporting achievement- that rush is awesome! Also the projects change all the time, which keeps the job interesting. In my experience my work has a lot of freedom and for the main part I can make my own decisions.

Most of all I like the people I work with and get to meet during my job. They inspire me and motivate me in my own work.

What makes Turku your place to live and work?

It was nice to live in Helsinki for a while during my studies, but I grew up in a small town in Northern Finland so it makes me feel good to be surrounded by familiar faces. In Turku it has been easy for me to get to know people. The city is small but comfortable and the cultural field is very broad. This also makes it possible to experience the effect of your work immediately and to get direct responses to what you do. Needless to say I have been lucky that I have met the right people in Turku and had the opportunity to work with them in awesome productions.

How do you relate to your position as a female producer of an all-male orchestra?

Well, actually the orchestra does have a couple of women that play at the concerts. But indeed, unfortunately it’s a fact that women are very underrepresented on the stage, especially in jazz music. The Jazz City Turku team is aware of this problem, and we actively try to produce concerts with female artists. We will even have a female conductor performing next year. But it’s hard for us as well, because there are so few women in the field.

Nevertheless I feel like things are changing and there has been a lot of discussion about this topic in general. In my work I have to be conscious about the representation of women when I do funding applications, for example. Recently I read that in Sweden the rules are even stricter for getting government funding and events need to have a fixed amount of female artists. This is not the case in Finland but I do feel like it can be good to impose change to make things happen.

For me personally it is very important to enjoy culture made by women, and I would also want to provide this to new generations because it’s crucial to have female role models for small children.

With my work as the producer of the Turku Jazz Orchestra I don’t feel different in my position as a woman. What I do hope for is regeneration in the orchestra and in our audience.

What (concert) are you looking forward to this Autumn?

Our next event is during Taiteiden Yö (The Night of the Arts), and is in collaboration with Saaristomeren Suojelurahasto- an organisation that preserves the Turku archipelago. There will be a jazz trio playing at the Aura river and the musicians will separated in different spots. The saxophonist Mikko Innanen will even be on a raft in the Aura river at the Haahka sculptures.

On the 28th September Jimi Tenor will be visiting Turku to perform his big band music for the first time and I am really looking forward to that. Jimi Tenor is a renowned pioneer in alternative music that ranges from electronic music to jazz, and he has played all over Finland and abroad. Tenor’s way of composing big band music is something that we are not used to and therefore it’s a great opportunity to experience it.

Last but not least I am looking forward to the New Performance Turku Festival on September 21st – 23rd (find the event on Facebook), and I can’t wait to start working with them. It is amazing how broad and international the scene of performance art is in Turku and I’m happy to be part of it!

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