Pioneer of Karelian fold music, composer, lyricist, singer, producer, trainer, entrepreneur, mother. Doctor of music Sari Kaasinen is all this and more, and she returned to Joensuu after almost ten years away, to work as the Cultural Director of Joensuu.

The returnee thinks that Joensuu welcomed her back in the best possible way. Easily approachable and open to new ideas, Kaasinen is particularly pleased with the way local politicians take cultural needs into account, ask questions and express support.

– Culture and art are part of everyone’s life, and in Joensuu, culture means the common good, Sari Kaasinen says with a smile.

Guidelines for living

Sari Kaasinen is homesick, Etelä-Saimaa newspaper wrote in October 2017. Culture and events centre Kehruuhuone had developed into an attractive tourist destination under the guidance of Kaasinen. Managed by the Cultural Director’s first-born daughter Kiisa Koskimies with her partner Petteri Ukkola, Kehruuhuone lunch restaurant had become a favourite amongst lunch customers and concert visitors. From the entrepreneur’s perspective, returning to Joensuu from Lappeenranta was not a self-evident choice.

– My youngest daughter Aliina was the biggest motivator in the end. She reminded me of my own motto: it is always worth trying, spread your wings and fly! And if it does not feel right, you can always leave.

The encouragement provided by Kaasinen’s daughter and her partner helped, although it was also true that she was homesick. Fastidiously and lovingly built by Kaasinen, Villa Ruusula in Rääkkylä is a home as well as a venue for events and functions, and a haven of peace and quiet.

Wisdom of the heart

New, fresh winds are blowing in Joensuu – also in terms of culture, Cultural Director Kaasinen promises. According to her, you make poor progress by setting demands and forcing your opinion through, and the emotional style easily causes a lot of harm, even if it the intention is good. Kaasinen talks about wisdom of the heart – taking the other person into consideration, and being open-minded and tolerant in the genuinely Karelian way.

The locals, children and adults alike, should have a low threshold for cultural services.

Confrontation belongs in the past. Things have to be processed peacefully, different perspectives should be listened to, and viewpoints should be formed. It is worth remembering that these matters involve us all, which is why we should work toward a common goal.

The Cultural Director has already faced the infamous resistance to change.

– “This is how it’s always been, this is what we tend to do.” Oh well – now it’s time to break the resistance and spark new enthusiasm! We will certainly find new perspectives and approaches.

Bright bubbles!

One happy surprise was organised already in summer 2018, when Joensuu welcomed Ilosaarirock visitors to the city with a glass of sparkling wine. The idea came from Event Manager Markku Pyykönen, while the new Cultural Director was also happy to taken on the role of a hospitable host.

– It was a great bright spot, and a related video was circulated widely in the social media, but the work cannot stop here. Joensuu is a hospitable city for visitors. The locals, children and adults alike, should have a low threshold for cultural services.