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22 May - 5 June 2024

Gifting a micro concert

Art Gift became a big hit in Finland and Iceland. Now, the arts project is coming to the Bergen International Festival.

Art Gift brought live music to audiences during the Helsinki Festival. Photo: Saara Autere
Art Gift brought live music to audiences during the Helsinki Festival. Photo: Saara Autere

With the corona pandemic came enormous changes in arts and culture all over the world. The need for social distancing meant a ban on events with audiences. 

The situation also led to a wave of creative solutions, so that people still could experience the arts. The Bergen International Festival quickly launched a new, digital programme, which in the end gained over a million started streams

One of the fun, new ideas born during the pandemic was Art Gift by the Helsinki Festival. The concept is that you can book a live performance for someone you care about via a web app. The gift itself is a five minute performance by an artist who shows up at the given time and place. 

Who the artist is, and what the performance contains will remain a surprise until the artist shows up. The only thing you have to choose, is a time and suitable place outdoors where social distancing is possible. In only a few days, 300 art gifts were booked during the Helsinki Festival. 

"Like so many around the world, we saw the videos online of an Italian tenor singing on his balcony in the first lockdown. And we thought, how can we make this into a “system” that brings joy to people all across our city in a safe way? From the very beginning we wanted to make the concept and code open source, freely available for festivals and artists everywhere to use." says Artistic Director of the Helsinki Festival, Marko Ahtisaari.

The Helsinki Festival developed the project with a desire that it would spread to other cities and festivals. For that reason, the system was deveoped with an open source code. 

This way, festivals around the world can adapt the web app locally. In addition to the success in Helsinki, Art Gift was also very popular at the Reykjavik Arts Festival

Ahtisaari believes that the reception of the project was exceptional for two reasons.

"First, a gift is a big human universal. The experience of art gifts was loved by recipients and artists alike. Second, the open source code and concept makes it very easy and quick for a festival to implement. We are delighted that in this way more resources can go directly to artists." says Ahtisaari. 

Now, Art Gift will become a part of the 2021 Bergen International Festival, where audiences can book micro performances to suitable places in Bergen. 

Festival Director Anders Beyer is happy to realise the project in Bergen, and is sure of its success, as in Finland and Iceland. 

"The nice thing about Art Gift is that audiences receive a corona friendly culture experience, while at the same time giving a gift to someone they care about. A gift concert like this will be a highlight in everyday lives affected by the pandemic." he says.


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