After the Finnish art months with two exhibition periods, this exhibition followed. Curator Per Drougge’s foreword to the exhibition catalogue is an interesting text of its time, showing how they tried to make new contacts and widen their network, decades before the digitalised society made the process that much faster and simpler.
The ambitions were high; the time expressed a wish to reach far beyond the provincial. Drougge writes in a letter: “When it comes to art, Södertälje cannot be blamed for either chauvinism or provincialism. The same goes for the exhibition programme at Södertälje konsthall since 1968. Art from all over the world has been shown there over the years, of course also interspersed with exhibitions with local artists and artist collectives.” Drougge writes further: “It is very important for us who work at the Södertälje culture administration to get in contact with all the creative talents among our immigrants, so that their contributions can be an enriching part of the municipality’s cultural life. (…) From the art department’s side, an intense contact with the immigrants might result in a strong change in policy and service. Maybe we should change the exhibition policies, maybe we should always have information in many different languages etc.” He uses expressions such as the need for further development, self-realisation and people’s education in the context of his text – that all groups should have access to it (see document in its entirety.)
At this time, the municipality had around 13% new Swedes. Of the 10.300 inhabitants, 7500 were from Finland. Via letters in both Swedish and Finnish, both professional and amateur artists were invited to exhibit at Södertälje konsthall. It resulted in 39 participants, whereof 15 from Finland. Most of the others were from northern or central Europe. A few artists from outside of Europe were represented, 2 from USA, one from Japan, one from Chile, one from Panama. Only one participant, from Syria, represented the Arabic speaking population. Today Arabic is one of the dominant languages in Södertälje next to Swedish. After the exhibition Drougge wrote a letter of thanks to everyone.
Art works in many different techniques were shown. A range of items, crafts, folk art, music instruments etc., from the artists’ respective home countries.
The exhibition was opened at 1 pm by the then municipal commissioner Bengt Karlsson. A dance and music group from former Yugoslavia performed. In the evening there was a party in the gallery. Dance, song and music as well as food and drink – in a notice for the evening one can read: invited are the artists with wife/husband/fiancée/fiancé and the members of Södertälje artist associations (Södertälje konstnärskrets) and their guest exhibitor Christopher Hansing from Hamburg.
During the exhibition, Hungarian, Finnish and Assyrian evenings were organised at the gallery, for three evenings during the first week with song, music and dancing. An intensive networking, one can imagine!
Sources: quotes from catalogue by Per Drougge, letters and notes from the archive. Put together by: Anneli Karlsson.