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2015

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Introducing Janita

By Janita herself

I just released a new album called Didn’t You, my Dear? I honestly feel that this is my best album yet. I am also now in the best place that I have ever been in my life – the happiest, the healthiest, and the most balanced. My album is sort of a declaration of independence for me. I wrote all the songs myself except the cover song. I also played guitar, piano and other instruments myself. I am open to success now, open to showing my talent; I also really appreciate my talent and my happiness. This kind of self-respect and self-esteem are just some of the things I have learned while spending my time in America.

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My genetics are Finnish and I look Finnish. Having grown up in Finland there is an air of “Finnishness” about me, in my manners, etc. For example, I’ve never made a real effort to get rid of my accent. I find it to be a part of my personality, a part of me. I am proud of my roots and I feel that my foundation as a human being is Finnish. However, having spent more than half of my life in the US, I think I operate more as an American than as a Finn in my day-to-day life. I notice this especially when I go back to visit Finland, as I find it hard to adjust to all the things that other people consider normal or day-to-day.

I feel that the Finnish and American cultures are opposites in many ways. The collective self-esteem of people in the US is quite high, whereas Finns have a history of living in the shadow of a massive neighbor, that hasn’t always been benevolent… I think this has really affected the self-esteem of the nation. I think that the Finns have amazing abilities and talents, like being number one when it comes to education, and having a phenomenal healthcare and insurance system. Unfortunately, the Finns tend to downplay this, and other attributes. In Finland there is even a saying that it is better to hide one’s success and one’s happiness. This is anathema to what the American mentality is.

I left Finland because of my work and came to the States to pursue an international career as a singer. I doubt that I would have made that decision on my own at that age, but I had a musical partner at the time who was very ambitious. It was quite a transition. I was so young that I had never even done my own laundry. I was sure that I would go back to Finland soon after arriving – I was rather oblivious at the time and had no expectations whatsoever.

By the time I made the choice to stay and really started to make friends in New York, I discovered all the amazing qualities that this city had. I fell in love with it and a number of amazing people that I have met. (Took out a sentence here.) I love the fact that this city does not give a shit–it just keeps going. It is a true melting pot of so many different cultures, and you never feel alone in New York. Being from Finland, I miss the people that I love, and the fresh air.  I sometimes miss the slower pace of life in Helsinki. I also miss the simplicity and the nature of the country. In New York you are literally fighting for your existence on a daily basis, and sometimes I get tired of that. On that note, I have to say that I love the amount of respect that is given to the arts in Finland. The US has much to learn from that.

I now feel really good about the way my career is going. I’ve received rave reviews for my new album,  and have exciting new opportunities coming in almost every day. I feel like I am building a foundation for the career that I’ve always wanted to have, and becoming the artist that I’ve always wanted to be. It is truly gratifying to be able to create the kind of music that I would listen to, and to be compared to the artists that I love. I am deeply grateful. For all of this.

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SISU: an interview with Marko Albrecht

By Mikaela Katro

My mother Päivi was a very strong willed Finn with a lot of the famous Finnish trait, sisu. This strength, as well as the Finnish pride she instilled in me has made me who I am today. My mother embodied the core essence of sisu and like my mother I also live with this strength as my mindset. My entire existence has been shaped by sisu.

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My childhood was like living in a micro-Finland in the city of Chicago! From our homes interior design to the food we ate, to the sports we played, to the art and books we had, our entire life was influenced by Finnish culture. We had very strong family values and spent a lot of time together just my Mom, Dad, my brother Mikko and then extended family. This instilled in me the need to always put family first. Every other summer we traveled to Finland for three months, saving money during the other two years in order to get there. Every time we came back we brought Finnish treats with, like Turku mustard, makkara and Fazer chocolates. As a child there were times I felt embarrassed for being different, speaking in a different language, sometimes being yelled at in Finnish in public. However, now, many years later, I can say I would not have had it any other way.

When my mother passed away suddenly in 1996 everyone including myself thought our Finnish pride and sisu also died, but the exact opposite happened. We became stronger Finns with endless sisu and grew even closer with our Finnish family. My brother and I inherited ⅓ of our family’s 200 year old summer cottage and land in Lyökki and have been able to spend a lot of time there, creating an unbreakable bond with our family and the land itself. The older you get the more you appreciate the simplicity of summer cottage life. You reset, recharge and get creatively inspired enjoying nature’s silence and peacefulness away from the chaos of NYC and NJ. I love that our children get to experience the same freedom at the summer cottage that I had growing up. They swim in the lake just like I used to all those years ago, and together we pick berries and experience the wonder of nature. My wife Danielle also loves nature, minimalist design and now even sauna. We actually have a sauna in our house in NJ, and as I went to sauna with my parents, my kids now go to sauna with my wife and I, the literal same 35-year-old helosauna that I moved from Chicago to NJ. Our children also go to Suomi-koulu in NYC where they sing and play in Finnish. I guess you could say I am as much Finnish as I am American, I am a Dual Citizen and our kids are now also.

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I was in Finland many times over the last three years filming a non-profit documentary “SISU: Family, Love and Perseverance from Finland to America.” It is a profile of my family’s journey over many years through life’s ups and downs. I started the film because I wanted to show my kids what sisu was, and who my mother, their mummi was and where she came from. Soon after starting the film in 2011 her surviving brother, my Uncle Heikki was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. Over the next 3 years even with his death looming there were a lot of joyous moments in his life that I captured on film; like his wedding, the birth of his grandson and when I took my kids to Finland for the first time to meet him. The film examines the meaning of sisu for my family members and shows true Finnish culture and showcases the beauty of Finnish landscapes and city of Turku.

My sisu is the soul of my mother and loved ones no longer here living on in me. Sisu is courage, strength, grit and living in a way that it is meaningful, by truly loving everyday your life and caring for family, friends and others around you.

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Finns in New York: Mikki Nylund

Suvi Tiihonen & Linda Lumikero

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Mikki Nylund always believed he would end up in New York City. Although he was born and raised in a small village near Pietarsaari, Mikki has lived in many countries, including Finland, Sweden and Denmark. A rebel at heart, Mikki got fired while working on a mink farm after releasing the minks out of their cages and into the wild. His fondness of animals also reflects in his art work. He has spent a lot of time exploring the United States, including living with Native Indians in North Carolina, slumbering in a barn deep in the woods outside of San Francisco, jazzing around New Orleans and hanging out with hippies in Las Vegas.

What made you come to New York?

I decided to move to New York City after years in the advertising and digital media business, with the aim of trying to fully focus on my art. One day at the office where I worked, I decided that would be the last day. I told my boss “I am quitting,” then went home, packed my bags and arrived in New York later that night. I moved into a building located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, filled with other artist in huge loft apartments. That was on Hart Street off the L-Train, and soon we had started the infamous gallery—950 Hart Gallery.

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What do you think is the best part about living in New York?

The people. I love watching people and communicating with them—there’s plenty of them— of all shapes and forms, ages, colors, religions and sexual preferences—New York truly is a melting pot representing the whole world. The subway is a good place to draw or write because there’s a lot to get inspired by. Old faces with history in the lines of their skin. All the situations that pop up. The “weirdoes”—the group I probably belong to myself. The old man covered up in tattoos. The old lady dressed up on her way to a cabaret. There are other places where you can find some of this, but New York has the smorgasbord.

What do you think are some of the biggest differences between living in New York versus living in Finland?

The largest differences are, of course, the amount of people, the amount of restaurants, concerts, museums, et cetera—the multitude of things to do. The weather is also different, as well as the language and culture.  It’s also different being able to go to a restaurant at 4 o’clock in the morning. Many things are different because they are manufactured that way, but all together, I know the world is getting smaller, and having moved around a lot, I also know that we’re all pretty much the same all over the world.

 
What are some of your best New York tips?

Don’t get stuck in Manhattan, and especially not around Times Square. Of course, we’re all different, and what appeals to one, may not be of interest to another. I’d say, look around a bit. Visit Brooklyn, and take one of the ferries instead of the subway if you can—that’s how you’ll get the best views of Manhattan. Visit Harlem and the Bronx, Queens, Hoboken and Jersey City. Central Park is great both in the summer and in the winter but Coney Island, Prospect Park and Rockaway Beach are also great for an outdoors experience. Bushwick is a must for art and second hand shopping, not to mention for food and drink. Find out about shows, festivals and other events—try to find the unique plethora of things New York and its boroughs have to offer.

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Finns in New York: Mari Karppinen

Written by: Linda Lumikero & Suvi Tiihonen

As a child, Mari Karppinen dreamed about one day being a journalist so that she could share with the world the struggles of everyday people living all over the world. During her first trip as a video journalist, which was to Ethiopia, she began filming the stories of the people she met and the places she had seen. She fell in love with the camera’s ability to connect her audience to the lives of people worlds away.

Karppinen studied Journalism and Mass Communication in Tampere and was first employed by the Pohjolan Sanomat, a daily newspaper in Kemi, she then worked on Ajankohtainen kakkonen, a weekly TV program at Yleisradio. In 2009, she was hired by the Finnish TV channel MTV3 in Helsinki as a reporter and video journalist. Currently she is working as a foreign correspondent for the channel in New York.

Photo by Stanley Williams.

Photo by Stanley Williams.

Why did you come to New York?

In August of 2014, I moved to New York City for work. I had actually never been here before. Washington D.C. is generally where the correspondents have been posted in the past, but I suggested New York instead because of its wide array of events and news. Washington D.C. is only a few hours away from New York by car, so it is easily accessible when important political issues need to be covered.

What is the best part about living in New York?

The fact that it’s New York—there is a different type of energy in this city, a sense of hope, ambition, diversity that can’t be experienced anywhere else.

What are some of the biggest differences between living in New York and living in Finland?

The size of the city, of course. Everyday people have a different state of mind here. The atmosphere is unique—there is solidarity between the people here. They remain hopeful and optimistic despite the many obstacles of life. Having said that, New York can be a cold and tough place to be as well—the competition is harsh.

New York City already feels like home after living here for six months. In the end it’s all about the friends you surround yourself with—they make it home.

Name a news story you covered in New York that was the biggest or most meaningful to you.

Most emotional one was a story about the homeless in New York. I interviewed a woman who had lost everything during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Hearing about these personal tragedies, motivates me because even in the roughest ones one can still find hope. It is amazing and incredibly inspiring that despite all of the hardships and pain in this world, people continue to survive and strive.

Share your best tips for the city as a New Yorker.

I loved Fuerza Bruta, which is a postmodern Off-Broadway theatre show running downtown at the Daryl Roth Theatre. The show uses strobe lights, loud noises, water, mist and fog. It’s magnificent. I also enjoy spooky house venues.

The best way to experience New York is by walking around, I would especially recommend walking from Soho in Manhattan all the way to Flatbush in Brooklyn. There’s a lot of interesting areas in between.

Different boroughs are worth exploring—you’ll observe different lifestyles and get to know different cultures. In Brooklyn Heights you can enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline. Also, there is a different view towards street art like graffiti here—Bushwick, East Brooklyn and Queens have plenty of it.

There are also small concerts almost every night in the city. You could walk in to a random bar and enjoy live jazz. It truly is the city that never sleeps, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.

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Finns in New York: Elsa Gustavsson

By Suvi Tiihonen

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People say that if you truly want to become an actor or actress, you must go to New York, and in the fall of 2013, that is exactly what Elsa Gustavsson did.

Acting has been a big part of Elsa’s life from early on. She joined Espoo School of Performing Arts at the age of 8 and continued studying theatre for 10 years—learning the basics of her art.

Because of her love for the theatre, it was logical Elsa studied at the Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts to start pursuing a career in acting. After graduation, she joined the Improvisaatioryhmä JooJoo, an improvisational group where she studied and explored improvisational theatre. At the same time she studied at the Työväen Akatemia, an academy for Open University studies in the Theatre Academy of Helsinki.

Why did you come to New York?

“I came to New York to pursue a higher level of education in acting. My school was Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre” (notable alumni include, Chris Noth, Sex and the City, Jeff Goldblum, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Allison Janney, American Beauty, and Diane Keaton, The Godfathertrilogy).

Did the school live up to your expectations?

“Definitely, it changed my whole life. Neighborhood Playhouse is known for the Meisner technique, created by Sanford Meisner. The quality of teaching in New York is better than in Finland. The Meisner technique not only affects your acting but has an effect on your entire life.”

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What has been the most amazing part of your New York experience?

“Overcoming the fear of death — I feel like I have achieved as much as one can achieve by this age. [In school], I felt so much and so intensely that it almost felt like I couldn’t achieve more even though that’s not the case.”

What drives your desire to be an actress?

“As a child I found theatre to be the only stable environment — one in which I felt safe. I was an extremely shy child — intimidated by most human contact. The reason I fell in love with theatre was the idea of getting to play with my imagination.”

What differences are there between studying acting in Finland and in the United States?

“In New York, there is a more professional approach to the theatre studies, at least at an advanced level. Standards and requirements are higher. The technique they teach is unbeatable. All of my teachers, at the time, were working within the theatre industry in New York. The studies were intense — studying in New York was ten times harder both mentally and physically because of the work load and higher expectations. You need to really be up to par.”

What are your best tips on what to do in New York?

“Forget the tourist traps and broaden your horizon by visiting other boroughs. Some parts of Manhattan aren’t real. You don’t see how the majority of New Yorkers live if you don’t leave Manhattan. I lived in the Bronx for a year and absolutely fell in love with it.”

Since leaving New York in the spring of 2014, Elsa has continued to act. She did an episode for Valheen vangit, a Finnish scripted reality TV series.

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