Artistic content

Saimaa Phenomenon 2026 is a culture programme based on three main themes: The Power of Water, Connecting Bridges and Eastern Joy. Combining these three themes opens the way to revealing the secrets of eastern culture. Along with the three main themes, “Everyday Saimaa” is another element of the programme, designed to illustrate how small-scale art experiences, tiny adventures, and significant encounters, all go hand-in-hand to demonstrate the uniqueness of living on the shores of Saimaa and experiencing Saimaa culture in an upfront and personal way. Read our first phase Bid Book here.

The Power of Water


The Arts and Culture on Water programme embodies different art genres - from arts to theatre - including cultural float adventures along the water. Shores, islands, villages, and cities all play their part to produce unforeseen and unique experiences. You may stumble upon a cultural event taking place on a familiar lakeside path or on an unknown island. 


The Lake Culture programme brings together events where history and modern-day Saimaa meet, and introduces its many facets and the different types of Saimaa people. It goes without saying that to Saimaa dwellers, Saimaa is the most beloved place on Earth. The theme is designed to increase communality, share knowledge, and produce a positive impact for the future of Saimaa and its inhabitants.


The current state of the world challenges us to consider making resolute changes to our way of life. The Forest Culture programme includes three projects which will be produced with international partners. These projects will address forest mythology and query: “What can we learn from the past?” - that is, with respect to living more modestly, on nature’s terms?

Connecting Bridges


Saimaa Phenomenon 2026 utilises modern-day technology and digitalisation to build invisible bridges, new, immersive spaces, and to promote change. The touch of arts and culture changes hard, physical technological products into memorable experiences and gives them a soul. Saimaa Phenomenon 2026 harnesses art, design, and technological know-how into new cultural experiences through cooperation between the universities of eastern Finland, technology enterprises, and local art festivals, (such as the Kuopio Dance Festival).  


Within the Saimaa Phenomenon 2026 project, arts and culture will act as visible and invisible bridges. The theme will unite cultural institutions, who by working together can achieve so much more than by working alone. We will make room for the expansion of modern dance programmes, and we will improve the underlying conditions that lead to cultural equality. We will illuminate our bridges and turn on the lights so that they can shine brightly upon Saimaa. 


The European Capital of Culture year will bring the city and municipal centres alive; it will return medieval times to Savonia, build bridges to create new urban culture in eastern Finland and create opportunities for organising spontaneous events and escapades in public spaces. We urge cities and municipalities to designate venues for organising art exhibitions and events and to simplify licensing processes for entrepreneurs. Instead of building new facilities, both public and private sectors are encouraged to enable the diverse use of existing empty spaces for cultural use.


Arts and culture are known to increase a sense of well-being. In this programme we will promote an active and participatory way of life, bringing special arts to the forefront while at the same time focusing attention on issues of equality, by including them in the Capital of Culture year programme. Cultural activities will also be integrated into our phenomenal sports events. 

Eastern Joy


In our area, especially in North Karelia, an ancient folk music tradition thrives, based on the Finnish national epic Kalevala, and the national instrument, the kantele. Singing is still the strongest form of human expression, and playing music is an extension of words. However, right here at its source of origin, our own phenomenal Karelian cultural heritage is in danger of becoming extinct; being lost and gone forever. Saimaa Phenomenon 2026 will work to ensure that the region's own unique musical heritage is fused with modern music and made known among new audiences. We intend to bring players across musical genres together, generating a platform for new musical innovations. Saimaa Phenomenon 2026 is working together with the Slovakian Capital of Culture city Zilina to preserve national instruments that are under threat of becoming extinct, and a festival is being planned, where the focal point are the UNESCO-protected Slovakian fujara flute, and the Finnish string instruments kantele and jouhikko.


Communality is an integral part of everyday Saimaa life. Under this theme we will explore new ways to work together. We will encourage people of all ages, from the very youngest to the retired, to participate in projects which benefit the common good of the community. Competence, skill, and tacit knowledge are highly valued in our culture and we wish to ensure that all of this invaluable knowledge is passed on to future generations. 


Food has always been a matter of honour for a host or hostess in eastern Finland. Our cuisine is based on seasonal harvests, revealing a story about our way of life, cultural heritage, and hospitality. We bake, roast, and prepare food of many varieties - from game to fish, to berries and mushrooms. Traditional foods are generally loved and valued, and recipes are often passed on from one generation to the next.