- The case for Tromsø Kunstforening and the art community in Tromsø -


This week,
Tromsø Kommune will take a decision on selling the building which housesTromsø Kunstforening, Muségata 2 to UIT

To keep artists in the city, to encourage new artists to study in Tromsø, there needs to be a vibrant art scene: places to meet and discuss, to see art and be inspired, to produce and to exhibit.

Tromsø is not the most obvious place to look to, from the outside, regarding arts - it isn’t in proximity to the European art centres, it doesn’t have a long history, written into the canon of art, it is expensive to live here.Yet a vibrant art scene, in which artists and art thrives, has appeared and been established in the last few decades.

For all of its challenges, Tromsø is an incredible place to be an artist and make art. It is beautiful, inspiring and collaborative, but this scene did not appear magically. It has developed largely through the tenacity, hard work and passion of artists from the region to bring it to the point it is now. The fact it has developed in this fashion means the art scene has a style, aesthetic and spirit distinct to Tromsø. We are both local and international, communitarian and free; politically, socially and artistically experimental. Despite it being an expensive place to live, Tromsø’s uniqueness as a city and an art scene, makes it an exciting place to be an artist, one which is conscious of, and well networked with, other art cities in Norway and Europe without relying on them or merely mimicking them.

Tromsø Kunstforening has been a stalwart of Tromsø’s art scene, and of the entire North, for many decades. Following the opening of the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art in 2008, the art scene has been bolstered by the opening of Kurant Visningsrom in 2009, and Small Projects in 2013,  spaces which opened up ways for the public to engage with art, to meet with others, to discuss, to be inspired and energised. These three institutions give space to artists to produce, see work, experiment, but also to gain employment in places within their field and where they could help shape the landscape.

However, the independence, passion and fire seems like its being starved of its oxygen. A city that wants to brand itself as a city for culture and art, from ‘Paris of the North’ to ‘Berlin of the North’ seems to have no room for art. Kurant lost our ‘Visningsrom’ a year ago, and are unable to find new premises which we can afford in a city becoming more and more geared towards fast-tourism and property speculation. Small Projects have lost their Kulturrådet funding as of 2020, and Tromsø Kunstforening is now under threat, with the planned sale of its building to UIT, a sale which has not considered or secured the future of TKF. How will art students learn in a city with no art? How will Tromsø residents have access to art? Must we travel to Bodø to experience a city of culture? Alta? Svolvær? Or even Oslo? Why lose Tromsø’s voice within the regional, national and international discussion when it has worked so hard to be recognised in the first place?

In a city with rapidly increasing house and property prices, these spaces, Tromsø Kunstforening, Small Projects, Kurant Visningsrom  (and Perspektivet) offer completely free access to the arts, with no consumption or payment necessary. Cultural spaces that cost nothing and open to everyone -  equally - are uncommon in this city and must be protected. Additionally, they give space and life to smaller local projects and communities. TKF currently houses Loftet Arbeidsfellesskap, Tromsø Folkekjøkken and Mondo Books and collaborate with large events such as TIFF and Insomnia Festival, providing space, resources and collaborators. Kurant has also been lucky to take shelter inside TKF over the years, and now have an office there.

Artists and these art spaces put everything they have into making things happen. We use ourselves:  our passion, our energy, our mental health, our own capital and income and time. It takes a lot to make us give up but when the toll is too high then we cannot survive.  If there is no space for these conversations, no spaces to make art in, no space for broader communities to engage with art, no space for us to survive, then there is no space for artists - and no space for art - in Tromsø. What will then happen to Tromsø, the place we call home?

Kurant strongly believes that a buyout which does not consider the future of Tromsø Kunstforening, either by selling the building from under it, or without planning for its future - would deny it the opportunity to survive and would be disastrous for the art scene in Tromsø. We stand in solidarity and would ask the Kommune to reject this sale.

The artists of Kurant.