Students in field

Virtanen’s research to be featured in three PBS world premieres this weekend

March 10, 2022

Oren Tikkanen and Matthew Durocher perform with Finnish American band Laulu Aika at the Toivola Juhannus Festival 2019

On Sunday, March 13, the world premiere of three documentary films featuring the research and production-related work of Finnish & Nordic Studies Professor Hilary-Joy Virtanen will take place on PBS station WNMU-TV Marquette as part of their Festival! 22 pledge programming.

These three films result from a collaboration between Virtanen, film director and sociology professor Michael Loukinen (NMU), and videographers Kristin Ojaniemi and Alex Maier. Funded by a generous grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation in New York City, these films are part of a series of six documentaries produced through this collaboration which documents Finnish American folk art traditions in the Upper Peninsula as they exist today.

“This collaboration was an excellent opportunity for me to learn how to translate the research work I do into film production as well as to work with Michael Loukinen, whose filmmaking has documented UP folklife for over 40 years,” Virtanen said. “The grant we received has allowed us to show the changes and continuities that are found in Finnish American traditional arts over time as well as the ways in which new practitioners have taken on these practices for the future. We were lucky to get to interview traditional artists in our region including musicians Oren Tikkanen and Matthew Durocher, rag rug weavers Lorri Oikarinen and Lisa Wiitala, and perhaps most poignantly, kantele master Melvin Kangas, who was a professor at Finlandia for several decades and who passed away last fall.”

The films will be airing consecutively on Sunday, March 13, beginning at 7 pm Eastern time with Yooper Creoles: Finnish Music in Michigan’s Copper Country, Melvin Kangas: Kantele Man at 8 pm, and Finnish American Rag Rug Weavers at 8:30. For more information on the Festival! 22 schedule and accessing the programming via television and the internet, visit https://wnmutv.nmu.edu/festival-22/. DVDs of all six films are available for sale at UP North Films: https://upnorthfilms.com/.

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