Skip to content

Three titles of Academician of Arts awarded

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 23.3.2023 14.30
Press release
Kuvassa taiteen akateemikot. Vasemmalta Sirkku Peltola (kuva Heikki Salo), Kaija Saariaho (kuva Maarit Kytöharju) ja Roi Vaara.
Sirkku Peltola, Kaija Saariaho and Roi Vaara. (Photos: Heikki Salo, Maarit Kytöharju and Roi Vaara.)

President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö has awarded the title of Academician of Arts to playwright, theatre director, dramaturge Sirkku Peltola, composer Kaija Saariaho and performance artist Roi Vaara. The honorary title will be awarded at a ceremony to be held in Helsinki in March.

On proposal of the Arts Council, the President of the Republic grants the title of academician to a distinguished artist. The title is lifelong and does not entail a salary. There may be 11 Academicians of Arts at any one time. 

The current ones are media artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, photographer Carl-Johan (Caj) Bremer, film director Pirjo Honkasalo, dance artist Marjo Kuusela, architect Juha Leiviskä, author Hannu Mäkelä, Textile and Fashion Designer Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi and conductor Jorma Panula.

Rationale by the Arts Council

Sirkku Peltola

Sirkku Peltola (born in 1960, Kangasala) is a playwright whose work is frequently put on stage and who is also a highly renowned theatre director. Peltola has a long, rich and versatile career. Awarding an honorary title to her is well justified by the fact that she represents the theatre arts as a playwright, dramaturge and theatre director. Furthermore, the National Council for the Performing Arts proposes that the title of academician be awarded to Sirkku Peltola who has worked and continues to work extensively throughout Finland. She has directed at the city theatres in Jyväskylä, Lahti, Kuopio and Helsinki, the KOM Theatre in Helsinki and Tampere Workers’ Theatre, among others. 

Peltola has worked in the theatre arts since the 1980s and has written more than 30 plays. Her aesthetics is strong and identifiable, her literary works including drama, comedy, plays for children and musicals. She is one of the few modern dramatists who has created alternatives for the Anglo-American repertoire of musicals and farces. 

Peltola has also gained international success as her plays have been translated into several languages and they have been performed around the world. Her most famous works include Suomen hevonen (2004) that started the Kotala family saga, and the musicals Suruttomat (2004), Patukkaopera (2007) and Tytöt 1918 (2018). She has received various recognitions and awards, such as the Lea prize (2002), the Olavi Veistäjä prize (2005), the Suomi prize (2005) and the Pro Finlandia Medal (2018).

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho (born in 1952) is one of the most internationally successful Finnish artists. Kaija Saariaho’s nomination for an academician is well justified by her exceptionally extensive, diverse and individual life’s work and the topical nature of her creative power. Her production that extends over four decades consists of over one hundred compositions. Internationally, she is most widely known as an opera composer and a reformer whose compositions have been performed and recorded around the world. Saariaho has actively cooperated with other actors in the field of art and has contributed to improving the operating conditions of the Finnish music life.

What is characteristic of her operas is that they engage in dialogue with the different ways of seeing the world of our time, and this is done in an exceptionally bold fashion for high culture. Her example has encouraged the whole new generation of composers to come up with open-minded solutions and has extended her influence on other forms of art, too.

Saariaho has received many significant international awards and honours for her work, including the Golden Lion Prize of the Venice Biennale in 2021. In December 2021, the New York Times elected Kaija Saariaho as the best composer of the year.

She has received numerous other international awards during her career, including the following: the Nordic Council music award (2000), the Grawemeyer award (2003), the Michael Ludwig Nemmers award (2007), the Léonie Sonning music award (2011) and the Frontiers of Knowledge award (2017). Saariaho received the Pro Finlandia Medal in 2005 and the Sibelius Prize in 2009.
The selection of Kaija Saariaho is justified by her exceptionally ground-breaking and significant international career. Her nomination as an academician was proposed by the National Council for Music and the National Council for the Performing Arts.

Roi Vaara 

Roi Vaara (born in 1953 in Moss, Norway) is an internationally respected pioneer of the performance arts who has contributed to the visibility of the field in Finland since the 1980s. Awarding an honorary title of academician to performance artist Roi Vaara is justified by the fact that he represents an art field linked to the visual arts that before now has not been represented in the Academicians. It would bring diversity to Arts Academicians and improve the status of the performance arts. The proposal is also justified by the fact that the Finnish National Council for the Visual Arts has proposed that Vaara be awarded the honorary title of Academician of Arts. 

His work has not only been ground-breaking in the performance arts but also in the fields of video, installation and community art in Finland. Vaara's career began in the early 1980s, when her Valkoinen mies performance changed the paradigm of visual arts and performance arts became an interesting form of art in Finland. Roi Vaara has created more than 500 performances, and his art has been shown in more than 50 countries.

Since 1988, Vaara has been an active participant in the influential performance collective, Black Market International, where the operating model of long-lasting performances is based on a free and open exchange of ideas. In 2001, Vaara organised the world’s largest festival of the performance arts EXIT in Helsinki. The open invitation was received by approximately 300 artists from 34 countries. The Poikkeustila festival and the activities of the Ö-ryhmä were groundbreaking, too, in Finland.

Roi Vaara received the Ars Fennica Prize in 2005 and the Pro Finlandia Medal in 2010. He is a founding member and honorary member of the Muu organisation. Vaara studied at the Finnish University of the Arts in 1972-75 and at the University of Jyväskylä in 1976-77. He has lectured and taught in art schools, universities and academies in many countries.


Following the deaths of academicians Kirsi Kunnas-Syrjä, Ralf Långbacka and Outi Heiskanen, the title of academician is now held by eight distinguished artists.

The title of Academician of Science can be held by no more than sixteen Finnish scientists and scholars at a time.

Inquiries: Laura Norppa, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 330 050