About us

Download INSEA article on background of the
research group (from p. 13 onwards)


Mari von Boehm
E-mail: mari.v.boehm(at)gmail.com
Phone: +358 (0)44 56 09 240
Click here for Mari's website


Mari von Boehm (born 1976) is an art pedagogue, specialized in outdoor art education. Her research topic is ART ON THE ROOTS – Exploration of the tradition of environmental emphasis in Finnish art pedagogy.
Mari is currently teaching in Aalto University's courses Out from the classroom and Environmental pedagogy. She is also teaching in the Espoo school of art.
She has studied art in Pekka Halonen Academy and the University of Art and Design. Her Masters thesis in 2002 was a pedagogical experiment Nordic messages from the seas, together with fellow student Taina Mannila and in co-operation with the Sail training associations of Finland and Raahe.

In the project, young Nordic people participated in a sailing art course from Finland around Iceland and back. Since this, she has led several sailing environmentally orientated art courses.
She has experience in working as an exhibition designer and workshop leader in multidisciplinary co-operation in environmental pedagogical projects run by Helsinki Environment Centre.
In addition to art pedagogy, Mari's artistic working includes graphic art, installations, sculpture and singing. She lives in Helsinki, Suomenlinna.



Jan van Boeckel
E-mail: polarstarcentre(at)yahoo.com
Phone in the Netherlands: +31 630 283 115
Phone in Estonia:
+372 58570512
Click here for Jan's website



Dr. Jan van Boeckel is a Dutch anthropologist, visual artist, art teacher and filmmaker. One of Jan's areas of interest and concern are the worldviews and environmental philosophies of indigenous peoples. Together with filmmaking group ReRun Productions, he produced a series of documentaries on this subject, as well as films on philosophers such as Jacques Ellul and Arne Naess, who provide a critical analysis of the Western way of life. These films include, among others: The Earth is Crying (1987), It's Killing the Clouds (1992), The Betrayal by Technology (1992), and The Call of the Mountain (1997).
Jan has lived for several years in Hällefors, in the forests of central Sweden, where he was an art teacher to both children and adults, and consultant on international cultural projects. He established the
Cloudberry Dreams network with partners in Latvia, England, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The mission of this partnership is to share ideas and to explore new ways to interpret landscapes through art and creativity. Another project he took part in conceptualizing is called Clearings in the Forest, which focuses on the cultural and mythical significance of open spaces in the woodlands.
Between 2004 and 2006, Jan has worked as Head of Communications at the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples in Amsterdam.
Inspired by indigenous peoples' cultures, his own engagement in art and art teaching practices, and his experiences of living close to wilderness areas of Sweden, Jan's interest has moved to art as a means to connect to what David Abram aptly called 'the more-than-human-world'. One of Jan's research interests is the tension between trying to 'open the senses' whilst coping with the current ecological crisis - an issue all the more pressing when working with children. Since 2007, Jan is member of the ecoart network. He is also on ResearchGate.
In 2013 Jan defended his doctoral thesis At the Heart of Art and Earth: An Exploration of Practices in Arts-Based Environmental Education at
 Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, and Dr. Sacha Kagan acted as his opponent. The full session can be viewed here. In academic year 2014-2015, Jan van Boeckel was Adjunct and Program Director in Design Theory at the Department of Design and Architecture of the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik. Currently he is Professor in Art Pedagogy and Didactics of Art at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. On September 18, 2015, Jan presented the lecture With Art to the Heart of Nature in the Estonian Parliament, which can be seen here.


Wioletta Anna Piascik
E-mail: violetpiascik(at)hotmail.com


Wioletta Anna Piascik is a Polish visual artist, an educator specialized in environmental education and special needs pedagogy, a sailor and hiker.
She has graduated from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, and has completed her master thesis in deep ecology.
In 2008 and 2009, Wiola has worked as an environmental educator for the
Workshop for All Beings Association in Poland, at the Deep Ecology and Ecological Education Centre. Wiola is still a member of the Association and is actively engaged in diffusing the wild Poland concept.
The last years she has studied and worked at the
Trondheim Academy of Fine Art. Producing works in various media such as paintings, sculptures, installations, performances, Wiola challenges the quality of the contact between a viewer and an art work (link to portfolio).
Currently she lives and does her PhD studies at
Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki. Wiola's research is focused on artists that are oriented towards arts-based environmental education. She is interested in how wild they can get in art education and how their pedagogy relates to wildness.


Henrika Ylirisku
E-mail: henrika.ylirisku(at)aalto.fi


Henrika Ylirisku is a Finnish teacher of visual arts (MA) and geography. Her studies have also included courses on anthropology, art therapy and drama pedagogy. She has worked for ten years as an art teacher with both children and adults. She has organized courses on creativity and arts for many different schools and worked as a visual art teacher in art schools for children and youth and upper secondary school. She also has experience in instructing colour immersion workshops for babies.
Currently Henrika is a doctorate candidate
at the Department of Art at
Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture. In her research she is analysing the practices of arts-based environmental education in Finland, in general and specifically at upper secondary schools.



Leena Valkeapää
E-mail: leena.valkeapaa(at)aalto.fi


In her research, Dr. Leena Valkeapää looked at the connection between art and natural science. She is actively involved with the Ars Bioarctica programme. and more specifically with the activities at Kilpisjärvi Biological Station, which is part of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Helsinki.
The aim of her study was to establish concrete joint projects between art and science with the aim to develop new kinds of artistic thinking. Through this she wanted to participate in and contribute to the discussion on the relation between humankind and nature. In Leena's view, art and science collaboration provides new tools to art education which allow us to approach the Earth in an artistic way, together with scientists.
The working environment in Valkeapää's study was northern Lapland and her interest was in the local natural phenomena. In her doctorate research she took an in-depth look at the local Sami reindeer herding culture and the Arctic reality of living with and amidst the topic of her research. As part of her studies, Leena has been researching the use of wireless communications by the reindeer herders, specifically a collection of over 14 years of text messages that she received from her husband, e.g. when she was in far-off places like Helsinki. From their home near Kilpisjärvi, text messaging is often the only way to communicate. Leena found a beautiful poetry in the simplified messages. This simplicity of form perhaps relates to some of the basic qualities of the ecosystem in this area.

Link to an article on Leena Valkeapää's art 

In November 2011, Leena defended her PhD thesis entitled Luonnossa, vuoropuhelua Nils-Aslak Valkeapään tuotannon kanssa (In nature - conducting a dialogue with the works of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää).

All this is my home / these fjords rivers lakes / this cold this sunshine these storms” (Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, 1979)

Wind, reindeer, time, fire, people – the people living with reindeer in nature still have a straightforward relationship with the basic elements of life. Leena Valkeapää’s dissertation is a study aiming to develop artistic thinking in which the focus is on the way of life and the way of being in north-western Lapland which are both intertwined with nature.
In her dissertation, Leena Valkeapää goes beyond the traditional anthropological approach by engaging in a dialogue with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää's poetic, academic and literary portrayals of the Sami way of life and her own feelings. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Àillohaš (1943-2001) was a Sami artist working in a broad range of fields and he is probably best known in Finland as the creator and performer of the new yoik. He also published eight collections of poems two of which have been translated into Finnish.
In the dissertation, the dialogue intensifies as text messages of Oula A. Valkeapää, the husband of Leena Valkeapää, and excerpts from the work Kertomus saamelaisista (A portrayal of the Sami people) by Johan Turi, a member of the Swedish Sami community, are shown side by side with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää’s poetry. Turi’s work was first published in 1910 as Muitalus sámiid birra and it was translated into Finnish in 1979. The dialogue involving three different narrators reveals common experiences, which each of the three describe using their own background as a basis. All three are members of the Sami people. In her study, Leena Valkeapää calls the way of life and the cultural traditions common to them reindeer life. The core of Leena Valkeapää’s dissertation is the dialogue relationship in which Oula A. Valkeapää’s thinking and her own thinking create a state of discussion.
Leena Valkeapää is an environmental artist. Her work includes a large number of exhibitions (both group exhibitions and exhibitions displaying her own works only), environmental projects and environmental works of art. The best known of her works of art is “Jäähuntu” (Icy Veil; 1999) at the rock cutting of Helsinginkatu in Turku. In addition to her artistic activities, Leena Valkeapää has also worked as a teacher of environmental art in a number of educational institutions. Between 2005 and 2010, she worked as a teacher of environmental education at the Department of Art at
Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture.
Leena Valkeapää’s dissertation (in Finnish) is published by Maahenki in the publication series of
Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Orders: TaiK Publications, email: books@taik.fi, online bookshop: www.taik.fi/kirjakauppa



Tarja Kankkunen
E-mail: tarja.kankkunen(at)aalto.fi

Click here for Tarja's website


Dr. Tarja Kankkunen is presently working as senior researcher in Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland, where she also completed both her master’s degree (1989) and her doctoral degree (2005) in the area of (visual) art education. She has also worked as an art teacher in secondary schools, and between 2001 and 2011 as a lecturer, officiating professor and a dean at the University of Art and Design, Helsinki.
Kankkunen’s research and expertise have been located in the areas of art education and visual culture with a special focus on gender, ethnography and multimodal methods. Her doctoral thesis “Girls, boys and ‘gender play’. Gender construction in the everyday context of school art education” (Tytöt, pojat, ja ‘erojen leikki’ – Sukupuolen rakentuminen koulun kuvataideopetuksen arjessa) was an ethnographic study focussed on gender in art education, and was published in 2004 on a CD-ROM containing a written text and a multimedia presentation.
See abstract

Her most recent research interests connect to AEE from three directions:

1. Horse-human environmental approach
– where the relationship to environment and, more generally, to the Other, formed in the horse-human interaction, is studied in order to include animals in the theory and agenda of art-based environmental education and learning. This approach is based on Kankkunen’s own horse riding experiences which give insight to the embodied processes of learning as well as developing reciprocal, communicative relationships with different other-than-human “personalities”.
Read more

2. Street art approach
– where the complicated if not contradictory relationship between street art phenomenon and environmental awareness is studied from the art educational point of view. Since 2009 Kankkunen has been studying the visual forms of street art, such as graffiti, in Chile and in Finland, in relation to art education and to art educational thinking in general.
Read more.

3. Student works in the History of Art Education archive
– studied as a window to the history of environment-relation in Finnish art education. This is where the two other approaches are connected. As to the street art approach, the archived imagery offers, for instance, clear evidence of the environmental ethos of 1970’s, how it affected Finnish art education and student artwork. See, for example, Kankkunen’s blog article illustrated with some of the archived outcomes of the environmentally themed drawing competitions which were organized by the Finnish National Board of Education.
Read more

As to the Horse-human approach, there are plenty of representations of horses among the archived student works, shedding light on how children – boys and girls in urban or rural settings in different times – perceived human-animal relations issues. These and many other archived images also give an idea of how animals have been represented in various media, and how these representations are interpreted in children’s visualisations from the past.

To support and share her research work, as well as to work with and develop ideas, texts, and projects, Kankkunen has created web pages including a

See also:
Kankkunen, T. (2012). How to link graffiti, environmental awareness and finnish art education.
Kankkunen, T. (2012). A late graffiti update from Finland.
• Kankkunen, T. (2012). What could an art teacher like me borrow from street art culture?
• Kankkunen, T. (2011). Museo a Cielo Abierto en San Miguel.
• Kankkunen, T.  (2011). A long short photowalk in Quintero.



Tere Vadén
E-mail: tere(at)kapsi.fi
Click here for Tere's website



Dr. Tere Vadén is a philosopher living in Tampere, Finland. He has been interested in the local and linguistic conditions of thinking and views on nature, and how various art-forms including painting (Arktinen hekkuma. Kalervo Palsa ja suomalaisen ajattelun mahdollisuus, Atena 1997) and literature (Ajo ja jälki, Atena 2000) develop unique environmental processes. To this end, he has also interpreted the epistemology of Finnish oral tradition (Karhun nimi, niin & näin, 2006) and the contributions that indigenous epistemologies, in general, may have on necessary environmental revolutions (Kaksijalkainen ympäristövallankumous, Rohkean reunaan 2010). Together with Mika Hannula and Juha Suoranta, Tere has published two books on the methodology of artistic research (Artistic research. Theories, methods, practices. University of Gothenburg 2005; Artistic research methods. Narrative, Power, and the Public, to appear in 2014). Recently he has been obsessed with the question of energy, especially fossil fuels, and their impact on the experience of modernity.

Tere Vadén on Wikipedia


Pirkko Pohjakallio
E-mail: pirkko.pohjakallio(at)aalto.fi


Dr. Pirkko Pohjakallio is a Professor of Art Pedagogy at the Department of Art at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Pohjakallio's research focuses on questions concerning the relationship of art education tradition to art, culture, and environment of today. She has investigated different approaches and paradigms of Finnish art education and promoted cultural understanding through her teaching. She has coordinated an exchange program between the University of Art and Design and Ugandan Kyambogo and Makerere Universities.

Pirkko Pohjakallio's book Miksi kuvista? Koulun kuvataideopetuksen muutuvat perustelut (Why Visual Art Education? The changing justifications for school art education, 2005) is her dissertation on the history of visual art education in Finland.
She has also published articles and book chapters on art education.

She has done national and international presentations and has been a visiting scholar at Pennsylvania State University.
Since 1988 Pirkko has been coordinator of a history project. The project has gathered a physical collection that contains children's and adolescents' art works made in schools, teaching materials and other documents on teaching. The archive contains about 50.000 children's art works, which have been used as research material for art education students' studies.

    You can reach our group by sending an e-mail to: janvanboeckel@gmail.com