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  • Hilde Huus

Nordic Bridges: Sharing Art and Culture of the Nordic Countries

We have been catching glimpses of quite a variety of activities under the “Nordic Bridges” purview for some time now and Nordic Bridges is finally here! It’s not surprising that it seems to have been a long wait, as it was originally planned for 2021. Organizers decided to postpone it for a year due to the pandemic. Of course they, like the rest of us, were hoping and expecting that the pandemic would no longer be an issue in 2022. As it is, they have had to make some changes to adapt to the current situation but are now forging ahead as planned.

At our January 12 Distinguished Speakers Event, Jan-Terje Storaas, Advisor for Culture and Press at the Royal Norwegian Embassy, did an excellent job of providing us with the background for Nordic Bridges and how the Nordic embassies are involved. Many of us in the Canadian Nordic Society know Jan-Terje from our past collaborations on concerts and other events. He has joined us at some of our Christmas luncheons and even participated in our impromptu Christmas choir! It was most interesting to hear what his job actually entails and how things have changed in the ten years he has been doing it.

Jan-Terje told us that the embassies for the Nordic countries in Canada co-operate closely. This reflects the Nordic Council of Ministers official “Vision 2030,” which is that “The Nordic Region will become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world”. (Hear, hear say we at the Canadian Nordic Society! We enjoy connecting with our sister organizations from all the Nordic countries and collaborating for our mutual benefit, not to mention fun!)

When the Nordic embassies promote culture, it is not only for the sake of creating opportunities for their artists but also to promote Nordic values, including combatting climate change. The embassies do occasionally engage in specific events in Canada but are more often working with large cultural venues and events such as the National Arts Centre, film festivals, and music festivals, on behalf of Nordic artists. They support and assist Nordic artists when they are featured at such venues and events. The Norwegian Embassy also sponsors trips by Canadian cultural experts to Norway to find out what Norway has to offer.

Over his years at the Norwegian embassy, Jan-Terje has seen the development of a more strategic and focused approach by Norway to funding and support, including by Norwegian Arts Abroad (NAA.) NAA is a network of Norwegian art organizations. It is part of the Ministry of Culture’s instrumental system and acts as advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Members include the Office of Contemporary Art Norway, Music Norway, Performing Arts Hub Norway, Norwegian Crafts, Design and Architecture Norway, the Norwegian Film Institute, and Norwegian Literature Abroad. Nordic Bridges is part of this strategic approach to creating opportunities for Nordic artists, raising awareness of the Nordic Region, and promoting its values and opportunities.

Nordic Lights is a series of light installations by Nordic and Canadian artists on display at Harbourfront, Toronto, from January 20 to February 13. Pictured above is “Pressure” by Hans E. Madsen. Photo by Stig Nygaard.

Our second speaker of the evening was Mélanie Dubois. She is the assistant producer for Nordic Bridges and had lots to tell us about the many events which will be taking place across the country. She explained that Nordic Bridges is meant to highlight contemporary art and culture from all of the Nordic Countries and is built on these four pillars: • artistic innovation • accessibility and inclusion • indigenous perspectives (especially from the North) • resilience and sustainability (intent is a net carbon neutral festival across the country.)

Many very intriguing in-person events across Canada are listed on their website at You may register, buy tickets, and add these events to your calendar via the website. Some very interesting virtual talks are also coming up, including one called Danish Desire: Sustainable Methods in Architecture & Design on Saturday, January 22. Please see the website for details.

N02 Recycle Chair in light blue, designed in 2019 by nendo, produced by Fritz Hansen, Denmark. Photo by Fritz Hansen

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