NEW YORK MILLS — This March, innovative Finnish folk ensemble Kardemimmit will spend a week virtually visiting New York Mills and Menahga as part of Folkefest, a program of Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest.

This digital residency is presented in partnership with the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, after it was selected to participate in Arts Midwest’s 2020 Folkefest program before touring plans were derailed by COVID-19.

Arts Midwest Folkefest presents music ensembles from Finland and Sweden in Midwestern areas with ties to Scandinavian heritage, with the goal of creating opportunities for cultural exchanges in these communities.

“We’re excited to safely continue the work of Folkefest with our partners in New York Mills despite the challenges of the pandemic,” Torrie Allen, president and chief executive officer of Arts Midwest, stated in a news release. “Through a variety of digital engagements and educational opportunities, community members will have the chance to connect to Finnish music and culture in a deep and engaged way.”

Kardemimmit is a band of four young women who play the Finnish national instrument — the kantele, an ancient stringed instrument with a silvery sound. While playing 15- and 38-string kanteles, Kardemimmit sings mesmerizing harmonies in original compositions that blend a modern approach with a deep foundation in Finnish, Eastern European and Scandinavian traditions, the news release stated.

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Finnish folk ensemble Kardemimmit is a band of four young women who play the Finnish national instrument — the kantele, an ancient stringed instrument with a silvery sound. They will spend a week virtually visiting New York Mills and Menahga as part of Folkefest, a program of Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest. Submitted Photo
Finnish folk ensemble Kardemimmit is a band of four young women who play the Finnish national instrument — the kantele, an ancient stringed instrument with a silvery sound. They will spend a week virtually visiting New York Mills and Menahga as part of Folkefest, a program of Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest. Submitted Photo

Kardemimmit’s digital residency will include a free live streamed concert, online workshops with schools, virtual events with community members and other educational content including videos and downloadable study guides.

The public is invited to participate in the following events with Kardemimmit and the Cultural Center:

Student workshops will take place in the New York Mills and Menahga public schools between March 22-25.. Both schools will also be gifted two Finnish kanteles to use in their classrooms, with music teachers taking part in a virtual workshop with Kardemimmit to learn about kantele use and care.

Additionally, the Cultural Center is partnering with local resident and Finnish language and culture expert Amy Tervola Hultberg to create take and bake Finnish pulla bread kits for students, as well as work with students in Trina Saewert’s New York Mills High School foods class to learn how to prepare Finnish pulla, and work with elementary students to deepen the cultural learning as well. Hultberg is also the dean of Salolampi Finnish Language Village, and has extended this collaborative program to include Salolampi as a partner as well.

“This is an incredible opportunity for students and community members in our region to interact with very talented musicians to learn more about Finnish culture and music,” Betsy Roder, executive director of the Cultural Center, stated. “It’s also a great example of the collaborative work we do to connect artists and community through art and culture, working with local partners and national funders to make these unique experiences accessible in our rural communities. I am extremely grateful to Arts Midwest for selecting us as a partner for the Folkefest program, and to the American Scandinavian Foundation for providing additional support.”

The 2021 Folkefest program is produced by Arts Midwest with generous support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and in partnership with Minnesota State Arts Board.

This residency is also supported by the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the leading cultural and educational link between the U.S. and Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The foundation works to build international understanding with an extensive program of fellowships, grants, intern/trainee sponsorship, publishing and membership offerings.