Passport to Culture: Hats off to MyHelsinki!

Written by Andrea
May 13, 2009
If you missed Saturday’s European Union Open House, don't pack away your travel documents just yet—free or low-cost tickets to the city’s legendary local-international culture are available year-round. They include, for example, the House of Sweden’s After Dark Living Green Masquerade Party on Saturday, May 16th. A regular Greg's List DC collaborator, the House of Sweden hosts events that offer one of the best rooftop vistas in the city and showcase art, live music, and food. The Maison Française also has been a mainstay provider of cultural programs in the city, with French films (usually followed by delectable wine and cheese receptions) and concerts year-round. In fact, the Maison's seventh annual Fête de la Musique is a little over a month away, and will include performers, savory barbecue, and delightful French pastries. Greg's List DC Culture Editor has had the privilege and pleasure of attending cultural attaché programming at many of the city’s embassies but, until recently, had never traveled to the country home to the northernmost capital in the world—Finland. The MyHelsinki exhibit provides ample motivation to visit Finnish territory here in DC. MyHelsinki showcases the experiences of 12 Washingtonians, selected from a variety of professional backgrounds, who were guests in the city of Helsinki for several weeks. There's designer Travis Price; Marta Palacios, DCPS primary school principal; Blake Zeff, young policymaker-politician; Eric Gilliand, Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist's Association; Peter Corbett, local web entrepreneur and CEO of iStrategy Labs; musician and educator Davey Yarborough of Duke Ellington School of the Arts; urban forester Mark Buscaino; Scott Goodstein, CEO of Revolution Messaging; Dale Medearis, an environmental planner with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission; Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora; filmmaker Ayodamola Okunseinde; and President of Georgetown University Student Association and world traveler Patrick Dowd. Each participant, matched to a Helsinki counterpart in the field of interest, recorded their experiences in a user-friendly, funky web journal that comes together in collage, food, music, design, and writings at this month's on-site embassy exhibit. The production benefited from the close collaboration of the University of Arts and Design Helsinki. This design focus is evident in the installation's luminous integration with the Embassy of Finland's surroundings and architecture. Nestled among the trees of Observatory Circle, the embassy installation integrates into this backdrop. Each participant’s journey is recorded around the base of a modernistic tree trunk, forming 12 unique pillars of cultural sharing, learning, and exchange. The design is engaging enough for children, who will particularly enjoy Marta Palacios' learning module, and the exhibit's—indeed the entire embassy's—feel of a large, airy treehouse. A weekend program of exhibit-related programming, including treasure hunts and tram rides, adds further enticement for Greg's Little Listers. After their weeks in Helsinki, project participants returned to contribute to uniquely-themed embassy events. At a recent event, GLDC Food and Culture Editors learned firsthand of chef Nora Poullion’s culinary travels while they sampled thick slices of sauna-smoked ham, creamy traditional “squeaky” goat cheese, and smooth organic yogurt topped with dried flowers, lingonberries, and muesli, all furnished by Helsinki’s Klaus K Hotel. Other tasting standouts included the cold-smoked reindeer from Lapland (similar in taste to first-rate bologna) and handmade Mouhajärvi butter. MyHelsinki is open Friday-Sunday 11am-4pm, through May 31st. GLDC Editors are pleased to recommend this latest addition to our regular international cultural fare and are reminded yet again of how our embassy partners keep DC fresh, exciting, and fun. Don’t forget to use your first-class ticket to an internationally renowned good time!
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