"Project Ålidhem" Ingo Vetter and Peter Lundström

"I like Umeå and Umeå likes me" Lasse Sahlin

"An Important Part of our Education" Students’ Foreword

Ylva Trapp

Frida Krohn
Therese Johansson
Lars Hedelin
Frida Krohn, Ylva Trapp
och Lina Palmqvist

Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy

Per-Arne Sträng
Martina Wolgast
Mariel Rosendahl
Nils-Johan Sjöquist


"The History of Ålidhem" Hans Åkerlind
"My own private Ålidhem" Maria Bjurestam
"Functional Sculpturer" Ingo Vetter

Presentation of Participants


Lars Sahlin
“I like Umeå and Umeå likes me”

So goes the catchy text on the little transparent plastic bag containing a red candy heart and a gilded nail. Carina Gunnars, then a student at the Academy of Fine Arts, doled the bag out to Umeå residents in conjunction with an art event, By Side Sidewalk, in 1994. I still have the bag hanging on a nail in my office. Perhaps the initiative was meant as a one-sided expression of will from Carina, but it can equally comprise a symbol for the time when the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts decided to go out into the town and become a part of the public discourse in public space.

To this end, a relaxed and comfortable room furnished with sofas was found in a basement along Kungsgatan, where the discussions could commence. Perhaps the students reasoned that if the municipality is, despite all, the lowest common denominator, so it is there they should be doing things. After all, everything that happens actually takes place in a municipality. The idea of establishing a stage for public discussion therefore began to grow in importance.

Nineteen ninety-four was also the year when Anders Lindgren, also a student at the art academy, infuriated passing Umeå residents by taking on, outside the Town Hall, the Sisyphusian task of placing a cubic meter of sand on a square meter large surface with a spade. People became visibly irritated when he persisted in his task despite their loudly and clearly telling him it was impossible. Anders had equipped himself with all manner of proverbial expressions such as “Shame on him who gives up”, “One should never say never”, “Perseverence does it… ” etc. Few people understood that the shoveling was only a pretext, an excuse to prompt a conversation. A spontaneous stipend of 1000 kronor was created. It went to Anders. Everything was a little ad hoc. This was long before the establishment of municipal design groups and programmes for the enhancement and embellishment of public space.

In 1998 the Swedish parliament adopted a programme entitled Future Forms. The aim was to enable the state in its commissioning or purchasing of architecture and design to be a model for others. According to the parliament, knowledge in these areas is important for democracy. The importance of the “good” commissioner was pointed out, his or her knowledge, attitude towards and understanding of the work were stressed as was how crucial respect for artistic preconditions and processes are for the result. The importance of Sweden’s municipalities was underlined and they were encouraged to adopt strategies or local programmes in order to consolidate artistic and environmental qualities in public space.

Parallel with the national efforts within this area, Umeå municipality has produced a programme for public space. Umeå’s public space should be exemplary and professional as regards design and enhancement. The programme has been adopted by the city council and a special inter-departmental group on a high civil servant level has been formed which includes the city architect, art curators, and the heads of the park and roads departments. In the budget for 2007, the Social Democrats and members of the Left Party agreed to set aside one million kronor for the artistic enhancement of the district of Ålidhem, a residential area built between 1966-73, part of what was rather sweepingly called the Million Dwelling Programme. The project was to be carried out by students at the Umeå Academy of Fine Art in close collaboration with the residents of the district and their local organizations. Previous cooperation with the College of Design in Umeå had been successful and therefore it seemed quite natural to involve also the Academy of Fine Art.

It cannot be emphasized too much that Project Ålidhem, which the initiative came to be called, is an art research and development project. Some of the reservations against using students in municipal art provision have been on principle. These have been throroughly noted. It is of course of cardinal importance that all the actors from the art sectors feel comfortable in their respective roles. It should, however, be underlined that Project Ålidhem did not take place at the cost of artistic commitments that the municipality of Umeå would ordinarily make otherwise (which gave the town the award of the Art Municipality of the Year in 2005-06, an award which is given by the National Swedish Organisation of Artists).

For a municipality that aims at behaving like a model through using professional artists in the shaping of our common environment, it is natural that, through mediating its knowledge and adopting a generous attitude, the municipality would take an active part in the education of these artists.

That the artistic enhancement of the district of Ålidhem took place almost 40 years after its construction feels, paradoxically enough, mostly stimulating. Otherwise, reflective, memory-related work like “Who has opened my kitchen cupboards before?”, “Advertisement” or “Sound Guide” would never have seen the light of day. They are all the result of the project’s not only focusing on the area’s architectonic design but also greatly taking its points of departure and points of view from the residents of the area. If we apply a national perspective to Project Ålidhem, it may be noted that other Million Dwelling Programme areas also have an art college in their vicinity.

Since every art college is located in a municipality, the question arises whether also Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, taking the lead from Umeå, might develop future social collaborative forms modeled on Carina Gunnar’s declaration, “I like Umeå and Umeå likes me”.