Supporting Finnish-American heritage

HANCOCK – Finlandia Foundation National, a supporter of the Upper Peninsula through numerous grants and scholarships, is once again accepting applications for fitting programs.

Yrj (George) Paloheimo, a Finnish diplomat, moved to Pasadena, Calif., and headed the effort to found FFN in 1953.

“He wanted to continue to develop and encourage the support of the Finnish-American heritage after the war,”?said?Kath Usitalo, FFN?media consultant. “People were coming to this country and losing touch with their Finnish traditions, the dances, saunas and food. He saw an opportunity for and created an opportunity to connect through the foundation.”

Since 1956, the foundation has been providing scholarships to full-time undergraduate and graduate students through the Sibelius Music Scholarship for those pursuing degrees in music. The scholarship was later changed to a general focus scholarship for Finnish, American and dual citizen Finnish-American students in a range of studies.

Students can use their scholarships for a variety of educational activities.

“Some (students) use it to study in Finland and some have no connection at all,” Usitalo said.

The foundation awarded 20 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 in 2012, one of whom was Jonathan Kilpela of Atlantic Mine. Kilpela is currently a student at Michigan Technological University pursuing a degree in biological sciences and secondary education. According to the spring 2012 FFN newsletter, he studied at Oulu University in Finland in 2011.

Besides academic scholarships, FFN provides grants to a number of Finnish-related organizations and events throughout the country. Grants typically range from $2,000 to $3,000 with a maximum grant of $5,000. More than 50 organizations apply for grants each year, while the majority have a focus in Michigan.

In 2012, FFN awarded a number of grants of organizations and events with an Upper Peninsula connection, including Yoopera!, Finnish Folk Music Camp at Finlandia University, Sibelius Academy Music Festival, FinnFest and Richard Vidutis, who is completing a book on Finnish log buildings in the Copper Country.

The Finnish Folk Music Camp at Finlandia University received a grant in 2012 to assist in camp funding. The camp has been running for two years and typically draws in about 120 students.

“We used the funding to bring Arto Jrvel, master folk fiddler from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, to teach (at the camp),” said James Kurtti, one of the camp organizers.

The group will not be applying for grant funding for 2013 as there will not be a camp in 2013 with FinnFest USA 2013 in the Copper Country.

The FinnFest committee also applied for and received funding in the 2012 cycle to produce a video for the opening ceremonies at the event this summer.

Yoopera!, a documentary by Suzanne Jurva, was funded in 2012 for $2,500.

“The funding has been used to hire a professional videographer, travel and editing of some rough cut string outs,” Jurva said in an email.

Jurva heard about the program because she is familiar with FFN and plans to apply again for the 2013 grant cycle.

“Yoopera! is a unique story and finding funding has been difficult. The (FFN) grant gave us a crucial boost to continue the production,” Jurva said. “Grants such as the (FFN) grant gives voice to stories and other art forms that might not otherwise find their audience.”

The documentary film will be screened to the public during FinnFest from June 19 through 23.