Pertti's Choice: Outsider Art and Social Entrepreneurship

Pertin Valinta (Pertti’s Choice), founded by people with intellectual disabilities, is quickly rising to the forefront of outsider art and social entrepreneurship. We interviewed partner Sami Helle and manager Heini Merkkiniemi about Pertin Valinta as a creative business.

Pertti’s Choice is an outsider art gallery and shop in the Kallio district of Helsinki. Behind the venture is Daatso Ltd, formed by Pertti Kurikka, Sami Helle, Kari Aalto and Toni Välitalo of the punk band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät. The band has performed hundreds of gigs around the world and has a fanbase numbering in the tens of thousands. When they quit in 2016, the members were figuring out what to do next. ”So someone said: let’s set up a brick and mortar store! Nobody knew how to go about doing that,” Sami Helle says.

Pertti’s Choice opened with a bang in April 2018. Its selection focuses on outsider art, music, books and craft products. Outsider art is art made outside of the established world of arts, and is often made by people living in the margins of society. ”Outsider art is rising in Finland, but it’s due to a long process of development,” says Heini Merkkiniemi, Arts Manager to Pertti’s Choice. Helle and Merkkiniemi have worked together for over a decade, currently through Daatso Ltd and Merkkiniemi’s business coaching company New Beat Ltd.

For its founding partners, Pertti’s Choice has been both a learning opportunity and a new beginning. Helle says that the store has been a great opportunity for many others as well. ”The best thing is to get to see people and to have great colleagues and advisers. Everyone supports one another and cheers each other on”. Pertti’s Choice functions in a space provided by Lyhty Association, and the shop is run in cooperation with the culture, craft and media workshop team of Lyhty.

Pertti’s Choice goes on tour

After six months of operating, Pertti’s Choice is already about to embark on a world tour as a popup gallery and agency. The idea is to present outsider art brands and concepts, with the virtual artwork Inside Outside Finland, premiering at the grand opening of Helsinki’s new central library Oodi on 5.12.2018, as the main attraction. The artwork presents four Finnish outsider artists and works of art.

The international Inside Outside Finland tour is partnered by the Finnish Cultural Institutes and it will visit New York, London and Brussels among other places. The artists are present on the tour that comprises of gigs, art exhibitions and workshops along with meetings with European and Nordic outsider art networks, starting projects together with them and exchanging information.

It has long been recognised that there is a lack of agents and managers in the field of outsider art. Pertti’s Choice has received financial support from the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland to develop these, and is now able to deal with both supply and demand. ”You can tell that Finnish outsider art is on the rise. The support feels great to have. It’s wonderful how the entire outsider art network has quickly activated itself, is cooperating and sees the value of this work,” Merkkiniemi says.

Creating cultural, social and economic value

One of the areas Pertti’s Choice works in is coming up with new models of entrepreneurship for those who are partially able to work, the strategic developing of organisations in creative industries, and value creation. Merkkiniemi says that there is systematic planning behind all this: they have wanted to come up with an approach that would produce cultural, social and economic value.

”It is also important to work across sectors and different fields of art. Pertti’s Choice is a multiartistic and multidisciplinary platform for different projects,” Merkkinemi says. In the gallery and shop people with special needs and those partially able to work can be employed as curators and producers, and employ others. ”This isn’t socially effective in the sense of having an effect on a passive target group, but in the sense that the target group itself works, influences and turns the traditional roles upside down and inside out”.

Pertti’s Choice has produced a lot of collective projects. ”We have no competition, only partners we cooperate with,” Merkkiniemi says. Pertti’s Choice has just signed a contract to cooperate with The Finnish Musicians’ Union. The aim of this cooperation is to promote equality within the music industry with campaigns and projects and challenge other arts to do the same.

Pertin Valinta

Aleksis Kiven katu 48, Helsinki

Open from Tuesday to Friday 12:00-18:00 and on Saturdays 10:00-16:00

Exhibition by outsider artist Enni Id: "Kissoja, piruja ja enkeleitä" (Cats, Devils and Angels) in the gallery at Pertti’s Choice 10.11.2018 – 1.2.2019.

Pertti’s Choice is run and supported by the following companies and organisations: Daatso Oy, Lyhty ry, Kettuki ry, Kukunori ry, New Beat Oy and Donkey Hotel Oy.