2014 Finlandia Foundation Lecturers of the Year
During 2014, Suzanne Jurva and Erin Smith presented Yoopera! to twelve different Finlandia Foundation-affiliated organizations across the country (two coming up in November and December). They include:
• Suomi Talo, Lantana, Florida (February 2014)
• Bay Area Finns, San Francisco, California (March 2014)
• Center for Lifelong Learning, Marquette, Michigan (April 2014)
• Frederick FinnFest, Frederick, South Dakota (June 2014)
• Red River Finns, Moorhead, Minnesota (June 2014)
• Kesäjuhla, Fitchburg, Massachusetts (June 2014)
• Finnish Center Association, Farmington Hills, Michigan (September 2014)
• West Central Michigan Finns Coopersville, Michigan (September 2014)
• Finger Lakes Finns, Montour Falls, New York (October 2014)
• Atlanta, Georgia (October 2014)
• Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter, Seattle, Washington (November 2014)
• Finns and Friends, Phoenix, Arizona (December 2014)
At every venue we found people eager to learn about the production of the Rockland Opera and the Finnish-American history that inspired it. We’ve heard many stories from people about their own family history and immigrant stories. Across the country, we discovered people who had some connection to the Finnish Community in the Upper Peninsula. In June, we launched the Yoopera! website and have been encouraging Finnish-Americans to contribute their stories to the new online “Story Line Project,” a continuation of Mary (Biekola) Wright’s community art project documented in the film.
Suzanne Jurva has made many great connections with the Finnish community and also had the opportunity to show the film to her parents’ Finnish-American organization near where she grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan. She met with Finns and Finnish-Americans in Florida, San Francisco, Atlanta, Massachusetts, and, next month, she’ll visit Arizona. Erin Smith was welcomed as an honorary Finn by the kind people of North and South Dakota, Upstate New York, Marquette and Coopersville, Michigan. This month, she’ll be bringing the film to Seattle, Washington.
We’ve heard many community stories as well as family stories. In Frederick, South Dakota, we learned about efforts to save an old opera house in a nearby town and festival organizers had kids work on their own storyline panels. The Finger Lakes Finns are working to put their own unique stamp on a community art project celebrating local heritage next spring. In Atlanta, there is an initiative underway to produce the Rockland Opera. Suzanne has also been working with genealogical societies, encouraging them to organize activities involving the online Story Line Project.
It has been a wonderful and educational experience to share the film and its story of the incredible efforts of Finnish Americans like John Kiltinen, Andy Hill, and Mary Wright, as well as to share the work of Finnish composer Jukka Linkola and Finnish librettist Jussi Tapola. Most of all, we have enjoyed the chance to inspire others to tell their own stories and to create their own unique community celebrations.