Bodøs great revival

Nordlands largest city Bodø not only has a brand new cultural centre. Around it creative industries are in full bloom.

“For years we have looked to the south. Now we are looking north,” said Maria Utsi, the director of the Arctic Arts Festival during the launch of the festivals new arts and culture magazine Høtt. Her words resonated a great deal with me, both as a born and bred northerner and as a Norwegian. Looking outside our borders for recognition and acknowledgement is fairly typical Norwegian. Still, our confidence seem to be growing, especially within the creative industries. Høtt magazine is in its entirety devoted to arts and culture in the Norways three northernmost counties; articles about art spaces and arts residences by the sea, a comic book about the 1600th century priest Petter Dass, not to mention a festival in every nook and corner. The magazine is a real treat, printed on thick uncoated paper and designed by the local design studio By North.

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The culture magazine HØTT is named after a fishing device and designet by Majken Falch Jonassen at By North in Bodø. The managing editor is Veronica Melå, who also runs the small publishing house Utenfor Allfarvei in Harstad. The illustration on the cover is by local artist Kyrre Bostwick Bjerk. Photo: By North

Had this magazine been launched back when I lived in Nordland, it would probably have been put together by a schoolteacher who dabbled with a bit of graphic design and printed on the same press as the local newspaper. The launch would have taken place at the community centre over a cup of lukewarm coffee and a piece of pastry. (To be fair, we always served great cakes up here). This time around, the launch took place in a completely different environment, that is the new cultural quarter in Bodø, called Stormen (meaning The Storm). The centre consists of two buildings and houses a library, three concert halls, an exhibition space and a café. It opened in 2014 after a rather, well, windy debate concerning the building itself and its use. Not an unusual story, I might ad, when it comes to building new cultural centres in Norway, but these stories always seem to end well. Every fifth resident of Bodø visited Stormen during it´s opening weekend and Wallpaper magazine wrote a flattering piece about the architecture. Check.

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The library at the Stormen cultural centre has a view of the town harbour The building is designed by British DRDH Architects, in collaboration with Norwegian Dark Architechts, who also designed the outside areas. Photo: David Grandorge

During the magazine launch I talked to Ole-Marius Storfjell, who after working many years for The Scandinavian Design Group in Oslo moved back to his home town Bodø. Three years ago he founded the design studio By North with Morten Iveland and Havard Sandaa Karlsen. They work for clients across the country, but it’s when you look at their local projects that you really get an impression of what´s happening in the region: The stone oven bakery Rustic in Storgata, the local brewery Bådin (where Iveland is one of the co-owners) and the music festival Parken are just some of the studios clients. The people of Bodø have developed a greater appreciation of beautiful design and brand identity, says Storfjell. They apparently also want homemade bread, local beer and superb coffee.

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The great concert hall at Stormen has it’s own lounge area and bar. The hall seats 942, which some people feel is far to great a number for a city of 50.000 people. Still, the Norwegian rock singer Sivert Høyem did managed to fill the entire concert hall this week. Twice,actually . Photo: David Grandorge

Downtown Bodø is still very much a mall with a glass roof. It´s the kind of building that makes you forget where you are. A block further up, however, handbag designer Elisabeth Benonisen has opened a shop after working several years for the designer Giles Deacon in London and next door two young artist are installing a DJ table on top of two barrels. An artwork by the art group Stein is painted directly on the wall. I ask if the space is open and they tell me that they are opening this evening for the very first time. NOK, as the gallery is called, intends to be a venue for the art that falls outside of the traditional exhibition spaces in the city, mainly contemporary arts and handicraft. We start at seven, they tell me, you’re very welcome. I´ll be on a plane to Oslo by then, I say, feeling a little sorry about just that.

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The cultural quarter Stormen seen from the harbour in Bodø. The exterior is covered with polished white concrete, while several types of wood are used in the interior. Photo: David Grandorge

My too short visit to Bodø convinced me that I should all do as festival director Maria Utsi encouraged us to: Look to the North. Here are three good reasons to come back to Nordland this year (I know I will) :

35 women

The Kaviar Factory, Henningsvær

33 female contemporary artists including Cindy Sherman and Marguerite Humeau will exhibit their works at this art space by the sea. No small accomplishment by the art space’ director, Venke Hoff, who will show photographs, installations, paintings, sculptures and video art by artist from a number of countries. The newly renovated factory building and it´s location is an attraction in itself.

April 30th to August 20th

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NOK, Bodø

The festival Up North was held for the first time last year and invited street artists from several countries to leave their mark on disused factory premises in the mining town of Sulitjelma. NOK in Bodø is a continuation of this project, and the first exhibition includes works by Norwegian artist Stein, Stayone, DotDotDot plus several international names.

Until March 12th

Træna festival

If you feel that you’ve seen it all when it comes to music festivals, you really haven´t unless you have been to Træna. The event takes place in spectacular surroundings on an archipelago that can only be reached by boat. This year, the line up includes up and coming Norwegian artists such as Ary, Gundelach and Young Gerrare.

July 7th-10th

Curious about HØTT? Have a look at this video:

Video by By North, music by Benjamin Mørk.

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