Maria Mattila – About Mental Health, Trust and Equality

Teksti: Riina Viljanen & Cécile Gasparoni
Kuvat: Cécile Gasparoni


What would the capital of culture be without people? For culture to exist, we need somebody to make it happen: the people behind the events, experiences, and phenomena. Maria Mattila is one of the cultural ambassadors of Tampere and Tampere Region’s European Capital of Culture bid. She is a musician, artist, cultural talker, and pioneer of community art spaces.




It’s a cold October morning. Maria Mattila lies on a red leather sofa in Onkiniemi Atelier, sipping her coffee. As a monthly changing exhibition in the gallery space, Mattila’s exhibition Psyykkisesti Sairaat 1-1000 (Mentally ill from 1 to 1000) is on display.




In her exhibition Psyykkisesti Sairaat 1-1000 (Mentally ill from 1 to 1000) she questions mental illness in our time.

I think so many of us are diagnosed with some type of mental health problems these days and people have become more aware of them. But also, I think there are some things in our time that make people feel anxious and isolated. I’m involving this subject in this atelier space because with this space I try to show how we can heal each other by being together and doing things together. For me, places like Onkiniemi Ateljee or Romu & Random (Satamakatu 3, Tampere) are not only workspaces but also places to meet other people and to heal myself.”

The Onkiniemi art space is not only Mattila’s personal atelier but also a community space for everyone to create different art forms.




Basically, the idea is to offer a great atelier space for people who couldn’t afford it otherwise or who don’t have the possibility to work in such a place normally. I couldn’t afford this space just by myself but when we share this with a group of people we can afford to have this. With this community space, I want to prove that when you trust others, they will respect it; I mean, people are not gonna smash their own nest. Even though it’s an open space and it’s free, there’s no point rising against it, because it’s yours too.”

Besides monthly changing exhibitions, Onkiniemi offers interactive events like painting workshops for the whole family, live gigs & more.

The painting workshop welcomes families to come and paint together. I offer the equipment and give some very light and easy guidance. Then everybody can just do what they want. You don’t need to have any previous experience in making art. It’s more meant to encourage people to discover their creativity. So many of us think that we’re not allowed to do certain things like art because we’re ‘’not good enough’’ and all that bullshit… You are an artist when you just start doing it!

Trust and Sharing

Maria appreciates the strong ‘’working-class attitude’’ in Tampere’s cultural field.

We have a strong will to create. We’re sort of having this ‘’village mentality’’ when it comes to sharing and trusting. In the Tampere Region, we don’t compete within the cultural field; we lift each other! We don’t just keep the ‘’cool places’’ to ourselves- we share them.”




During our visit, we noticed that one topic seems to be especially important to Mattila.

I hope the city of Tampere could support these kinds of activities and workspaces. Think about all the benefits our culture could gain from a place like this! It can help to improve people’s general well-being by offering a space where they can be themselves, live their creativity, and connect; a place to make magic happen. And again we come to the simplest but the most important point – the trust. The city needs to trust people and vice versa.”

Future Hopes

When it comes to the future of Tampere’s art culture, Mattila has a clear vision of what should be done.

The city could improve opportunities to experience our culture and offer different kinds of workspaces for different art forms. Fortunately, a change in the city’s attitude is already happening and things are heading in the right direction. At the moment I’m not worried at all and I’m just concentrating on showing an example through my work here in Onkiniemi. The city will follow us and hopefully one day, we will be having this kind of workspace in every district of Tampere.”

Her message to our community is short but effective.

I hope that people work on trusting each other. Through trust, we will accidentally begin to trust ourselves, which can increase a feeling of security and make our own, little world much better.’’


Read more about Maria Mattila:

Maria Mattila

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