A campaign for empathy launches in Kurkimäki, Helsinki

The Deaconess Foundation and empathy artist Enni-Kukka Tuomala are launching a new shared project in Kurkimäki, East Helsinki. The Campaign for Empathy x Kurkimäki fosters a sense of community and understanding through creativity and art.
Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Newham for Empathy 2019. Kuva: Liz Seabrook
Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Newham for Empathy 2019. Kuva: Liz Seabrook

Beginning in April, the empathy campaign is a part of London-based artist Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s long term Campaign for Empathy-project, which examines the relationship between empathy and community through art. The project's previous iterations have taken place in London and Cambridge, in the United Kingdom. Now the campaign lands in Finland for the first time. 

The Campaign for Empathy is brought to life in collaboration with the new Rinnekodit Silta housing unit, which opened in Kurkimäki at the end of 2022. Silta is a unit for supported living for people in Helsinki who have experienced homelessness. 

“The Campaign for Empathy is a meaningful statement about the power of empathy. The role of empathy is crucial in building stronger and more equitable communities and social systems. Its radical power is needed now more than ever in a time when the global empathy deficit continues to grow and our values are increasingly polarised. The aim of the Campaign for Empathy is for the people of Kurkimäki to together shape their environment to encourage empathic, human and equitable interactions, encounters and conversation. Through participating in shared creative activities and making art together, every resident’s unique experiences, perspectives and needs can have the space to emerge”, says the world’s first empathy artist Enni-Kukka Tuomala.

”Deaconess Foundation’s community philosophy focuses on themes, qualities and strengths that humans share with each other, rather than the differences between them,” says Laura Hakoköngäs, the Foundation’s special advisor on community programmes. “The Campaign for Empathy x Kurkimäki helps us to build a sense of community and to design models for action making everyday life easier, more safe and more enjoyable for everyone living or working in the area.” 

Bringing the community together through art

The Campaign for Empathy invites the new residents and staff at Silta, neighbours and people in the wider community to engage in a dialogue and to participate in a shared creative process. The campaign is not based on a predefined concept of empathy and its role in the Kurkimäki neighbourhood, but invites the community to define it together. The aim of the campaign is to map, explore and observe the role of empathy in the Kurkimäki community through playful workshops, creative activities, conversations and artistic experimentation.

Rinnekodit produces The Deaconess Foundation’s social welfare services around Finland. The Silta housing unit was opened at the end of last year and aims to offer a home to over 80 people in Helsinki who have experienced homelessness. At the moment there are some 50 residents.

”The project has been received with enthusiasm at Silta. Our aim is to support our residents becoming a part of the surrounding community, and increase interaction with our neighbours. This project supports our aim brilliantly”, says the unit head of Silta Krista Hellström.

The yearlong empathy project is a part of The Deaconess Foundation’s new “Arvontuottajat” project, which begins in the spring of 2023. The aim of the project is to experiment and develop new processes based on community engagement and equity to strengthen the sense of community with different partners. 

The Silta unit welcomes all neighbours to its open house event on Friday May 5th between 14-18 hrs. There will be snacks, coffee, music and an opportunity to meet, greet and get to know neighbours. Enni-Kukka Tuomala will also be present to share more about the Campaign for Empathy. 


BIO: Enni-Kukka Tuomala, Empathy Artist

Enni-Kukka Tuomala is a Finnish artist based in London. She is the world’s first empathy artist. Her vision is to transform empathy from an individual feeling to a radical and collective power for change to fight the growing global empathy deficit. Through installations and public interventions, collaborative projects, environments and tools Tuomala strives to bridge the growing divides in our society, both between humans, and humans and other species.

Tuomala’s multidisciplinary and research-based practice investigates the delicate relationships between empathy, culture, systems and space. At the core of her work are sculptural and spatial artworks that imagine new environments for connection, invite interaction and create intimate moments with oneself, others, and our natural environment. After years of focusing on interpersonal empathy, she has begun exploring interspecies empathy between humans and non-humans.

Since 2018 Tuomala has been examining the relationship between empathy and power, and the role of empathy in communities. The work began through a partnership with the Parliament of Finland and a collaborative creative process with six Members of Parliament from different political parties to create Empatia Ele: empathy tools for politics (2018-19), a collection of physical empathy tools and artworks. The upcoming Campaign for Empathy x Kurkimäki is a part of this growing body of work and research.

Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s work has been shown at Tate Liverpool (2022), Royal Geographical Society (2022), Puistokatu 4 (2022), Kettle’s Yard (2021), The Design Museum (2021), Somerset House (2021), Nunnery Gallery (2021), and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2019-20) amongst others. In 2021 she represented Finland at the London Design Biennale 2021 with the Empathy Echo Chamber installation, produced in collaboration with the Finnish Institute in the UK and Ireland and The Embassy of Finland in London. Over a thousand visitors stepped inside the artwork to share an intimate experience with a stranger. Tuomala is currently working with The Finnish Forest Museum Lusto on a new commission on ‘forest empathy’ for the museum’s upcoming permanent exhibition opening in the spring of 2024. She is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, Imperial College London, and the University of Oxford.



Laura Hakoköngäs, Special advisor, Deaconess Foundation
p. 050 370 5451, laura.hakokongas@hdl.fi

Enni-Kukka Tuomala, Empathy Artist

Krista Hellström, Unit Head, Rinnekodit Silta
p. 050 407 2592, krista.hellstrom@rinnekodit.fi


Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Newham for Empathy 2019. Kuva: Liz Seabrook
Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Newham for Empathy 2019. Kuva: Liz Seabrook
Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Is There Space for Empathy 2021. Kuva: Laura Mainiemi
Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Is There Space for Empathy 2021. Kuva: Laura Mainiemi
Enni-Kukka Tuomala:  Embodying Empathy 2018. Kuva: © LIFT by Ingrid Guyon
Enni-Kukka Tuomala: Embodying Empathy 2018. Kuva: © LIFT by Ingrid Guyon


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The Deaconess Foundation works for human dignity. Together with Rinnekodit services operator, the 155-year-old foundation provides effective social welfare and health services for people in need of special support. As a social foundation group, we build a more just society. Profits from our operations go to supporting those in the most vulnerable situations. People are always at the center of everything we do.

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