Residency @ Hub Feenix

A writer's experience at Hub Feenix

Andrée Laurier

"I am Andrée Laurier, and I stayed nearly a month at Hub Feenix as part of its Artist Residency Program in June 2023. I left Québec, Canada, headed for Finland, hoping to find the quiet and inspiration I needed to start writing of my tenth book of fiction. (I write poetic prose in French.)

I have come to call the Hub “the magic hill of Meltola,” for it sits on a slight incline, surrounded by woods that harbour a unique variety of trees. And where birds seem more numerous than people. It is near a large lake called “Long-Legs” (Högbensjön) since it is shallow enough to be crossed by long-legged people, according to the local legend.

The lake, the trees, the numerous and vivid June flowers and the wild animals make for a unique encounter with nature and tranquility. As you walk along the forest paths, you might come across deer, fawns, hares and the occasional elk, curious to see you coming. There, silence is only broken by the sound of the wind in the high branches and the song of birds. From your room or studio, you see the very top of the trees moving against endless, pure blue sky.

I am sensitive to the atmosphere of places, as an artist, and was immediately convinced that this soft hill and the huge building on its clearing were like no other location I had seen in my travels across the world. You might feel the same, as you arrive. The space is immense, the colours alive and invigorating. It has to do with the natural location, and the creativity deployed by Raisa and Torsten, the founders, to renovate and decorate an immense sunlit building that was once a sanatorium, then an immigration centre, an important crossroads for people seeking strength, respite, peace, and renewal. It is a transformative place. And transformation breeds creativity.

If you wish for tranquility, you can find a quiet space in the vast building or choose to work in a silent studio. If you wish to be with people, you head for the common rooms, kitchens and terraces. Events happen in summer and get-togethers are easily organized.

The Hub works on you in subtle ways. You might arrive tense, city-ridden, and when you leave, you have become so quiet and mindful that you can no longer understand what could have stressed you or burdened you so much before. You cannot fully understand who you were, exactly. Because you have somewhat changed. And you wish to remain with the quietness and fulfilment you have experienced there.

As you can imagine, I have found the life source and inspiration to write. I have set down about a third of my novel manuscript, which is more than I had hoped for. Everybody cared about my work, and how it was enfolding, and I met a brilliant visual artist that became my neighbour and friend. Look for Melinda Cross’s work and you will see how she was inspired by the Hub. I arrived with a somewhat sombre project dealing with metempsychosis and transformative migration, and ended up with a manuscript teaming with trees, birds, nature, song and life. The forest is everywhere you look at from the room and studios. Melinda was also creating green spaces in her marbling work. The Hub Feenix effect.

There are names to the kindness and respect that people show the artists at Hub Feenix: the unforgettable Hanna, and Mari (the artists who coordinate the residencies), along with Maija, Dave, Markus, Pape, those I have known best. These are people you might already miss the very day you leave. The program is recent, and the coordinators and owners are giving it all their dedication. This, you can feel strongly.

Hub Feenix is Torsten Ruger and Raisa Kaipainen’s dream of a better, fairer, more sustainable and respectful place for life to thrive and for joy to happen. They are furthering the century-old tradition of sheltering and nurturing freedom, peace, health, renewal and creativity on the “magic hill.” The people who work and live full time at the Hub believe in the best they can give to those they cross paths with, or those that visit for a time. More artists will no doubt be amazed by this as I was, and as I remain, now that I have left the residency. And, mostly, I cannot remember having been this relaxed. Ever.

As I wait in Helsinki for my flight to leave Finland and return to Canada, I know I have lived something quite extraordinary in my life, this June, at Hub Feenix. An experience that will inspire me for the months to come… And no doubt longer."

Andrée Laurier, June 2023

The väki* followed me back to the US!

Corazon Higgins

"I came back from a month at Hub Feenix with my heart and mind full to the brim with ideas and information. More importantly, I felt a sense of healing and belonging that had been missing.

After a year of despair, something about the loving environment at "The Hub" helped me feel safe enough to process and speak about trauma and sadness with no fear.

When I arrived back in the US, even though I had to immediately jump into a very packed and hectic teaching schedule, I still found time to paint the final water väki*, which was calling to me from the lake..."
Corazon Higgins, USA, August 2023

*In Finnish folklore, väki is the life force that flows in every single living creature and being. Väki literally means a group. It describes the power / group or spirits that reside in a certain idea/concept/element or being. Everything has their own väki; nature, trees, animals and all the elements.

"A month at Hub Feenix was a precious time to discover a new me."

Hyun-Jeong Jeon

"I stayed in Hub Feenix for a month in February. For a month I had a very special experience as a writer and just as a human being. I was able to concentrate on my rest and develop my thoughts in the center of nature without any disturbance. Nature that I couldn't feel in the city turned me into a natural human being again.

Walking on the frozen lake at night, I felt the silence of darkness.
And just looking at the snow through the window I could regain my own speed.
I could hear the sound of the wind, the sound of trees, and the melting of ice that I inadvertently passed by.

While staying in the simple Hub Feenix atmosphere of eating healthily, spending less, and walking a lot, I realized how I was surrounded by meaningless things.
I felt a sense of solidarity while enjoying the sauna with good people, talking to each other, and eating food. And I realized that I forgot the most important value. Maybe it's a relationship between humans and humans.

A month at Hub Feenix
was a precious time to discover a new me."

Hyun-Jeong Jeon, Chidren books writer, South Korea, February 2023

"It was the perfect place for me to find my creative spirit once again."

Tanya Scott

"October was a wonderful and peaceful time that feels like a dream now. I would wander the forest almost every day, admiring the huge variety of mushrooms and breathing in the fresh pine air. Some days I'd get up and sit by the lake and watch the sunrise, listening to the birds wake up. I imagined Baba Yaga coming through the trees to meet me while the mossy rocks huddled together in conversation.

I drew loads of mushrooms on paper with ink and began to remember that creating things should be fun and therapeutic.

It was the perfect place for me to find my creative spirit once again. The people were so friendly and the ethos of Hub Feenix is truly inspirational."

Tanya Scott, October 2023
Animation director, writer, illustrator, UK
Photo: Tanya Scott