Monday, April 16, 2018

Parikkala Sculpture Park

Creative Commons image mikeancient on Flickr 
Just 3 hours east of Helsinki, tucked next to the Russian border, lies the town of Parikkala.

Creative Commons image
1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
While relatively isolated, the tiny town receives more than its share of visitors, drawn to incredible sculptures created by Veijo Rönkkönen.

Officially known as the Parikkala Sculpture Park, the Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden is one of Finland's most important examples of contemporary folk art.

"Rönkkönen is more than an installation or a sculpture park; it’s a community, and although some of the artwork is disturbing, the forest is unquestionably quite magical, an amalgamation of many different worlds coming together all in one place." (The Culture Trip)

Creative Commons image 1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
What causes the sometimes 'creepy' reaction is the facial expressions of the concrete statues. Some even have human teeth. The uniqueness of each statue is also what makes the whole collection so special.

"Veijo Rönkkönen was only 16 years old when he started working on his park. Veijo had recently got a job as a press worker in a paper mill in his hometown Parikkala, a job he held for 41 years. With his first pay check, he purchased ten apple tree seedlings and a bag of concrete to create a garden around his family home. For the next fifty years, until his death in 2010, he dedicated all his spare time and money planting flowers and trees and creating hundreds of caricature-like sculptures, mostly of full scale human figures." (Amusing Planet)

Creative Commons image
1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
A recluse who enjoyed his own company and practiced yoga, Veijo continued to live in the family home, adding to his works.

"Veijo Rönkkönen's yard, and the path leading to it, are filled with over 450 statues, 200 of which are self portraits of the artist in Yoga positions he has mastered. The statues have loudspeakers hidden inside them, and the sound effects add to the eeriness of this place." (Oddity Central)

Creative Commons image 1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
While Rönkkönen was happy to share his sculptures, leaving his park open to the public, he never wanted to meet his admirers. Instead, visitors left impressions and notes to him in a guestbook.

Veijo Rönkkönen was recognized with the Finlandia prize in 2007, but sent his brother to collect the prize on his behalf.

Following his death in 2010, Rönkkönen's family sold the site, hoping it would be preserved. The ITE Association is partnering with the new owner, an art lover named Reino Uusitalo, to repair the sculptures and provide guided tours.


Satisfy your curiosity with this view of the park entrance (on Google Street View).

Creative Commons image mikeancient on Flickr
If you go, why not stay a few days? There is plenty to see and do, including ample birdwatching, Ateljee-Koti Seppo Saukkonen (250 works by the artist), Honkakylä Merchant’s Museum, Museum of Horse-Drawn Vehicles & Agricultural Implements, Parikkala Dairy Museum and the Papinniemi Archaeological Site. (Visit Parikkala)

Parikkala Sculpture Park - Official Website
The strange Park of Veijo Rönkkönen - Big in Finland
Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden - Atlas Obscura
The Sculpture Park of Veijo Rönkkönen Is the Weirdest Place in Finland - Oddity Central
Veijo Rönkkönen’s Sculpture Park - Amusing Planet
Recluse Dies, Leaves Behind Hundreds of Secret Sculptures in Finland - The Culture Trip
The Parikkala Sculpture Park Reviews - Trip Advisor (rating 4.5/5)
How to get from Helsinki to Parikkala - Rome2Rio
Cottages and Vacation Rentals nearby - Go Finland
Parikkala Sights and Attractions - Visit Parikkala

Patsaspuisto 10
Creative Commons image mikeancient on Flickr

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