Picturing Skellefteå´s Creative professionals

Imagine the following scenario. You are a creative professional making a living from your work in a small town in northern Sweden. But, as a creative, you are feeling a little isolated. What would you do? Some might suggest that you should move to a bigger town, as you’re more likely to encounter like minds there. But Johan Lindström had other ideas.

Almost exactly a year ago, Johan Lindström, an illustrator and animator, launched the Skellefteå Creative Instagram account, where, each week, followers meet a new Skellefteå resident working in the creative sector. Johan, who runs Joxon Design, invites artists, web designers, ceramicists, film makers, musicians – anyone who supports themselves through their creativity – so that followers can learn about their products, day-to-day work, and thought processes.

“To be honest,” says Johan, “I set up the account for my own benefit. I was a bit frustrated that there didn’t seem to be anything happening for arts and cultural workers in Skellefteå. Where, for example, were all the young people who hadn’t already been working away in the sector for 40 years? I thought that there must be other similar young professionals out there, and I wanted to get in touch with others and raise their profile.”

TESTING A BASIC ASSUMPTION

No sooner said than done. To start with, he used his own contacts to provide content for the account. They, in turn, referred him to other interesting people and it progressed from there. A year later, Johan is able to report that there is no real shortage of creative professionals in Skellefteå.

“I’ve also had loads of tips about people who are no longer living in Skellefteå and doing brilliant things, but then that’s not really the point,” he says. “My basic assumption was that there must be creative people here in the city who make a living from their creativity. And there are – we’re just a bit disorganized”.

Johan believes that the Instagram account could be the start of a new network that brings creative people together. “I’d really like to do more under the Skellefteå Creative banner. I can see the need for it; you can get an incredible amount of inspiration from other people who are doing things that are different from what you’re doing yourself. Though it’s difficult. As soon as you bring people together around a concept that’s actually quite nebulous and you want it to go somewhere, there’s a danger that you’ll lose a lot of people. The best thing,” says a philosophical Johan, “might be to be less specific and just organize meet ups.”

DOESN’T WANT TO BE A CLICHÉ

Time will tell. But there are challenges. One has been to achieve a good gender balance, on the account. Another has been to find a variety of cultural backgrounds.

“I’m a white man approaching 40,” says Johan. “It would be incredibly easy for me just to bring in other dudes, but that’s not what I want. And, actually, I think that, in purely creative terms, women are generally doing more interesting things. I’ve put a lot of work into this and it’s been really successful. However, I don’t have a big network of people who are not native Swedes. I hate to think of myself as a cliché, but I am one. I’ve tried to find more non-Swedish people and I believe they’re out there. And, hopefully, working on this account will help me find more.”

Article from Skellefteå-tidningen (Skellefteå Newspaper), issue 3, 2018.

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