Puhos Loves People is a socially engaged art project situated in the Puhos Mall in the Itäkeskus area of Helsinki, Finalnd. The aim of the project is to increase cultural activity within the mall´s communities and to promote good ethnic relations between different social groups in the area.
The Puhos mall is one of the liveliest multicultural hubs of the Helsinki city, hosting several multilingual communities, entrepreneurs and a mosque. The mall is a self-imposed meeting point which gathers people from diverse backgrounds.
The projects´s background lies on the late 2016 published news of demolishing the Puhos mall and raising ethnic confrontations in Finland. As a cross-cultural centre Puhos was increasingly targeted by escalated opinions and xenophobic demonstrations which were broadening the gap between different groups in the area.
The first public event of the project was organized in August 2017 and consisted of a community based cultural festival aiming to strengthen the communication between the local communities and to increase visibility of the Puhos mall. The festival gathered around one thousand visitors and succeeded to fulfill it´s goals but attracted only a few from the native Finnish speaking population. In 2018 the festival became annual and was developed by inviting communities from different language backgrounds in the production of the festival. The festival became more interactional and the audience diversified. In 2019 the festival gathered around 3500 visitors, was rooted in the area and the local communities took charge of organizing the future festivals.
As a part of the project an art space was opened in the mall in 2019. The Puhos Loves People Art Space hosts regular art and cultural workshops and projects for the local and other Eastern Helsinki based communities. The art space functions all year round providing activities to people between the festivals.