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Ministry paid €180K to probe alleged theatre predator, gave €120K in funding

The culture ministry bankrolled the thespian’s cultural activities to the tune of 126,000 euros after a critical report.

Kulttuurineuvos Veijo Baltzar
Veijo Baltzar. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

The ministry of education and culture continued to fund the activities of theatre director Veijo Baltzar even after a report raised questions about his programmes' teaching methods. Baltzar has been accused of human trafficking as well as preying on teenage girls in his theatre company.

The ministry commissioned an inquiry into Baltzar’s work in 2012. The aim was to determine if Baltzar’s experiential and multicultural teaching methods could be a suitable basis for a higher education programme.

The Humak university of applied sciences conducted the analysis and was paid 180,000 for its work. Education and culture ministry permanent secretary Anita Lehikoinen said that the payment was not especially large in light of the amount of work done.

"There were several researchers and we wanted to know whether there was any value to this approach and the answer we got was no," Lehikoinen added.

She said that the report revealed that in principle, Baltzar’s programme was quite good, however it contained many elements that flagrantly violated the ethical principles of the university of applied sciences.

"It also clearly indicated that it involved self-taught instructors and trainers. There are major risks in using inexperienced people for [teaching] psychodrama methods, for example," she added.

Ministry funding continued after report

Even after the report was completed, in 2013, Baltzar received 126,000 euros in different forms of assistance from the ministry as well as from Taike, the Arts Promotion Centre.

The steering group of Baltzar’s cultural association Drom featured many prominent politicians, such as current foreign minister Pekka Haavisto and former Europarliamentarian Liisa Jaakonsaari.

Lehikoinen denied that the presence of well-known backers played a role in funding granted to Baltzar’s organisation. However Taike director Paula Tuovinen said a line-up of big names may have played a part in how people viewed the thespian’s projects.

Helsinki seeks to recover 3,000 euros

Baltzar’s theatrical association Drom has received a total of nearly 30,000 euros in funding from the city of Helsinki, according to culture services head Veikko Kunnas. The money was disbursed in sums ranging from 2,000 – 6,000 euros for various individual projects and theatre shows, and was not granted to bankroll the association itself.

Drom petitioned Helsinki for 20,000 euros to organize an international festival, and received 3,000 euros for the purpose. However Baltzar told the city that he would not be able to execute the event as planned and requested permission to use the money for other purposes.

The city rejected the request and asked the organisation to return the funds. "Because the money could not be used for the purpose indicated, we asked the association to send a new funding petition once they clarified their plans. However we never heard anything about it," Kunnas explained.

On 30 August, the city sent Drom a letter calling for repayment of the 3,000 euros. According to Kunnas, one of the city’s objectives is to support culture and the arts in many different ways. In this respect, Drom has been an important player, he noted. The association’s last production was a theatrical presentation at the Alexander Theatre in downtown Helsinki in 2018. The city granted Drom 2,000 euros to support that effort.

Recent allegations against Baltzar now mean the city may cut off assistance for Drom altogether.

"The way that Baltzar’s activities have been represented in the media recently does not correspond in any way with the values and practices of the city of Helsinki. We completely distance ourselves from this kind of action," Kunnas declared.

He said that the city intends to continue to support Roma culture.

"I truly hope that Roma culture will not suffer from this," he concluded.

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