Åland’s cultural life is centred on a large number of societies, whereas responsibility for public cultural initiatives is shared by the regional and local authorities. About 50 societies receive funding from the returns generated by Ålands penningautomatförening (PAF), a local gaming company.
Theatre in Åland has its roots in the youth movements which arose at the end of the 19th century. Today, major productions generally take the form of a collaboration between professional artists and amateurs. The NordicInstitute in Åland, which operates under the aegis of the Nordic Council of Ministers, has played a vital role in the development of Åland’s cultural life, notably by staging several ambitious theatre productions with Nordic stage artists.
Åland also has a lively musical scene. There are several choirs and ensembles, and the Åland Institute of Music, which has about 300 students, plays a key role in local musical life.The Ålandic archipelago has provided inspiration for many writers, both now and in the past. Sally Salminen, Anni Blomqvist and, more recently, Ulla-Lena Lundberg are three local talents who have attracted a large readership.
The Ålandic landscape has also been a source of inspiration for many painters. In addition to the main Åland Art Museum, there is the smaller Önningeby Museum, which displays works by artists from the so-called Önningeby Colony. The colony was led by Victor Westerholm and was active around the turn of the century up to the outbreak of the First World War.
Åland’s strong maritime traditions are documented in the Åland Maritime Museum, which has important collections from the sailing ship era. The Islands’ long ship-building tradition has also been preserved. Local shipwrights still build wooden vessel after old models. The Åland Museum gives a picture of Åland’s history from ancient times to the present. It is supplemented by a number of smaller collections in the countryside.