The project was part of the official Oulu European Capital of Culture in 2026 program. Rajakylä was chosen as the location for the artwork through a vote by the residents of Oulu @cityofoulu
and Eloise Gillow was selected as the artist through an open call that attracted 530 applications from 64 countries. Curated by Upeart.
This neighbourhood was at a turning point, choosing a new path forward and leaving behind its old reputation. The central figure turning around represents this. She is surrounded by birch trees within the painting and around the wall, symbolic of new beginnings and cleansing in Finnish mythology.
The mural, part of the cultural programme of Oulu2026, attracted a lot of attention from residents.
It depicts a forest of birch trees at the height of the summer. It’s flooded with bright sunlight. In the centre there’s a barefooted woman, repeated five times as she’s turning around to choose between two paths in the woods.
“I met people at the school, the library and the community centre. They had lots of ideas for the mural,” reveals Eloise. “I made a sketch after narrowing them down to one big theme: change.”
The location of the mural was chosen by public vote. Residents across Oulu were invited to cast their votes to bring the mural to their neighbourhood – and the largest number of votes came in from Rajakylä.
“This whole neighbourhood is integrated into the woods. My first impression was how beautiful it is, that all the buildings are between all this nature.”
Eloise says a key part of living in Oulu is having very prominent seasons and the mural definitely speaks to that.
“The mural is based on the summer when the birch trees have all their leaves. But the trees will now soon lose their leaves. The contrast between the painting and its surroundings will be a constant reminder of the changing seasons: it will remind people in the winter that summer is coming back.”