Art is an essential part of Mänttä's history and present day
Mänttä-Vilppula, with around 11,000 residents, is located in the Finnish lake and forest district. Lakes and waterways cover one-fourth of the surface area. The population density is about 20 persons per square kilometre.
Mänttä-Vilppula lies half-way between two major urban areas: Tampere, which ranks as Finland's third largest city, and Jyväskylä in Central Finland. The distance to both is about 90 kilometres.
The town of Mänttä-Vilppula was formed in 2009 when the two were merged. The neighbours' joint history is long and colourful. It goes back to 1912, when Mänttä was attached to Vilppula. The establishment of a paper company and rapid industrial development resulted in Mänttä's separation from Vilppula in 1922, however.
Gustaf Adolf Serlachius set up a groundwood mill in 1868 on the banks of the Mäntänkoski Rapids. This marked the start of Mänttä's important role in the Finnish paper industry. Mänttä's social history is quite interesting in that the G.A. Serlachius company took charge of providing many of the services often now consided the responsibility of government, including health care, education, housing matters and town planning. The last of these services were shifted to the municipality in the 1970s.
Lively cultural scene
Considering its small population, Mänttä is a surprisingly lively centre of culture and art. In addition to the Serlachius museums and the Mänttä Art Festival, the annual calendar of events includes the Mänttä Music Festival, which is dedicated to piano music and offers talented young pianists a chance to perform alongside virtuosos from around the world. The programme is enlivened by pieces that are rarely heard as well as numerous premieres.
The Honkahovi Art Centre and ArtHotel operate in what was originally the official residence of R. Erik Serlachius, who ran the family firm for many years. Several smaller-scale art exhibitions and numerous concerts are arranged here each year. These are produced by the Kauko Sorjonen Foundation. The Kiusala house, between the Mänttä Club and the Pekilo building, was also renovated by the foundation for the use of the local art club.
A theosophical commune in Vilppula arranges art exhibitions and summer theatre performances based on its own values and ideals.
In the heart of nature
Mänttä has splendid scenery. In Finland, individuals have the freedom to roam accross public and private property (called "Every Man's Right") in order to enjoy the countryside and pick berries, mushrooms and flowers in the woods, go boating on lakes and streams, and go hiking, skiing or fishing (without disturbing other people or causing damage, of course).
The Mäntänvuori Nature Reserve near the centre of Mänttä has excellent terrain for outdoor recreation. The lookout tower offers a good view of the surrounding area, and a special trail that is accessible for persons with disabilities leads to an open-air church and lodge.
Another interesting place to visit is Elämänmäki in Vilppula, which was the site of a sanatorium in the early decades of the 20th century. It was established on the principle that nature itself is a healing force, and many prominent figures in Finland's history took advantage of its services. In the old days one could see four lakes from the top of Elämänmäki. Nowadays the hill is a nature reserve and tall spruce trees block the view.