“Stockholm City Library, designed by Gunnar Asplund, is one of Stockholm’s most iconic architectural gems. Since the building is heritage listed and has been around for some time, there is always something that needs doing and right now it’s undergoing renovations.”

“I want to see the effects”

Her main office is in Rinkeby, but Maria Jansén is often on the move via Stockholm’s underground railway system. As Director of Culture for the City of Stockholm, one of her jobs is to ensure that the inhabitants of all the city’s districts can access culture.

“I didn’t have a career path mapped out for myself when I studied the conservation of built environments – nor do I see myself as a career-oriented person. But when I was studying at the Department of Conservation in the 1990s, we students were schooled in the pioneering spirit of our teachers. Change was seen as vital. I think this influenced me, as I’ve always wanted to see the effects of what I do.

As Director of Culture for the City of Stockholm, my job is to be responsible for everything from the libraries and music and arts schools in all the city’s districts to working with strategic questions related to culture, such as how culture can contribute to creating a safe and attractive urban environment in the future. My most important responsibility is to make sure that the conditions exist for as many people as possible to participate in cultural activities and to foster their own cultural creativity. The best thing about my job is how broad it is – getting to work with different forms of cultural expression, but also across all of Stockholm. My office is located in Rinkeby in north-west Stockholm, but we usually have meetings at several places during the course of a day. So far today I have been to visit three activities. My role is to function as a conduit between policy and activities, and so I meet with the representatives of many areas of society throughout the city. I really liked the interdisciplinary aspect of my education – I saw early on the benefits of being able to cooperate with many different professions in parallel.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should have studied for a PhD, but I was really longing to work with people – and in teams. I am very happy being able to work with even the more mundane in culture, such as libraries. During the pandemic, when we had to cancel many events, it became very apparent how important libraries are as a meeting point for people.

I’ve always been very interested in what I do. If you run a proper operation while maintaining a healthy grounding in reality, you often end up being a good manager. I think I got the job as Director of Culture because I have experience of working in the public sector at the national level as director-general and the head of Sweden’s National Historical Museums, and regionally as the head of department and head of the Östergötland county museum, and in local government in the City of Gothenburg. I’ve also been involved in civil society organisations. And I’ve driven major change that have worked well without creating major crises.”

Maria Jansén

Name: Maria Jansén
Age: 53
Occupation: Director of Culture, City of Stockholm
Lives: Stockholm
In her spare time: Big consumer of culture but also like to be outdoors with my family, sailing and skiing.
Favourite form of culture: Photography