In the heart of the beautiful Northern Norway countryside in Vesterålen, a town has made an audacious decision: the people of Sortland have chosen to paint their town blue.

A blue idea

Like most coastal towns, Sortland – the largest town and centre of communication in Vesterålen – features a mix of architectural styles comprising Swiss style, painted wood, concrete and glass. But it was here that a daring idea was aired back in 1998 – namely the idea of painting the town blue. Since then, a number of buildings in Sortland have turned various shades of blue.

Uncle Blue

The man behind the idea is the artist Bjørn Elvenes, who envisaged the entire centre of Sortland as a three-dimensional painting. The artist, who has previously been employed as everything from a fishing skipper to a ferry ticket collector, is also the driving force behind original art projects in other places in Vesterålen – projects that ideally stimulate lively debate. At the moment, he has withdrawn from the Blue Town project.

Controversy in blue

There is no fun if everyone agrees on everything – and so it is in Sortland. Some people are less than thrilled by the idea of a blue town. Others are fascinated by the artist’s vision, but are not keen on the artist’s ideas being transformed into a municipal local development plan with an approved range of colours and professional marketers working on brand building. A separate Facebook group and an online petition express blue commitment to supporting the artist’s idea. The idea of having a full-on blue town evidently makes some people see red. While others want to go even further and paint the Sortland Bridge blue, too.

Writing on the blue wall

Lars Saabye Christensen, the well-known author who previously lived in Sortland, was one of the proponents of the blue town project. He encouraged the young people of Vesterålen to write texts on the blue house walls under a project entitled “Writing on the blue wall”. The attentive guest – with a blue-tinted view of the town – can thus find plenty of blue nuggets to enjoy on a blue stroll through Sortland. is the full-colour website of the tourist board, with plenty of ideas on this archipelago.