BLOG: Artswork goes to Estonia!

Date Created: 2nd Jul 2018

View down a street in the centre of Tallinn, capital city of Estonia

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Our Strategic Manager Ruth visited Estonia at the end of June for a symposium as part of our work with PopUP and their Creators programme (#PopUpCreators). Supported by Arts Council England, the PopUP Creators programme brought together artists from the Baltic States to colleges and universities in the South East, London and Norfolk, to teach young arts students and support them in navigating their own transition into becoming professional artists. Below, Ruth tells us all about the trip.

Day One

Steph (from Norfolk and Norwich Festival Bridge) and I left the hotel early to find breakfast and explore a sunny Tallinn on the way to the morning symposium at the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre. Not many cafes were open at 8am but we at least saw some amazing architecture to compensate. Sites we passed included the Dome Church, the oldest surviving church in Estonia, the Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandra Nevsky, Toompea Castle and the medieval city walls.

Our morning discussions were about the next stages of the PopUp Creators project and in particular the development of a digital platform to aid networking, as a forum for ideas, for sharing of tutorials for professional development and as a focus for case studies to show potential careers and progression routes.

The students were keen to hear from artists who had succeeded in being published and what barriers they had overcome as part of the process too.

It was interesting to hear how the Estonian Ministry of Culture supports a competition with publisher Kus,  for finding new illustrated children’s picture book, with 10 chosen out of over 100 entries for publication each year.

Room with a wall sized forest illustration and a TV screen with printed footsteps across the wall and fabric stools.

Ideas were further refined in the afternoon, when all the artists presented their ideas for a digital platform and programme using maps, visual soups, house, balloons and journeys. Other participants used boxes and words.

We shared all the ideas, captured them and reflected on the programme’s successes before making our way back through the city to an Indian restaurant for a meal.

Day Two

Today we learned the crucial skill of map reading, from Google maps to Estonian public transport ones too. We valued good information sharing, having confidently got on a tram going the wrong way! We also learned about Tallinn – a city of many parts.

Tonight, we are sitting next to a railway line surrounded by cafes and home decoration shops and very cool looking people. This morning, we were in Kadriorg, the beautiful green park established by Peter The Great for his queen, with its fountains and trees and long avenues of pleached limes. This afternoon, we embarked on a magical exploration into the world of imagination at NUKU Theatre and Museum (Estonian State puppet theatre and museum). “It’s the only good legacy from the Soviet administration”, said KUMU’s Education Manager, Marie.

Set of handmade royal court puppets with a castle backdrop, displayed in a wooden box inside of a museum vitrine.

You could not get more of a contrast between the stylish cathedral of KUMU, Estonia’s contemporary art gallery in Kadriorg, and NUKU. This morning, we had great discussions as arts organisations about our learning programmes, and talked about the many ways young people lead their own activities in different venues. We also spoke about artists in residence, and about the challenge of measuring immediate impact when we know that often, the arts transform lives over many years. We were in the KUMU learning space – small, no windows, in a brilliant building. It served as a microcosm of the conversation we had about learning and curation in galleries and how rarely they connect well.

In contrast, NUKU placed learning at the centre of its museum. We learned about the anthropology of culture, about making theatre from things, about making paper ‘breathe’. We fell in love with the teddy bear puppets which we made come alive. We talked about transferring energy from the puppeteer to the puppet and explored how masks and puppets let you explore empathy, diversity and difference, through different perspectives.

Relief sculpture of a woodland animal eating on the exterior wall of a building

In a city which only gained independence in 1991, this feels very important. There are both Russian speaking and Estonian speaking schools in the city. There is a divide here, which cultural organisations are challenging, and a recent heritage which is very real.

Marie from KUMU said that puppet theatres were originally established under the Soviet administration to teach children about the Soviet ideology. When they left, the theatre stayed and has grown. It still teaches, but now it is teaching understanding and how to help materials live.

It made me think of two little boys who got on our tram back into the city with their scooters earlier. They had such a fabulous friendship, talking the whole way, and clearly comfortable travelling round the city together.

It has been a joy to experience the friendliness of this city and meet some of the cultural organisations who champion their future and their heritage.


You can read more about our international outreach projects here






International Outreach South East Bridge

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