As It Happens

Estonia to provide state salaries to literary and visual artists

The government in Estonia wants to encourage the arts. And they're doing it by offering state salaries to a select number of writers and artists.
Estonia Ministry of Culture building in Tallinn (Vikipeedia)

The government in Estonia wants to support the arts. And they're doing it by offering state salaries to a select number of writers and artists.

The country's minister of culture says 10 writers and artists will be chosen to be paid a state salary for three years.

Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Adviser on Arts at Estonia's Ministry of Culture (Raigo Pajula)

"It is a very practical decision," says Maria-Kristiina Soomre, adviser on arts at Estonia's ministry of culture. "Estonia is a country where music and theatre are very well supported, and we are proud of our musicians and theatres," she tells As it Happens guest host Helen Mann.

"However for more individual fields, support from the state has been a bit more vague," she says.

Soomre explains that the government will provide financial assistance to the country's Artists' Association, which will in turn offer five salaries in each of two categories: visual arts and literature.

"The salaries will be competition based," she says. Artists and writers in Estonia have until Nov. 30 to apply for the salaries. Then a group of artists, curators, editors, and other artistic administrators will review the proposals and award the ten positions.

They will be paid €16,000 a year (almost $23,000 Cdn).

"The main criticism has been about the actual criteria, or how should the artist and writers be chosen, and then how their work should be measured," says Soomre. "It's a process-based job. There are yearly feedback sessions. And by the end of the third year [participants] will also give a report on the process to the minister of culture," she says.

Despite the modest number of potential applicants, Soomre is confident that the process adequately safeguards against individuals being selected due to their personal connections.

"Estonia is a very small society," says Soomre. "So obviously everybody knows everybody. However, I think the selection committees are quite large. They're based on professional knowledge. So all of the artists -- even if they are friends or enemies in their free time -- approach this issue quite professionally.

"I think it is a very needed discussion," she says. "The fact that artists actually do work needs to be acknowledged. In Estonia...we don't have the system of artists' fees. So basically artists are offering a free service because most of the exhibitions are free for the visitors."


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