A new international art residency center is to be established in the Kreenholm quarter of Narva as a collaborative effort of the private and public sector in hopes of furthering integration of the city's Russian-speaking population.
Minister of Culture Indrek Saar has allocated 25,000 euros to fund the Estonian Academy of Arts' project.
The local development company Narva Gate has provided a historicist villa for the project, set to host workshops, ateliers, living spaces, a library, exhibition space and a café.
"This serves as another pinnacle of the government showing its presence in Narva. It will help facilitate integration, whilst also functioning as a fulcrum in Kreenholm for us as private sector developers. The area looks to be escaping the shadow of death," commented Jaanus Mikk, CEO of Narva Gate.
Marika Alver, project manager for the new residency center, agrees that the program will play an important role in promoting integration.
"It fosters the artists' engagement with northeastern Estonia's social peculiarities in historic and cultural contexts. At the same time, the center will serve an educational purpose in involving the locals and the youth," Alver explained.
According to the Ministry of Culture arts adviser Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Estonia is gaining ground as an art hub. Currently, notable residency programs in Estonia include MoKS in Mooste and Printing Break at the Estonian Printing Museum in Tartu, among other initiatives.
"There are a lot of artists sharing studios or inviting over likeminded thinkers or co-creatives. It's a vigorous landscape, but until now there hasn't been a schematic show of support from the state," Soomre acknowledged.
The residency center is slated to be finished towards the end of 2018. In 2014, the first floor of the Joala 18 villa was converted to function as an exhibition space, with a program of exhibitions, master classes, lectures and various other public events planned for the coming season.
The Kreenholm ('crow island') quarter of Narva was previously home to the Kreenholm textile factory, which was declared bankrupt in 2010. In 2012, a detailed plan for the re-zoning of the area was revealed, including residential buildings, a concert and conference center and a science park alongside business spaces.
Narva, the third largest city in Estonia, is located by the Russian border, on the Narva River which drains Lake Peipus. Almost 94 percent of the population in Narva are Russian-speakers, and 82 percent consider themselves as ethnic Russians.
Editor: A. Kaer