Estonians in Canada to receive new cultural center in the heart of Toronto

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The Keskus Estonian center in downtown Toronto. Source: International Estonian Centre Keskus

A new cultural center by the name of Keskus is set to be developed in the heart of Toronto, Canada, in the near future, which aims to connect Estonians worldwide. Keskus is planned to finish development by 2022 - 100 years from the start of diplomatic relations between Estonia and Canada.

"The idea was first presented around the start of 2017 when the practical reality of the existing Estonian house, so dear and important to the community, depreciating and not covering its own costs came to us," Estonian Arts Centre board chairwoman Liisa Käärid told ERR.

The initial project of the Estonian center in Toronto was however initiated by two members of the Estonian Foundation in Canada in the fall of 2014.

"A public discussion about what to do followed, there were many meetings and shareholders decided that we should sell the old house and develop a new and gorgeous center that would mirror who we are," she added.

Käärid noted that the location of the new building, designed by Estonian-Canadian architect Alar Kongats, is even sweeter than before since it will be situated on Toronto's Bloor Street, a major street in the city.

"The main metro stops where people transfer are there. This means there will be a lot of people. Bloor Street has also been called a culture corridor. It is a multifunctional house, meant to bring in revenue. The location is really the best we could think of," Käärid said.

The majority of the funds needed to develop the building came from the sale of the previous building. The center also has four organizations that support it.

"But the money comes from private persons mainly. The fundraising campaign is set to begin on June 1, but we already have CA$7.3 million, which has been given to us by private persons," Käärid said and added that the Estonian Arts Centre will not approach the Estonian state for funding. "It comes from the heart. People have donated to achieve something that looks into the future, that fills a function, which is important to people and events."

"Many of them sense a responsibility to carry on what their parents created with the initial Estonian house. At the same time, we allow what our children and hopefully our grandchildren need in the future - for it to be modern."

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Estonian-Canadian diplomatic relations and Käärid noted that they hope to organize a celebration at Keskus.

Read more on the Keskus center here.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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