Sveta Grigorjeva: 'Dear minister, do you know what my pension plan is?'

Sveta Grigorjeva.
Sveta Grigorjeva. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Sveta Grigorjeva, an Estonian choreographer, performer and poet, depicts the reality for creatives in Estonia in her opinion poem of 10 "pictures" and asks whether it is even conceivable to discuss pension planning under such circumstances.

First picture

In the summer, I attend an event hosted by the Ministry of Culture, where we brainstorm the world's best coping strategies for creatives. I am in a session where we are thinking what else (workbit, etc.) creatives can do to make additional income on top of their regular jobs.

In my panel, I point out that this is a phony and pointless exercise that distracts from the real issue, which is that the creatives should be paid a fair wage and not be required to drive Bolt on top of their regular work. I receive supportive and empathetic remarks (especially from Airi Triisberg, of course), but then for some reason I relent, the company is actually quite pleasant (it really is), and we go back to thinking of the so-called "career options" for creative individuals. Besides, I won't get any free sandwiches if I leave now.

Second picture

Autumn. My retirement plan is to commit suicide, I joke. Everyone chuckles. Me too.

Third picture

I read Andra Teede's opinion article in Delfi [news portal]. It turns out I am not the only loser who works tirelessly but never sees any money, let alone Christmas bonuses. On Facebook, I 'like' Piret Jaaks' comment in response to the same article, in which she remarks that "a €2,500 bonus when the majority of creatives lack health insurance is incredibly cynical" (from memory). I am also one of those without health insurance.

Forth picture

I received a proposal to organize a poetry night for a production company in Narva. After a month, I ask about the compensation for poets. Unfortunately, funds are limited, so they can only provide transportation and lunch. I reply that, in the current climate of inflation and the constant underpayment of creatives, I think it is unethical to invite them to perform in another city like this, especially as it takes an entire day to do so (preparation, travel both ways and performance), so I tell the organization, "Goodbye!"

Fifth picture

Another producing company. Let's discuss my potential next production. I would like to collaborate with a larger collective once again, preferably ten dancers (plus dramaturg, technical support, artist, lighting designer, composer). The Cultural Endowment contributes up to €25,000 for the production of a play. The regulation, however, includes a new provision: no more grants be made for salaries; instead, all payments will be tax deductible.

Let us estimate that everyone receives less than a €1000 for such a party (the stage design and the advertising and production costs are also included). Three months of work (preparation includes a conceptual part before the practical, so a total of six months, for which I, personally, can apply for a production grant, but dancers-performers cannot!) and five performances.

I am considering the possibility that the Cultural Endowment should fund fewer plays, not just twice as few, but three times fewer, because the premise of "little for all" does not work. It really does not work at all. I again make light of my pension plan. Everybody laughs. Me too.

Sixth picture

Dear minister of culture, cultural endowment, and Estonian cultural policy in general - this is really not a joke at all; I have calculated if I continue to work as a creative artist in this country, "this" is what awaits me. On the one hand, honestly,  I have come to terms with it because I get to do what really interests me and if that means living a shorter life, so what? (I was about to add "I will survive.")

On the other hand, other artists besides myself clearly do not live such a compromised and radical life, which is why I am writing this. I realize that many people are upset by it, as in "why can't they just get to work," and that for some it comes off as an ultimatum, as in "give me the money or else," but that is how it is, or so I believe.

And yet, like other creatives, I work full-time and pay taxes. Why is it SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND that making art is not a hobby and after, say, eight hours of working-dancing in a rehearsal hall, you go home emotionally and physically drained. This is not something that can be done in addition to some "real" job – Is it a job that requires a fair wage?

Seventh picture

A recent article comes to mind, the author writes that "given the context of Estonia's prices and inflation, no one truly protests" (from memory). Oh well, in our country, people have this mentality of "bearing with it." In reality, though, aren't we not bearing?

Eighth picture

I am thinking about deleting all of the above because, well, whatever... I will bear it. In the end, this will only escalate and some politician will use it to further their own political agenda, with the only difference being that I receive more haters. However, what I'm saying is that our cultural policy, financing of arts, and persistent underpayment of artists increasingly resemble a criminal system. You are literally killing people.

Ninth picture

Oh, those creative types are always so dramatic!? All the time some squealing or an invitation to participate in one. I see, this screech-poem does not change anything and is more of a rant for Andra Teedele and others. Reading Andra's text made me feel good for a while; perhaps some of you will feel good after reading this (that you are not alone with your troubles, etc)?

Tenth picture

I invite other creatives to write and share openly their own rants, in whatever genre, with the assumption that we all understand that nothing ever changes anyway! It serves as a "soul balm" for us. You have nothing to lose, as no Estonian creative (particularly a freelancer) has anything to lose! Except, perhaps, for the "let's bear it" mantra, of course.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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