Responding to an age-old criticism – that Estonian culture lacks a coherent voice – artists, writers, musicians and creative types of all shapes and forms founded the non-profit organization Chamber of Culture last Wednesday, hoping to start a new era of bottom-up cultural policy.
Many have seen the Chamber of Culture as a reaction to the allegedly authoritarian politics of Minister of Culture Laine Jänes. Jänes' domain has been wrought with scandals over the past year, as the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra suffered a budget crisis, leading to the firing of its director Andres Siitan and the departure of its chief conductor, Neeme Järvi. Jänes has also been criticized for unjustifiably replacing the head of the Estonian Museum of Architecture and the director of Läänemaa museum.
The artists themselves deny this allegation, according to chairman of the board of Estonian Architecture Centre Ülar Mark, the Chamber of Culture is designed to fill a gap in Estonian cultural policy and to give artists of all persuasions a forum for debate and for making policy recommendations.
The specifics of what the Chamber of Culture is actually going to do are still unclear. Last Wednesday, the Chamber elected its board of directors, which is impressive enough: it includes Ando Kiviberg, director of the Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Kaarel Tarand, editor-in-chief of the cultural weekly Sirp, Tiina Lokk, head of the Black Nights Film Festival and many others.