In November 2017, the Estonian Artists' Association started a pilot artist exchange project in collaboration with the Hamilton Arts Council and the Estonian Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. At the beginning of 2019, the former Vice President of the Estonian Artists' Association, Elin Kard, and the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council, Annette Paiement, and the Managing Partner of Cotton Factory, Robert Zeidler, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for future co-operation.
Established in 1969, the Hamilton Arts Council is the second largest and one of the oldest community art councils in Ontario. It was initially known as the Hamilton and County Arts Council, and later as Arts Hamilton. It has a long history in supporting local art and culture through publications, promotions and community partnerships.
Its main activities are the popularisation of art, marketing, and expanding opportunities for exhibition activities. The Council supports the self-organisation of artists, entrepreneurial and curatorial activities, and the creation of interdisciplinary projects and companies.
A former cotton mill located in the heart of Hamilton, the Cotton Factory functions as an active creative industries complex, with creative businesses, shared workspaces and artist studios as well as office spaces for short-term lease for creative businesses. The community has become fond of the creative industries complex, visiting it actively and promoting its constant development and growth. The Factory has more than 60 tenants, with artists, photographers, designers and curators working there on a daily basis. The Cotton Factory is also popular with film and TV production.
The first Estonian artist to reside in the creative industries complex Cotton Factory at Hamilton was Marko Mäetamm. This project involves the Estonian Artists' Association and the Hamilton Arts Council reciprocally sending artists to reside in Hamilton, Ontario and Tallinn, encouraging artists through professional development and networking opportunities.
During the residency, Marko Mäetamm held public conversations in Ottawa at the Enriched Bread Factory and Talik Cotton Factory, Urban Space Gallery and AHG Annex in Hamilton. He also completed a series of new works – Sit Back and Relax.
At the invitation of the Estonian Artists' Association, the Canadian artist Tor Lukasik-Foss resided in Tallinn between 21 September and 21 October 2018. In the past decade, his practice has investigated social anxiety particularly as it relates to public and private space. In Estonia, he was interested in methods for implementing the rich local folk culture and music in a contemporary context.
Between 1–27 October 2018, Peeter Laurits resided in Canada with this exchange programme.
During the residency, public conversations with the artist were held in the province of Ontario, where he talked about his life as an artist and the emerging art scene in Estonia.
Starting from 2019, the residents will be selected through public competition held by the Hamilton Arts Council and intermediated by the Estonian Artists Association.
As a result of negotiations that began in December 2018, Bo Myhrman, President of the Swedish Foundation Stiftelsen Grez-sur-Loing and Vano Allsalu, former President of the Estonian Artists Association, signed an agreement for creating residency opportunities for Estonian artists in France, at the art residency offered at Hôtel Chevillon, Grez-sur-Loing.
Grez-sur-Loing is a scenic rural community with fewer than 1,500 inhabitants, situated 9 km south of Fontainebleau as well as 70 km from Paris. Its first active “conquerors” in the second half of the 19th century were American, English, Scottish and Irish people. Back then, there were two guesthouses on the main street located between the picturesque walled gardens of Grez-sur-Loing: Hôtel Chevillon and Hôtel Laurent. From the 1880s onwards, Scandinavians also gathered here to create, exchange thoughts and contacts. The most famous residents alongside the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson included the Swedish painters Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn, the Swedish writer August Strindberg, and the Finnish sculptor Ville Vallgren. Right before the turn of the century, the baton was passed to Japanese artists, and the Japanese impressionist era began in Grez.
In the early 20th century, this place became less popular among artists and writers. In 1987, a group of renowned Swedish businessmen established a foundation which acquired Hôtel Chevillon, which was then renovated and re-opened in 1994.
The objective of the Grez-sur-Loing Foundation is to provide apartment-type residencies and studios for artists and other creative individuals. The Foundation does not provide any grants for creative individuals. Instead, it rents out rooms at a discount price to partners that in turn award grants for residencies at the Hôtel Chevillon via public competition. The Foundation’s partners are the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, Creative Scotland, the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Gothenburg, the Norwegian Organisation for Visual Communication (Grafill), the Swedish Performing Arts Association and many others – and now also the Estonian Artists' Association.
The first Estonian artist is expected to start residency in September 2019, the initial agreement spans a two-year trial period. The competition is run by the Estonian Artists' Association among its members.
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