The Estonian Artists
' Association owns the property (2 hectares) at 154 Pärnu maantee, which is known as the ARS building, the main building of the historical art products factory. As a brand, ARS has been well known since 1975, when it had studios that produced ceramics, leatherwork, metalwork, textiles, interior design and more. Applied art produced at ARS was highly appreciated by Estonians for their homes but also further afield.
In the 1990s, the art factory as an organisation fell into decline, when many producers relocated elsewhere. Today, ARS is once again a centre for creativity and there are over 90 artists, designers and creative enterprises working here.
The development of the ARS complex has been one of the greatest challenges for the management and team at the artists association in recent years. This has included creating a development plan, initiating and implementing the Open ARS project, developing the ARS Art Factory and ARS Concept brands, the programme for the activities of the art factory, organising events and training, as well as developing collaboration with artists and EAA partners.
In the EAA vision, ARS in the 21st Century combines innovation with history, contemporary practices and technology with the traditional skills of professional art in Estonia. The artist studios, workshops and galleries form the cornerstone of the Art Factory. Art production develops hand-in-hand with various cultural events, catering and entertainment.
The ARS Art Factory is developing into a seedbed for good ideas, an environment with a free, creative atmosphere, one where anyone who is curious, creative and energetic will find it pleasant to work and spend time. A creative oasis that is increasing the diversity in both culture and the urban environment is slowly taking shape. Located on Pärnu maantee, one of Tallinn’s main arterial roads, therefore facilitates connections and mobility – for some time now trams have been delivering visitors straight from the airport to ARS.
The keywords production and promotion have a central place in the ARS Art Factory development plan and programme through which the EAA is creating the conditions and opportunities to enable creative people to focus on and present their work, and to exchange ideas. Its aim is to spatially and functionally open up the former art products factory, develop a central promotion and education centre, a project space and a ceramics centre. Open ARS 2 was created to support the vision and principles of Open ARS and to empower creative people and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. It is functionally connected to the first project and focuses on content-related activities. Both are funded by Enterprise Estonia from the European Regional Fund with a total of 540,000 euros.
An important event for the ARS community was the opening of the communal space 310 in spring 2018. The ARS project space as well as various studios and meeting rooms are available to artists and designers to help them realise creative projects, while the ARS Showroom is at their disposal for presenting and selling works and products.
Collaboration has brought experts from the Export Academy and young people from the Future Studio programme of the Pallas Art School to meet ARS residents and see their work, and the Open Studio event and the pre-Christmas Pop-Up market have brought clients and art enthusiasts, seeking to purchase art and design. Art professionals have had the opportunity to exchange ideas at the ARS Club and by interacting with international art experts as part of the Connectorium programme organised by Varvara & Mar.
There have been 27 exhibitions in the multifunctional ARS Project Space between 2016 and 2018, involving established artists of international standing as well as bold, innovative presentations by young artists. The two-day ARS Film Festival AFF curated by Indrek Köster and Reimo Võsa-Tangsoo, now in its third year, has also gained recognition and renown. The most recent AFF screened films by 91 artists and artist collectives.
One of the largest projects undertaken by Open ARS was the art environment, ARS Concept, which opened on 22 November 2018 in the T1 Mall of Tallinn, and where fine art and applied art by 40 professional artists was brought together in an exhibition titled Art, made and chosen with intent (Mõttega tehtud ja valitud kunst). The ARS Concept programme included, among other things, thematic weekends called Material with intent (Mõttega materjal) and the three-month pilot project culminated on 26 February 2019 with an afternoon panel discussion with nearly 20 experts speaking on “A market for art – art for the people?”.
Naturally these events are merely the tip of the iceberg in the overall workload of the manager of ARS, Indrek Köster, and other members of his team. In addition to administrative work, they are constantly busy with the various everyday concerns of the residents and repair work in the buildings that were built in the 1960s. To ensure that development continues to look to the future and that the big picture is not overshadowed by everyday concerns, the EAA has initiated a re-development plan for 154 Pärnu maantee. This will mean that the ARS Art Factory vision for the future will have an even more specific functional and visual form.