Today, the Estonian Artists' Association prides itself on a history inspired and shaped by the significant events of the 20th century, with the Central Association of Estonian Artists (1922), Estonian Soviet Artists Association (1943) and the Artists Association of the Estonian SSR (1957) as its predecessors.
With 997 members and 18 sub-associations, the EAA is one of the largest artistic associations in Estonia. The association aims to develop the field of art and expand its social basis in Estonia, to protect the interests of artists and support their creative activities.
The primary function of the EAA is to operate as an artistic association (code 94121 under the national classification of economic activities, EMTAK), which includes participating in cultural policymaking and sectoral development activities, protecting the interests of artists, curators, art historians and theorists as well as other art workers, and promoting their working conditions.
The main activities of the EAA are:
(1) operating as a sectoral expert organisation (including appointing experts to committees and juries, participating in legislative drafting (e.g. Concerning the social guarantees for artists, copyright and the Commissioning of Artworks Act), helping to develop strategies and action plans);
(2) cooperating with artistic and cultural organisations in Estonia and internationally, as well as with the Estonian state and local governments; promoting the international contacts of Estonian artists;
(3) organising exhibitions in the EAA galleries (Hobusepea, Draakon, HOP, Vabaduse), Tallinn Art Hall (a foundation established and supported by the EAA and the Republic of Estonia) and the Toompea Castle Exhibition Hall;
(4) economic activities aimed at earning funds for the fulfilment of the association’s statutory objectives, including the maintenance and sustainable development of the creative infrastructure (studios, workshops and galleries) on the EAA’s properties at 6 and 8 Vabaduse väljak, 2 Hobusepea and 154 Pärnu maantee, Tallinn, and the Muhu Art Residency;
(5) administrative activities to provide better conditions for people working in the creative centres operating at the above properties, including through the initiating and carrying out specialised and interdisciplinary projects as well as dedicated property management and rental (focused on supporting the creation of professional art);
(6) pooling professional competence and facilitating the exchange of ideas and practices through coordinating the activities of the EAA’s 18 sub-associations.
The EAA owns and develops the most extensive art infrastructure aimed at professional artists in Estonia and offers production and exhibition spaces to active artists. The EAA’s activities as a property owner are connected to its core aims, which are focused on the purposeful and sustainable development of facilities designed and built for the creation and exhibition of art, as well as renting these facilities to creative individuals at an affordable price. In 2019, the EAA has over 200 tenants, including more than 90 artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs operating in the ARS Art Factory.
As a rule, the opportunities and facilities offered by the EAA to creative individuals and enterprises in the arts (free exhibition opportunities in the EAA galleries, affordable studio spaces and workshops, studio apartment rental etc.) are not aimed exclusively at the association members – the creative infrastructure and related services in particular are made available to the field as a whole.
The creative grants and scholarships and artist laureate salaries mediated by the EAA and artist fees paid by the EAA to artists exhibiting in its galleries are a significant contribution to supporting creative individuals and enterprises.
EAA members are issued an International Association of Art (IAA) membership card, which provides free or affordable entry to many exhibitions and museums worldwide.
In 2017–2020, the EAA carries out the Open ARS project with the support of Enterprise Estonia. It aims 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. As part of the follow-up project, Open ARS 2, developing and piloting service packages are planned for artists who are new to the creative industries as well as seasoned creative entrepreneurs who have already won international recognition, to support their professional development, collaboration and sales activities with a range production and exhibition opportunities and support services.
The ARS of the 21st century combines innovation with history, contemporary practices and technology with the traditional skills of professional art in Estonia. The ARS Art Factory forms a functional whole aimed at inspiring, and offering creative facilities and support to applied artists, designers and contemporary artists to help them in creating, exhibiting and internationalising their work as well as supporting professional development, entrepreneurship and networking. The future vision of ARS is to grow into an international hub for design, applied art and contemporary art in the Baltic Sea region and beyond.