“Eksperimenta! 2011” at Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. Photo: Annely Köster

“Eksperimenta!” 0

The international youth contemporary art triennial “Eksperimenta!” 2014 - “Art and Science”
St. Catherine’s Church and Hopner House, Tallinn (Estonia) 
October 23 – November 23, 2014

“Eksperimenta!” is the biggest international youth contemporary art event that aims to give the high-school level students an experience of a professional international arts event with feed-back from high level critics and curators as well as to initiate sustainable changes in (art) education.

The first “Eksperimenta!” exhibition took place as a highlight of the European Capital of Culture Tallinn 2011 programme at Tallinn Song Festival Grounds and in Maarjamäe Palace from April 27 – June 14 2011 and presented contemporary art on the topic “Space” by young artists from 13 countries to an audience of 18 000.

This year, “Eksperimenta!” presents artworks by young artists aged 14 to 19 from 11 countries (Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Germany, Slovenia, Portugal, Turkey, South-Korea, Canada, Brazil) in Tallinn’s oldest church – St. Catherine’s and in the medieval merchant’s house Hopner House on the Town Hall Square. The nearly 800-year-old church as a venue for artwork by the very young artists presents a challenge and contrast but also proves that the Old Town is still very much alive and open for new brave ideas and freethinking.

Eksperimenta! 2014” will take place on topic “Art and Science”. Image: Joonmeedia

The team behind the “Eksperimenta!” wishes to encourage youth and teachers and artists in different countries to study the world through a scientific prism, to use scientific methods as a starting point of the creative work and to interpret the results through art on a personal and universal level. The triennial promotes the main survival skill of the 21st century – creative and scientific thinking among youth.

Annely Köster – shaking the foundations of art education

The founder of “Eksperimenta!” is Annely Köster (45), who is living her dream as art teacher. She created the first “Eksperimenta!” with the mission to nurture creativity, free thinking, caring and content.

Growing up in the last years of the Soviet Estonia Annely took the message from her own art teacher literally – to carry on the mission of teaching art. So after graduating from high-school she started her first children’s art group at the age of 18 in Tallinn’s leafy suburb of Nõmme. After a while the local government discovered that the nice former villa could be put to better use than children’s art classes and Annely moved her school to the Hopner House in the Old Town. That’s where Sally Studio was born in 1991 – the year of Estonia’s rebirth as an independent country.

“The 1990’s were a crazy era in Estonia. Everyone started a business, so we sold a painting of a good friend and invested the money as stock capital into Sally Studio. The art studio is named after my Great Dane Sally who was born that year and accompanied me to classes daily. After just a little while the kids started to ask each other after class ‘Are you coming to paint with Sally tomorrow?’ So Sally Studio it was. Sally, the first CEO was a great teacher of friendly caring and has left a strong paw print on the studio’s philosophy till today.

Benjamin Thiele “Fish” (Germany)

We realized very soon that this was not going to be a big business – after all, our share capital was lost with the bankruptcy of Tartu Kommertspank. So in 1994 we restructured the studio into a non-profit organisation.”

Obviously making business was never the driving force for Annely. Strangely enough arts and culture used to be one of the very few areas of life in the Soviet system, where speaking your mind was possible. Annely remembers the long talks about life and the world with her arts teacher and friends that often resulted in small arts actions – in today’s art speak performances. Metaphoric expression was a very widespread means of arts and this is one of the main methods of contemporary art today. This is the legacy that has formed the ideology of Sally studio. “It is not important to draw a technically perfect camel or count the toe bones of a body. It’s about free thinking and creativity that we hope and try to grow in our children. Sally studio is a school of creative thinking, bravery and pro-activity. If we want our life to be better it is important that people dare to think independently and dare to stand up for their ideas.”

Helsinki Art School. Art event “Open Light” at Mansion Roihuvuori (Finland)

Annely didn’t take the classical path to art teaching. She was fortunate to take many international arts courses and classes in the beginning of the 90’s, to get an idea of Waldorf methods that in itself stands really in a big contrast to contemporary art but has over the years influenced the teaching at Sally a lot. Then, after several years of teaching and running the studio Annely finally decided that psychology is the subject she needs to study most to keep growing as a person and as thehead of her art school. A curious combination of colour perception and management psychology at the Tartu University led her to further studies of education management in Tallinn University. Art education became a big issue when kids started to ask her after class to explain all they did once again so that they could retell it at school and do it all over with the school class. So Annely has had a major input into the new curriculum of arts at Estonian schools, moving it away from the technique and towards creativity and integration.

Sally Studio has grown and developed just like Estonia from the 1991. Annely sees how Estonia has matured and learned a lot from the old Western countries, especially about efficiency and bureaucracy. What she misses is the caring and consideration that characterizes these societies. Fortunately the young generation seems to have a stronger social nerve and regard than the “founders” of the 1990’s. And Estonia still is the place where the impossible is possible.

Sally studio has tought many thousand children over the more than two decades from age 3 to 19. Many have returned as teachers or as parents of new students.

The students of Sally were the real reason behind the birth of “Eksperimenta!” in 2011. Annely believes in fulfilling one’s dreams with consistency and patience. In 2001 she started to dream about an international exhibition platform for the pre-university age group of art students. Ten years later the first “Eksperimenta!” triennial took place as the highlight of Tallinn’s year as the European Capital of Culture bringing young artists from more than a dozen countries to Tallinn and presenting an amazingly professional level of art that was praised by critics and an audience of more than 18 000.

Darja Sediha “Your Choice - Virtual World or  Reality” (Latvia)

This year, when “Eksperimenta!” takes place for the second time many circles seem to close. The exhibition venue is the Hopner House in the Old town – the same place where Sally Studio started more than 20 years ago. The contrast – one of the red threads of Annely’s working life – is to spread itself through the Old Town. Next to the medieval merchant’s house the contemporary youth art from a dozen countries will also be exhibited in Tallinn’s oldest christian church – St. Catherine’s. The latter being a very fitting venue for this year’s topic ‘Art and Science’ as Catherine is the saint of scientists, philosophers, students, youth and women. The contrasting environment puts a great challenge in front of the organizers and the young artists: how to create in the darkest season an inspiring and pleasant environment for the exhibition.

Annely believes that a decade is a suitable time for an organization to mature, so “Eksperimenta!”  still has a few years to go. From now on a new Great Dane – Gracia is helping her to find the right track to grow together.