Street art in Estonia is sprouting like a counter-culture flower, brightening up a country more known for its old school UNESCO heritage and Soviet legacy.
Street art first took hold in Tartu. It’s the home of one of the oldest universities in Europe and has earned distinction as a UNESCO City of Literature. There is a synergy between Cities of Literature and street art. Melbourne is a City of Literature and a world class street art city, as are Reykjavik and Manchester UK.
Tartu established their Stencilibility festival in 2010 and have been organizing summer mural events ever since. Their manifesto states that “public space belongs to everyone who uses it” and “…if you don’t like it – improve it.“ This is an organization not afraid to take on bizarre projects and edgy subject matter.
You can find Tartu’s street art at the Aparaaditehas (Widget Factory), in the Karlova neighborhood and sprinkled around downtown. There are even a number of murals that reflect Tartu’s City of Literature status, such as the one below, which reflects character from a popular children’s book. You can also take a tour with Tartu Pseudo Tours.
The formal street art program began in Tallinn during the Baltic Sessions of 2016. It was primarily a street dance festival but the event included “wall cleaning” activities and some mural work. Tallinn got serious in 2017 with the Mextonia festival, which put Estonia clearly on the global street art map.
The festival was conceived as a gift from Mexico to Estonia for their 100th anniversary. The event was organized in conjunction with Nueve Arte Urbano in Mexico. Both countries have had long periods of occupation they both believe strongly in folk history and the power of symbols. You’ll see strong imagery of cross-cultural folk mythology and nature throughout Tallinn’s murals.
Look for the murals and graffiti in Telliskivi Creative City, along the Cultural Kilometer and sprinkled throughout the harbor area.
Not all of the murals in Tallinn's Telliskivi neighborhood are sanctioned or commissioned. Just wander into the parking lot adjacent to the train tracks and you find several long walls full of guerrilla murals and graffiti.
Tallinn's Cultural Kilometer is neither a kilometer long, nor does it feature high culture. However, wandering on and near this 2.5 kilometer long pathway will show you a fine selection of street art and graffiti. There are murals and graffiti inside the cruise ship terminal area, along the Cultural Kilometer and (for as long as it's standing), on the old Patarei prison.
The cultural corridor runs from the Linnahall ruin west to Kalasadama street. It's easily walkable from the cruise ship harbor, Telliskivi and Old town, and you can find it on Google maps. Within the corridor, you'll find graffiti on the crumbling ruin of the old Linnahall and commissioned Mextonia murals representing Estonian culture along the pathway.
You can self-guide most of the pieces by wandering around Telliskivi, Kalamaja, the Cultural Kilometer, and peeking through the fence in the cruise ship harbor.
This is an excerpt and you can learn more by reading the full article on street art in Estonia at Wayfaring Views.
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