A street art festival takes place in Viljandi

A street art festival is to take place in Viljandi, a small southern Estonian town, from 12-17 June.

The festival is called RUA – Rural Urban Art – opposite words which, according to the organisers, mark the possibility of an urbanistic form of art finding its place in a rural area or small town.

“RUA is a nomadic festival which means our location is different every year – until today we’ve been to five Estonian regions (or counties) since 2018 and painted 55 walls. Our mission is to brighten up the everyday living environment in small towns and rural areas with paintings by local and international artists,” Salme Kulmar, the creator of the festival, told Estonian World.

Street art festival RUA in Kraavi, Võru County in 2022. Photo by Andrea Margó Rotenberg.

“What does a typical small Estonian town look like? There are different sceneries, of course, and many tiny towns are absolutely charming, surrounded by beautiful nature and lakes. But, there are also many towns that have a lot of grey brick walls and ugly architecture (like brick garages) that have been lingering around since the Soviet times and together with the greyish climate it can have a rather gloomy effect on the everyday living environment,” Kulmar said.

Diversifying the Estonian street art landscape

“In a more general view, over the past decade there’s been a lot of controversy about the lack of cultural events in small towns and the problem of small towns running empty – the youth keep leaving for bigger towns.”

“Today, the mindset has changed a lot and we together with the participating artists take great pleasure in discovering small, or even, tiny towns. Why tiny – well, because Estonia’s population of 1.4 million leaves the average population of small towns to around a few hundred to a few thousand people,” she explained.

Street art by Päivi Lindell. RUA street art festival in Võru County in 2022. Photo by Danel Rinaldo.

This year, the festival’s line-up includes 11 participating artists, of whom nine are international and two local.

“Our selection of local artists is based on creating diversity: the line-ups include artists who haven’t been very active on the streets and of illustrators and graphic designers. The goal is to diversify the Estonian street art landscape and to give an opportunity for studio artists to create on a new scale,” Kulmar noted.

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