Liisa Ojaveer. Photo: Mana Kaasik
You have been the International Partnerships Adviser in the Tartu 2024 Foundation since June. Tell us more about what you will do at the Foundation?
I am very happy to have joined this great team. My duties include everything related to international partners. This means communication with European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 target countries, cooperation with embassies and various networks.
Your main work experience comes from the public sector. You have worked at the Estonian Institute, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, the Office of the Riigikogu and the Embassy of the Republic of Estonia in Helsinki. You are currently employed at the Ministry of Education and Science. What inspired you to join the European Capital of Culture?
When I worked as a cultural advisor in our embassy in Helsinki, I discovered that cultural work is one of the most wonderful jobs in the world. It could also be because of my family background. My grandmother was an actress. All my life I wanted to be in the theatre, even to become an actress, although it did not work out. I love fine arts. I also love Tartu, where I spent my university years.
Participating in the European Capital of Culture is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. By chance, I happened to train the team and saw those bright eyes. When the offer came, I gladly accepted.
What can a person in the public sector learn from people in the cultural sphere? What can culture professionals learn from diplomats?
This is a very interesting question. It is not possible to give exact instructions. The public sector and creatives should work together even more. I think that fears have arisen somewhere that the officials are too bureaucratic and that you will not find a flexible attitude from them. We could both be useful to each other in a good way. I always emphasise cooperation in my activities - nothing is done alone.
As a cultural advisor at the embassy, I managed to get to know and meaningfully cooperate with many artists, writers, musicians, theatre and film makers. Among them were many talented people whose international success makes Estonia bigger. Cultural diplomacy, in turn, helps to open doors and maintains relationships even in the most difficult situations.
What kind of cultural consumer are you? What events or cultural phenomena fascinate you the most?
I can say that I am an emotional cultural consumer. Theatre is undoubtedly one of my favourites, but sometimes I get bored and go to explore a completely different field. Lately, classical music speaks to me a lot. Of course, Estonia is also the best country to take part in it. I live in my childhood home, which has a grand piano given to me by my grandmother. Small home concerts with talented soloists are like a secret garden that always offers an experience.
During the European Capital of Culture title year, I would especially like for Tartu and Southern Estonia to receive the attention they deserve. There are many things that make us unique in the world. In addition to a worthy history and culture, we have pure nature and many talented people. Unfortunately, many people do not know about it yet, so we need to introduce ourselves more.
What do Arts of Survival mean to you? What connections and themes come to mind first?
Estonia is so small. Very few people speak our language. Our preservation and being heard elsewhere means a huge amount of work. For this purpose, the opportunities that come with the European Capital of Culture are very important. We are small, but big in spirit - this is Arts of Survival.
Finally, what are your first steps after starting?
As the first steps, I will deal with the countries that are the focus countries of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. In August, there are meetings with the Finns and the English. I will be happy to participate in anything where I can be useful. As I said before, nothing can be done alone. If you prepare something seriously, the result will be much better. I am very happy to be able to participate in this work. It's not too late, it's not too early. It's exactly the right time.