Some of the major cultural institutions have managed to establish themselves as “national” institutions, and thus claim priority positions in the allocation of state resources; for example the National Library, Art Museum of Estonia (Kumu) and the Estonia Theatre (National Opera). Although the Estonian Drama Theatre does not have the official status of a “national” institution, it has nevertheless been financed more favourably than other theatres.
All cultural institutions are affected by budget cuts and the situation is even more difficult for private institutions which lack an official status. To some extent, support is derived from, e.g., the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the Council for Gambling Taxes and the Foundation for National Culture. The latter, founded in 1991, by the government and turned into a private foundation in 1994, has been continuously able to attract funding from domestic private and corporate donors. There has been a considerable reduction in the amount of funding distributed by the Council for Gambling Taxes as a result of the 2002 decision to use a large share of the money to finance the construction of the new Museum of Arts. It is suspected that this decision has reduced the possibilities of non-established artists and institutions to obtain support.
Most of the resources in the cultural sector still come from the state and the local governments. Those resources which are available have been used for the preservation of existing cultural institutions (e.g. libraries, theatres). This has left little resources for public-private co-operation.
A foundation has been established jointly by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and three central organisations of amateur arts groups to organise the National Song and Dance Festival – a major cultural event organised every five years (most recently in July 2014).
The private business sector has not yet shown any major interest in sponsoring culture. Nevertheless, private individuals who have come into possession of historically valuable buildings have gradually started to be more conscious about the specific requirements for their renovation and use.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have powerfully enhanced the diversity of cultural life. Their activities have been comprised of international co-operation, the production of festivals, contemporary dance, information centres, and the running of small theatre companies. There are about ten independent theatres in Estonia. Several of them have gained a respected position in the performing arts scene: the theatre groups Von Krahl, VAT, and Theatrum have established themselves as a part of the professional theatre field in Estonia. The dance theatre Kanuti Gildi Saal operates as a space involving numerous artists and performers, without having its own ensemble. All theatres, irrespective of their legal status, may apply for governmental finance.
The NGO cultural sector receives some support from the state and especially from local governments.