Since the 2000s, Estonian cultural organisations got involved in more international cooperation networks and got awarded more EU and other European grants to get engaged in cultural and humanitarian cooperation projects. The main funders have been Creative Europe and Erasmus+ programmes. However, successful international cultural projects are initiated mainly by individuals and private organisations (NGOs) based on personal contacts rather than as a matter of governmental policy.
Estonian culture has received international recognition when the Estonian (together with Latvian and Lithuanian) song and dance celebration tradition was included on the UNESCO’s World List Intangible Heritage (2008). Included on the list as well are the small Kihnu island as cultural space (2008), Seto Leelo – Seto polyphonic singing tradition (2009) and the Smoke sauna tradition from South-Estonia, Võromaa (2014).
The organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn in 2002, hosted by the Estonian Television, as a benchmark event for popular culture, required international cooperation on a large scale and made Estonia further known among European audiences.
Numerous national and international music festivals take place in Tallinn as well as in marvellous places outside of the capital, mainly during summer season. International theatre festivals — the oldest one being Baltoscandal, which takes place biannually in Rakvere — gather the most innovative theatre ideas and troupes throughout the world. Seven dance festivals take place in Estonia, three of which are international. All these are mainly organised by NGOs and use international networks of organisations in their field and personal contacts.
External theatrical relations are conducted by the Estonian Theatre Agency in cooperation with the performing arts institutions active in the field. Many of the performing arts centres, which are NGOs (including Sõltumatu Tantsu Ühendus, Kanuti Gildi SAAL), plan their programmes in collaboration with international partners.
Foreign tours by theatres, which require years of planning, also serve to introduce Estonian theatre. Estonia’s local theatrical life is enriched by international theatrical festivals with many different focuses and styles.
Estonia has integrated very much into international architectural networks and policy forums; architecture bureaus participate in major international architectural events and in setting development trends in European architectural policy. A valuable partner for the state in international activities is the Estonian Centre for Architecture (NGO), which mostly focuses on introducing Estonian architecture abroad.
Estonia has participated in the world’s largest architecture festival in Venice since 2000. Estonian participation is handled by the Estonian Centre for Architecture and financed by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the Ministry of Culture and private donors. The curators of the Estonian exposition are selected through an open competition.
The Tallinn Architecture Biennale is an international forum of architecture and city planning, which is organised by the Estonian Centre for Architecture. The architecture festival has a diverse programme to enhance synergy between Estonian and foreign architecture, and architects and the public, by offering a chance to make contact and share ideas.
The Estonian Publishers’ Association organises the participation of Estonian publishers in international book fairs (Frankfurt, London, Leipzig, Helsinki and Bologna) and is the Estonian partner organising the Baltic Book Fair. The association is a member of the Federation of European Publishers.
Film institutions develop multilateral international cooperation, especially valuing partnership among Baltic and Nordic countries. In 2015, three film institutions — the Estonian Film Institute, the Latvian National Film Centre and Lithuanian Film Centre — signed an agreement to boost co-productions of films and to organise joint events for promoting the film industry. In the framework of the 100th anniversary of three Baltic countries, the Baltic Film Days were organised in August 2019 to raise the audience’s interest of films from their neighbouring countries.
Numerous non-governmental institutions and galleries operating in the field of contemporary arts and design prepare and manage international cooperation projects. The Centre for Contemporary Arts (NGO founded in 1992) is an expert institution in international cooperation projects with a role to activate and develop the Estonian contemporary art scene, conceptualising the current tendencies of visual culture and participating in a critical dialogue in society. Since 1997, Estonia has continually participated in the Venice Art Biennale. The Estonian pavilion is organised by the Centre for Contemporary Arts. In 2016, Estonian artists were represented at 75 exhibitions or art events abroad. A total of ninety artists or groups participated. About fifteen Estonian artists are being actively represented by galleries operating in the international art market. The Centre for Contemporary Arts is also the organiser and partner of the Baltic Triennial, the major regional international art event. Since its foundation in 1979, the Baltic Triennial takes place in the three Baltic countries.
The Ministry of Culture introduces Estonian design abroad in close cooperation with the NGO Estonian Association of Designers and Estonian Design Centre. In order to enhance the field of design, the Estonian Association of Designers has founded the Estonian Design House, which promotes the sale of work by Estonian designers on domestic and foreign markets, initiates new product development, and exports high-quality product design. Estonia cooperates actively with Finland and France in a number of design projects.
In 2014, the Estonian Association of Designers has developed a concept for introducing Estonian design abroad (Size Doesn’t Matter), which is based on the juxtaposition of the smallness of Estonia and the abundance of designers and their achievements. The overview exhibition includes high-quality and limited release products, mostly the best examples of designers’ work plus innovative industrial products. More than sixty designers are represented at the exhibition.