Discovering the Southern part of Estonia

By Kaarin Kivirähk


Discovering the Southern part of Estonia

By Kaarin Kivirähk

Mohar Kalra

In this issue we are focusing on the art scene in the Southern part of Estonia which is known for its mixed cultural heritage and long history, not to mention the beautiful and extraordinary nature of the area which inspired many Estonian artists in the early 20th century.  

Tartu as the centre of the region is the university town which is well known for its classical architecture and historical art school Pallas which dominated the Estonian art scene in the first half of 20th century. Pallas University of Applied Sciences still functions today. Nowadays Tartu is also known for its young and vibrant queer scene and street art festivals. 

Smaller towns, such as Võru or Viljandi have become interesting cultural spots for contemporary art. In Viljandi there is a new art residency, run by the Rüki gallery, and a unique museum of Estonian outsider art. Besides a museum with an art gallery, there is also a new studio house for local artists in Võru.  

The coastline of Lake Peipus is home for the Old Believers (starovéry) and the South eastern part is the land of the Seto people who have their own language and customs. 

Mohar Kalra, artist

John Grzinich

Every August, for one day, the residents of the Tammelinn neighbourhood in Tartu set up small cafes in their backyards and offer drinks, pastries, music and a space to float around for an afternoon – known as the Tammelinna Kodukohvikutepäev (The Tammelinn Home Café Day). Among the lush gardens that one can usually only glimpse from afar, it makes for a wonderfully intimate way to understand what "home" means in Tartu.

John Grzinich, artist 

From 29 April to 10 May, I will be coordinating a series of events in Põlvamaa under the title 'Koidukoor' to celebrate the 'dawn chorus' phenomenon. This will include a series of early morning guided listening walks during the week and a 'sound camp' live audio streaming session on the weekend as a contribution to the 24-hour International Dawn Chorus Day global radio program. For this period, we will be hosting several artists from the Soundcamp cooperative in London. They are excited to visit, as the richness of bird song in south Estonia is always a highlight for them.

Jana Huul

Jana Huul, gallerist

I admire sacred groves and one such site, Tammetsõõr, is located in Kütiorg, on the estate previously owned by the Estonian folklorist Mikk Sarv, whose parents managed to safeguard it throughout the Soviet period. On the other side of Kütiorg, the artist Peeter Laurits also has a house. Tammetsõõr is a place where many cultural events have started and an area where people involved in art and culture live. This year, the 5th Uma Pido, a festival focused on elevating the slowly disappearing local Võru language will be held in Intsikurmu, Põlva. I would also like to highlight Vana-Võromaa Kultuurikoda, where solo exhibitions by Evi Tihemets and Aimur Takk will be taking place in the summer and at the end of the summer, a curatorial project by Margit Säde and Johanna Ulfsak will open as well.

Šelda Puķīte, curator

Šelda Puķīte

The Tartu2024 programme will no doubt promise a rich diversity of events throughout the year in the larger cities of south Estonia, and for culture-thirsty crowds there will be a lot to experience. Still, sometimes the most exciting gems are not found in the cities, but out in the countryside where amazingly enthusiastic people have built small islands. Two of them are the Voronya Gallery in Varnja village located on the Onion Route near Lake Peipus, and the Maajaam Art and Technology Farm located in Otepää parish. The fishing village of Varnja is a charming summer destination in any year, with locals selling fresh produce from their gardens as well as delicious smoked fish. At the same time, Voronya Gallery offers a versatile cultural programme complemented by its famous waffles and moonshine. For those who want to combine their love of nature, art, and science, the Maajaam outdoor exhibition Wild Bits scattered through the meadows, forests and swamps will provide an opportunity to do just that and hopefully also meet the ‘boss’ of the property, the smiling Dalmatian dog.

Map of Southern Estonia


4 exhibitions celebrating Surrealism 100th birthday

Various dates

Estonian National Museum, Tartu Art Museum, Pallas Gallery

Street art festival Stencibility

4 – 7 July

Tartu urban space

Tartu Art Week

Every second week of the month

Estonian Fashion Festival

6 - 9 June

Krista Dzudzilo’s all the possibilities that existed

28.3.2024 — 4.5.2024

Kogo gallery in collaboration with Kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga

Tartu Pride Art Programme

12–18 August

City of Tartu

Ajuokse V

31 August

Ajuokse avangaar

birthday festival featuring alternative art market, punk bands, exhibition openings etc.

International group exhibition Look into my Ice on climate crisis

5 July – 18 August

Tartu Art House

International technological art exhibition Enter Woodland Spirits

28 June – 25 August

Estonian Literary Museum, University of Tartu Natural History Museum

St. John’s Church

Open throughout the year

A 14 th century church exhibiting a unique gallery of Medieval terracotta heads.


Hidden Worlds Expanding. Eastern European Outsider Art

29 May – 29 September

Kondas Centre (Viljandi), Valga Museum (Valga), University of Tartu Museum (Tartu)

Survival arts by Toomik, Ole and Mäetamm

9 October 2024 – 25 January 2025

Kondas Centre



25 May – 15 September

Otepää county, Maajaam

Open air exhibition Wild Bits


Voronja XI summer exhibition: Views of the Future by Kaili Kask and Raul Oreškin

22 June – 25 August

Voronja gallery


Vares international interdisciplinary residency for spatial practice

VARES Architecture Residency

Every month of 2024, there will be at least one public event in the town of Valga, in the framework of which Vares residents will present their work and activities to both locals and a wider audience.

Kaarin Kivirähk is the editor-in-chief of A Shade Colder.