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Come January, €805.86 to drop monthly into state paid authors accounts

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PHOTO: Eero Vabamägi

Culture ministry has proclaimed a pilot project of paying trust-based monthly wages to five writers and five artists.

«The writer and artist salary differs from the usual stipends and other creative allowances from Cultural Endowment by all state taxes having been paid on it, and thus the one receiving it is entitled to all social guarantees. The existing options such as stipends and other creative allowances out of Cultural Endowment will remain, but these are short-term and offer no social guarantees such as health insurance or payments into pension fund,» said culture minister Indrek Saar (Soc Dems).

«We all know the topic has been outright ridiculed,» admitted Mr Saar. «Creation is work, and it requires that the creator is at it regularly, dedicatedly, and daily – to stay in good shape. This is how bulk of creation is born.»

The wages are meant for creators on top form who need to be citizens of Estonia or have a residence permit. Meanwhile, to apply one need not be member of an artistic association, and the creator wages will not exclude other income.

To the ones on state payroll, no definite order will be placed like write a novel or hold an exhibition. All economic and non-economic copyrights belong to the author. The state as wage payer will not reserve pre-emptive rights regarding purchase or exposition. This being a pilot project, it is not excluded though that these conditions may get tweaked in the future. To get on the payroll, one must apply to the relevant artistic association where it will be reviewed by a special committee.

At the moment, the names of the individuals to assess the applications filed are not known. We do know, however, of the agencies from whence they will be summonsed.

Also to be decided is the exact form of the contract for services. It is not known to whom one will write an application for vacation, if the one on payroll may go on parental leave, and whether the employer has the right to prematurely terminate the contract for some reason.

For the ten select ones, Estonian last year’s average wages will be ensured for a year: €1,005 a month. After taxes, that’ll be €805.

«Let me assure you these will not be the so-called court [in the ancient court jester sense – edit] artists or authors,» underlined the minister. «This is impossible. Out of state budget, the ministry finds budgetary means and allocates these to relevant artistic associations by grant agreement.»

Total control over fulfilment of wage earners contract and payment of taxes belongs to the artistic associations. Mr Saar says the ministry will be unable to have a say regarding who will be drawing the wages; also, it will not be able to give instructions concerning the creation.

«What is widespread is this view of the job of being a writer or artist that this may easily be done next to other things,» said Estonian Writers’ Union president Karl Martin Sinijärv who has been toiling for eight long years for the state wage idea to materialise. «Such jobs and sinecures as allow one to fully engage in creative activity at the side have become scarce these days.»

Mr Sinijärv referred to the numerous nations sporting such creator-wage systems, ones where the language area and national culture are not too large, like Finland, Norway, Holland, France and Germany. «This is not life’s work award, not social support,» stressed Mr Sinijärv.

«Art cannot only be made project-based or based on market relations, focussing on sale of the object being created,» explained Estonian Artists’ Association president Vano Allsalu. «A professional artist needs the feeling of security just as a doctor, teacher or policeman. The imagination of an artist creating his best works in cold and hunger is outdated, and also anti-human.»

He said the salary would not automatically mean that the artists drawing it would lose the sense of mission or the drive to change the world.

As one, Mr Sinijärv and Mr Allsalu emphasised the importance of trusts towards those to be on state payroll. No stringent control is in store. Even so, to apply for another round, a documented report of formed creative period might come in handy. Both expressed hopes that the initiative will not be limited to pilot project phase, and that in the future the wage earner ranks might increase.

«Would this be the average of averages, we would have to regulate control by law. But we are talking about creators on top form, prime condition,» commented Mr Saar. «Even the societal pressure alone, on them, is vast. I do hope it is not so vast as to hamper creativity.»

Why artists and writers? Because, said Mr Saar, in other domains of culture institutions already exist where creators get paid, go to work in the morning and engage in creativity. However, in art and literature, such jobs are almost nonexistent.

Average wage total split

Based on a month in 2014 data

Net wage €805.86

Gross wage €1,005

Employer costs (salary fund): €1,344.69

Social tax €331.65

Unemployment insurance payment (employer) €8.04

Funded pension (II pillar) €20.1

Unemployment insurance payment (employee) €16.08

Income tax €162.86

Source: culture ministry


Creator wage competition

From November 2nd to 30th 2015

During December, artistic association committees will review the applications. Those picked for the payroll will set to work on January 1st 2016.

Writer wages

All professionally active writers or translators in top creative condition may apply, such as desire for the three years ahead to focus on creative work. To run, please present:

Creative biography,

A thorough overview of past five years’ creative activity,

Overview of vital media coverage,

A declaration on creative goals of upcoming three years.

To make the selection, it is mainly the upcoming three years’ creative goals that will be taken into account, while also considering works of former years and effect of what has been accomplished on Estonian culture, including internationally.

Artist wages

To be applied for by professionally active artists on top creative form, as well as curators art scientists/critics who desire during next three years to dedicate themselves to creative activity. To run, please present:

  • Application and letter of motivation with creative goals for three upcoming years,
  • Creative biography containing overview of recent recognitions and media coverage,
  • Portfolio of last five years’ works with artist position clearly worded.

Making the choice, the jury primarily goes by the three upcoming years’ creative plan while considering education and/or experience of the individual, creative activity of past years, professionalism of the applicant, timeliness of creative goals, and innovativeness thereof in Estonian and international context, artist position, and potential of applicant to introduce Estonian art on international scale.

Source: culture ministry

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