The Foundation for Estonian Arts and Letters, Inc. is an American organization supporting and promoting Estonian arts and culture in the United States.
In furtherance of the said purposes the corporation shall have power:
To acquire by deed, devise, bequest, gift, purchase or otherwise real and personal property wheresoever situated, hold and dispose same.
To solicit and accept donations.
To disburse funds.
The corporation shall conduct its operations without profit to the officers, directors, and members thereof and shall be non-denominational and non-political and shall not influence or attempt to influence legislation.
To further and promote charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes. To promote understanding and knowledge of arts, science, literature and Estonian language.
To increase co-operation among artists, art students, craftsmen, and all others engaged in artistic activities; to hold competitions and exhibitions, and to promote the study and improvement of the arts.
To arrange literary programs, theatrical and other entertainments; and to work for the intellectual, moral and social advancement.
To extend financial aid to such persons and organizations as are now and may hereafter be engaged in furthering the above said purposes. All financial aid must be voluntary – without interest or charges.
Kaarel Laev, a lifelong New Yorker, has decades of leadership experience serving Estonian and other not-for-profit organizations, including the Foundation for Estonian Arts and Letters, the Estonian Relief Committee, and the Estonian Educational Society and its subsidiaries, such as the Mixed Chorus, the Estonian School and the Girl Guide and Boy Scout groups. Kaarel has an AB in history from the University of Chicago, an MBA from Duke University, and an MPH from Columbia University. Having previously served as treasurer and head of the Audit Committee of the Foundation, Kaarel is proud to again be serving this august organization that has done so much for Estonian culture throughout North America. Having served for two decades as a medical-school administrator in New York, Kaarel is currently a budget officer at United Nations Headquarters.
Merike Barborak, born in Tartu, received a BA in educational studies from Tartu University and an MA in education from Montclair State University, New Jersey. Since 2001 she has been principal of the New York Estonian School as well as coordinator of the educational activities for the East-Coast Estonian Schools. She is on the board of the Estonian School Fund in USA and for several years has been part of the organizing team for the Estonian Cultural Days in New York. Her passion is the promotion of Estonian language and culture.
Ines Kirsimägi Horton was born in Tallinn and attended primary school at the Lycée Français of Tallinn until it was closed down by the Soviet regime in 1940. During the Soviet and German occupations her education continued at Tallinn’s VIII and XIV Primary Schools and Tallinn’s VIII High School. The Great Estonian Exodus of 1944 took her to Austria where she attended the Bregenzer Bundesgymnasium fuer Maedchen until emigrating to the United States in 1949. She earned a BA in social sciences from Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey, in 1953. She was active in Estonian academic organizations in New York and later served on the boards of various Estonian organizations, including, for ten years, as treasurer of the Nordic Press, Inc., publishers of “Vaba Eesti Sõna (The Free Estonian Word).” Presently she is serving as bookkeeper for the Estonian Archives in the USA and auditor for the Nordic Press. Since 1988 she has been a member of the Audit Committee of the Foundation for Estonian Arts and Letters, Inc. and since 2013 the Foundation’s treasurer.
Kadri was born in the small city of Tõrva, Estonia. She studied political science at Tartu University and has held several diplomatic and political positions, including public affairs and political adviser at the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Tallinn, internal communication manager at the Estonian People's Party, and press officer for the Local Government Office. After short residencies in several US cities and also in Kazakhstan, Kadri moved to New York City in 2014 and has since been volunteering with local NGOs while also organizing the 2016 Estonian Cultural Days in New York. She has a three-year-old son.
Jaanika Peerna is an Estonian-born internationally exhibited artist and art educator who has lived and worked in New York since 1998. In Estonia she was the director of the now well-known art school Collegium Educationis Revaliae and worked as well for the Visual Thinking Strategies project funded by the Soros Foundation. In New York Peerna has taught at the State Univerisity of New York and Garrison Art Center and has actively helped to introduce Estonian culture in New York via various curatorial projects. She is currently a guide at Dia Art Foundation and a freelance artist whose work addresses transitions of natural phenomena through drawing, installation, and performance. Her work is represented by Galerie Ulf Larsson, Cologne, ARC Fine Art, Connecticut, and IdeelArt, worldwide.
Valev Laube is an Estonian-born graphic designer, digital artist, and musician currently based in New York. He is an alumnus of the United World College of the Adriatic, Italy, and a current student of the University of Rochester, New York. His works have been exhibited in the United States and Canada. His most recent projects include a music video for the Estonian-Finnish indie-pop band Popidiot and numerous promotional designs for companies such as, Kenneth Cole, Steve Madden, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and WilsonArt. In 2016 he was the creative director of the Estonian Cultural Days in New York and collaborated asvideo artist on an Estonian performance-art piece, "Reflection Spectrum."
David Sassian, an Estonian-American and longtime Brooklynite, grew up around the postwar Estonian community in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He is a book editor and a doctoral candidate in English literature at the City University of New York. David is currently shopping to publishers his English translation of Sipsik, Eno Raud’s much-loved Soviet-era children’s book.
Dr. Heino Ainso—engineer, scientist, diplomat—initiated with Dr. Mardi Valgemäe and Ilmar Mikiver the New York Estonian Cultural Days celebrations in 1961. He has a long history with the Foundation and has been active also in multiple other Estonian organizations in New York: the Estonian Student Alumnae Organization, the editorial board of the journal Vaba Eesti Sõna, and the Estonian Students Fund in the US, for which he served as president (1981–91). He was a founding member of Baltic Appeal to the United Nations and served repeatedly as its president. In 1989 he was elected as a US-based member to the Estonian Congress and its governing board, the Estonian Committee. After Estonia regained its independence, he became a counsellor to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations and then to the Foreign Ministry in Tallinn. He left the Estonian Foreign Service with the rank of minister counsellor. Upon returning to the US in 1997 he resumed his engineering consultancy practice as president of Ainso & Associates Inc. He now resides in Miami, Florida.
Andres Kurrik was born in Tartu in 1937. Following tumultuous years as a refugee child in wartime Germany, Andres emigrated by himself to California at age eighteen. Combining work, college courses, and service in the US Navy, Andres eventually graduated from San Francisco State College in 1970 with a degree in international relations. While in San Francisco, Andres was a member of the management boards of the Estonian Society as well as of the local Estonian church. After graduation Andres moved to New York City, where he was active in the local Estonian youth activities, especially as one of the organizers of the original Kultuuripäevad (Culture Days).
Aire Kolbre Salmre was born in Tallinn. She attended Tallinn’s Teachers Seminary (known as the State English College during the first independence period). Her first year there was interrupted by the war. She graduated from the Estonian elementary school in the displaced-persons camp in Blomberg, Germany, before coming to the USA in 1949. She has a degree in nursing from Hunter College, New York, and an MA in health and science education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She was East-Coast editor of the Estonian home and family magazine in exile Triinu from 1984 to 1995. She is the author of numerous articles for magazines and books. Previously, she has served on juries for the Kultuurfond, as editor of Vaba Eesti Sõna, and as an auditor for the Nordic Press.
Siiri Lind, originally from Kilingi-Nõmme, Pärnu County, graduated from Mõdrik Agricultural College, majoring in accounting, and is a business-management and economics alumnus of the Estonian Agricultural University. Siiri has fifteen years of experience as a chief accountant for a wide range of industrial concerns. In 2005 she moved to New York City, and since 2009 she has been the business manager and web editor of Vaba Eesti Sõna. She is a volunteer with organizations, including the New York Estonian School, the Estonian Cultural Days in New York, and the Estonian Educational Society. She is a member of the sorority Filiae Patriae.
Also: Ivi Tamm