VEMU´s 10th Fundraiser was Dedicated to the Future of the Museum

May 20, 2022

Fundraisers are not just about raising money. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the year’s achievements with cherished supporters and, in this case, share some exciting news about future plans. Here is my recap of the 2022 annual VEMU fundraiser.

The VEMU fundraiser has taken place yearly since 2010 and went online during the pandemic. This year the fundraiser not only supported VEMU but also Ukraine. Each year has a theme and this year guest speakers Alar Kongats and Kristian Kirsfeldt spoke about the upcoming project to build the Estonian Museum Canada. No VEMU fundraiser is complete without tasty food and wonderful music, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Chief Archivist Piret Noorhani kicked off the evening with a year-in-review. Although COVID-19 presented many challenges, VEMU continued to offer strong programming throughout 21/22. VEMU clocked thousands of views online and even managed to off some in-person events via Estonian Music Week. Another major achievement was the rebranding process to “Estonian Museum Canada / VEMU”. As we learned, it’s not just about slapping on a new coat of paint, it’s about reconnecting with VEMU’s mission and taking a step towards a vision for the future, that is, building the Estonian Museum Canada.

For those that say these events aren’t about the food, they haven’t tasted food from the Ukrainian caterers Baby Point Lounge. Their Ukrainian classics were not only satisfying but were part of our focus on the country. Our fundraiser raised an additional $225 toward the cause through the sale of our Estonian-Ukrainian solidarity t-shirts. On display were the devastating photos of the exhibit Ukrainian Frontline Photography. We continue to try to do our small part to bring attention to the war and its effect.

Our first guest speaker of the evening was ambassador Toomas Lukk. Ambassador Lukk shared his enthusiasm for the new museum project and the importance of the endeavour. He then bestowed the Medal of Honour of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Piret Noorhani for her contribution to the promotion of Estonian interests in the world.

Next, we heard from architect Alar Kongats who shared with us the latest designs for VEMU’s new home, so fresh that many on the VEMU team had not even seen them yet. One of the most striking updates was the window facade inspired by the turrets of the walls of Tallinn. The half-turrets turn inward creating a welcoming alcove to look out over the Bloor Street corridor. Although Kongats refers to his contribution as just the shell, it already exudes character and creativity.

Next, Kristian Kirsfeldt, Creative Director at Velvet Design Agency, brought us up to speed on the planning interior of the new museum. The planning involves a permanent but evolving exhibit telling the story of the Estonian diaspora. Although it’s very early in the process Kristjan took us through the inspiration gathering, which looks to put VEMU on a level playing field with Canada’s top museums. It is clear, even at this early stage, that the museum will provide an engaging worldclass experience.

For my part, I selected two young musicians to perform. As I shared in my introduction, it’s particularly exciting to hear music from these rising stars in the community. Supporting artists with opportunities as they grow is an important facet of what VEMU does through Estonian Music Week. And every time these artists take to the stage they’ve reached a new level in the musical journey and we, the organizers and audience, are rewarded for all their hard work. Saturday’s performance by Erik Kreem was no exception. He dazzled us with new repertoire like his accordion duet “Breathing”, and the Canadian composer Francois Morel’s Two Studies of Sonority. Erik was joined by his colleague at U of T, Finnish accordion player Matti Pulkki. Matti blazed through J.S. Bach’s famous Toccata in D minor with breathtaking virtuosity. The duo closed the night with a special appearance of Erik on accordion performing Arvo Pärt’s arrangement of Ukuaru Valss. I couldn’t think of a sweeter note to conclude the evening on.

Another THANK YOU to all our wonderful supporters – without you, VEMU could not do all the important work we do. We are especially thankful to those who were not able to attend the event in person but still sent their financial support for the occasion. Aitäh! We look forward to taking these important steps toward building VEMU’s future together.

Sebastian Buccioni

Sebastian Buccioni is the Executive and Artistic Director for Estonian Music Week and the Development Manager for Estonian Museum Canada / VEMU