The married couple that moved to Setomaa, musician Lenna Kuurmaa and actor Lauri Mäesepp, are transforming the former Obinitsa school-church into the Ilmaveere event- and accommodation centre.
The undertaking is coming to life with the help of the EAS and KredEx joint tourism development fund. One of the recipients of 200.000€ cash injection is a private company JaneDoe Music with its project „Construction of the Ilmaveere Event and Accommodation Centre and related services”.
When speaking about the creation of the name, Kuurmaa mentioned that it carried numerous values: Obinitsa is, in a way, at the edge of the world, and that is the clearest meaning of the name. People come to enjoy nature, beauty and environment to the edge of the world – to Ilmaveere [est. end of the world]. – said Kuurmaa.
We also came to Setomaa: Lenna first, then me. – adds Mäesepp. – We came to the other side of Estonia – to ilmaveere. The distance, the isolation and all the values that are here – that name sums them all up very well. It is not necessary to be somewhere in the centre, sometimes the most valuable things are those most frontier, the farthest.
They are building the center in the former Obinitsa school-church that has been empty for years. This is a completely abandoned, delapidated building, which we now have an opportunity to breathe new life into. – says the musician. The building used to be owned by the church, now, however, it belongs to the founders of the centre.
The construction starts in May
The plan is for the construction to start in May. We have awesome ideas for this building. What will come out of it in the end is going to be completely different from what it looks like now. – says Mäesepp.
The opening is planned for the autumn of 2023. Of course! Everyone is invited! – this is how Kuurmaa answered the question whether the centre’s opening would be celebrated with a big party, and her husband added: At least whole Estonia is invited!
Mäesepp explained that accommodation and events are the cornerstone of the new centre, but there would also be a restaurant and additional services that they would start creating over time. There will be a full array of events: from offers of cultural value to weddings, anniversaries and corporate events.
Lauri Mäesepp, the founder of the new centre in Setomaa:
The culture here is so amazing. And so is the nature. We realized something could be grown on all those values. Entertainment is one thing, and the interiors are the other. The building has so much meaning itself, it was once a school-church and there is a lot of historical value because of it. The same values should be still heard in these interiors in the future. – said the actor. So one half of the cultural events we will be organizing and creating here throughout the year will be meaningful and supportive of people’s development – in the most exciting way possible.
Kuurmaa added: And, naturally, theatre, art, cinema, music – everything that resonates with us professionally will have its place. And certainly the unique seto culture, which we really appreciate and care about.
There are eight to ten jobs planned to be created within the centre by the end of the next year, in addition to the five restaurant employees. During the high summer season there will be a need to hire additional workers.
There are all sorts of development directions and ideas on how to start operating the centre on an even bigger scale. But I think the most important thing right now is to start off. – said Mäesepp. We are grateful to Enterprise Estonia for the support we received – now the dream has become much more concrete.
They also thank the Setomaa Edendüsfond that has helped them. They provided first and important contribution that allowed us to start actively [working] on the construction’s project last year. – Mäesepp noted. The aim of the foundation is to encourage people living in Setomaa, active entrepreneurs and village communities to implement ideas that would develop life in Setomaa.
Lenna Kuurmaa, Setomaa-living musician:
Now we found ourselves this strawberry that we are fertilizing and growing.
According to Lenna Kuurmaa, the fulfillment of a big dream and a lot of work are now awaiting. We are joyful, happy and optimistic. And thankful to those, who supported us.
They said that last year, when they decided to stay in Setomaa for good, they thought: is there something that could make them become a part of the community and [something they could] contribute themselves to? The culture here is so amazing. And so is the nature. We realized something could be grown on all those values. – said Lauri Mäesepp.
There are accommodation facilities here, but not enough. There are places to eat at, but not enough. – said Lenna Kuurmaa. We saw the opportunity that it was worth creating an awesome and energetically interesting and fun centre in this corner of Setomaa as well.
Lenna will not stop singing
According to them, it is important that life in the countryside is great for both children and adults, that there are more jobs and that others would want to come live in the countryside.
It has also been the direction for our bigger picture and dreams, to invest our energy and abilities here – so that things start to flourish even more and life gets better. – said the musician and added: Now we found ourselves this strawberry that we are fertilizing and growing. All of it gives a lot of strength, enthusiasm and inspiration. It is teamwork – we are the project managers, but in the end, there will be many people keeping this house alive.
To the question on how a family with three young children and busy and occupied couple gets everything done, they answered together: goals need to be put in the right order and whatever is the most important should be taken care of.
One thing is certain: the actor will continue his studies in business and technology management at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Tartu, and Lenna will not give up singing.
The husband asked the artist, just in case: „You won’t stop singing, will you?”, to which the musician replied „C’mon! Of course not!”