Murals on the walls of Polish – American Cultural Center and their creators

Today I have an interview with creative people–artists. I really enjoy writing about art, therefore it is my great pleasure to focus on two local gentlemen and their creations. They are Mr. Hubert Wisniewski,  Interior designer and Arthur Berg graduate of the Virginia Marti College of Art.

Interior design, has its fashionable trends and styles as any other art form.  In general, the predominant  media  have been : oils , acrylics, watercolors, etc.  Gaining in popularity once again, is the very old technique of painting directly on walls of homes, offices, or elegant banquet halls, as for example, the one found in the Polish-American Cultural Center.  The architectural landscapes we see depicted within are the Cathedral of Gniezno ( a view from a current photo)  Palace Square in Warsaw (a view based on a painting by Canaletto) and the Krakow Marketplace or Main Square, ( a current view). These three murals represent the three historic capitals of Poland:  Gniezno, Krakow and Warsaw.   These murals are the works of the two artists I have mentioned.  Without much further ado, I would like to  introduce these gentlemen to my readers.

Mr. Hubert Wisniewski

As a child, he could be found drawing for hours, trying to represent on paper what interested him.  As a ten year old, Hubert won first place in a contest sponsored by the city newspaper, “The Baltic Daily” for a drawing of the  “Artus Manor” a well known landmark in the city of Gdansk, his  birthplace.  When his winning entry was published in the paper, he received a box of colored pencils as his prize and he was off on a journey in the pursuit of creativity, design and art..
Shortly thereafter, he began attending his future Alma Mater for drawing lessons.  But the boy was soon bored with the classes.  The students  had to draw plaster heads and he wanted to draw straight lines and angles.  He preferred the sharp contrasts of light and dark, not the sketching and shading of gypsum busts. Later he attended the Polygraphic Technical School in Warsaw where he had the opportunity to use his talents in graphic design.  He created posters and cover and title pages for books and brochures.

Then it was on to the university  – The Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk,  where he received a Master’s degree  in 1970.  Hubert speaks reverently and fondly of his professors and instructors who put particular emphasis on drawing and painting.  Students as they are wont to do, approached their assignments in various ways to pass the courses.

Some worked very hard, others hardly worked at all.  But then there was that perspective drawing class of Prof. E. Otto  The  geometry and perspective construction drawing exams were legendary for their difficulty.   It usually took about four attempts to pass these exams, and it wasn’t unheard of for students to make  10 or 12  tries.  Among his professors were well known artists like Kazimierz  (Kach) Ostrowski whose painting adorns the buildings of historic Old Town in Gdansk.  After finishing school, Hubert left for the U. S.   Worker strikes, growing strife and the bloody interventions of the Communist rulers did not bode well for the future.

Like many who arrived in Cleveland in the 1970’s and 80’s , Hubert spent a few years living in the Polish area known as “Warszawa” where he quickly made the acquaintance of other Poles, Among them was Mr. Kazimierz Wieclaw, an architect from Krakow who was involved in the creation of the “Slavic Village” area at that time for the city of Cleveland.  Mr. Wieclaw used his expertise in architecture, leading the renovation of several area buildings.  Thanks to his guidance, we have a few examples of architecture with elements of the Polish Zakopianski style visible today.  Hubert painted murals on the outside of buildings which were commissioned by their owners.  One of them is still visible today, on the building adjacent to Grabowski’s Market near Fleet and E. 65th Street.

Hubert has worked for architecture and engineering firms and continues to work for architects and builders.  He also teaches perspective drawing at the Virginia Marti College in Lakewood.

Mr. Wisniewski’s favorite period in the history of art is the Renaissance, and even though several hundred years have passed since the flowering of that era, he would eagerly incorporate the elements of  its style, the harmonious forms harkening back to the antiquities into today’s architectural  styles.

He loves nature and takes every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors whether it’s hiking, biking, skiing, sailing or windsurfing. When asked if he has one of his own paintings or pictures hanging on his walls at home, he replies “ Well actually no.  But one day, I will surprise my wife, Sophia and paint a mural  on one of the walls.”  I assured him I would be most eager to see it.

Thank you for a most pleasant interview, Mr. Wisniewski.  I wish you great success in your endeavors and in your teaching at Virginia Marti College.  I hope that you will be able to carry out your creative projects for yourself, and for the Polish American Center.

Artur Berg
As a child, as soon as Artur was able to hold a crayon in his little fingers, it was evident that this little boy possessed  tremendous artistic abilities.  Every scrap of paper he could get his hands on was covered with sketches and drawings.  At the age of 5 he won a prize in a drawing contest in Krakow where he was born.  From that time on, for every contest he entered, he received prizes and  honors for his work.

It’s hard to say where talent comes from.  Is it genetic?  If so, he inherited his abilities from his father who also has tremendous artistic talents.  Was it from being taught well by his teachers who saw the little boy’s potential?  Or, perhaps it came from the very artistic, aesthetic and exciting atmosphere that has always permeated the city of Krakow.  Quite likely it was a combination of all three of these factors.

Artur’s successes are also due in large part to the huge amount of time and effort he has committed to perfecting his skills in order to realize his abilities and potential, fostering his  love and appreciation for artistic expression.  In June 2003, he graduated from Virginia Marti College of Art and Design in Lakewood with honors.  He was one of their most outstanding and promising students.  Later in 2003 he opened a gallery in Slavic Village at 3722 East 65th  St.

We are all proud that he has been able to accomplish this – a Polish artist with his own studio in Slavic Village.  This certainly enhances this historic Cleveland district, making it more noticeable to city officials  and  organizations.   We can enjoy his many works by attending gallery shows where he periodically exhibits works done in the various media he enjoys working in:  acrylics, water colors and ink.  As a student, Artur developed a great interest in graphics and architecture.  He has created a series of drawings of Cleveland’s historical landmarks which will help preserve Cleveland’s historic past and convey its exciting potential.  I was able to study some of his pen and ink works at the gallery which portray northeast Ohio’s  interesting architecture —  The County Courthouse in Lorain, Carnegie Bridge and the Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  Before they were finished, these works were carefully planned and executed – studies and sketches made at various times of the day to capture the fall of light and shadow in the natural settings.  Details were sketched with great care, but not overdone to the point where the drawing  became  mechanical and lifeless.  They have all retained their artistry and yet a discriminating viewer is able to enjoy and wonder at their exquisite details.

Another area of Mr. Berg’s creative output  is the collection of  portraits he has done.  I was able to see a few of these at the studio and they are truly outstanding.  Before starting a portrait, the artist takes several photographs of his subject, eliminating the need to sit for the portrait.  He selects the picture that is the best characterization, looking  not only for the greatest likeness of that individual, but also for that certain something that makes the subject uniquely who he or she is.  It could be a certain way of smiling, hair tossed to the side, a gesture, a certain expression of the mouth or eyes.  Before he commits any paint to the canvas he has studied all of these aspects  and selected  the appropriate background for the portrait – something that suits the subject. Mr. Berg’s favorite colors are pastels – pinks, mauve, violets, purples.  This combination of colors is really quite dramatic and dynamic.  It looks stunning in almost any setting  from a traditionally decorated home to a very modern one.

Mr. Berg also has in his portfolio, abstracts and classical works, as well as collage-like works of the two styles put together.  The many subjects and themes that he covers in his work belie a restless, creative spirit always in search of subjects, themes, styles and forms.  This is the characteristic of the true artistic spirit.

Just a few more words about the opening of the gallery /  studio of Mr. Berg.  There were many others involved as well.  A group of business students and friends along with Virginia Marti instructor, Ann Jackson helped to market and publicize this endeavor.  A busy artist doesn’t have the time or the necessary expertise to get the word out about the gallery.

We look with great pleasure and interest at the murals at the Polish Cultural Center  —  lovely paintings which have achieved their interesting effect with the use of  subtle monochromatic shadings  through the use of  just one color of paint.   Artur Berg says:: “All artists dream of making it big and becoming famous, getting their name listed amongst the top artists of the era.. Only the very few ever succeed.  But in many ways,  there is to be found a certain satisfaction and thrill in the pursuit of art and living a creative life.”

Dr. E. Ulanowska
Translated by Zofia Wisniewski

Forum, 10/2004