My introduction to the Polish American Cultural Center came in the form of an exhibition opening. As part of my job, coordinator of the SPACES World Artists Program at SPACES gallery, I was hosting Polish artist Roman Dziadkiewicz. I wanted Roman to learn about Cleveland and to better understand what it means to be part of a Polish community in the United States. Also, he had been forced to speak and write in English for weeks, and we both needed some help. Roman and I were warmly welcomed to the opening of the Polish-Hungarian exhibition, documenting the relationship between the two peoples over many, many years. While Roman found solace in other Polish artists, I was moved by the openness of the Polish Center to welcome another community through its doors.
Months later I was impressed again when I attended the grand opening of the Center’s Heritage museum, something all of Cleveland should be proud of. The energy of that event, and the enthusiasm of everyone involved convinced me to make another phone call to the Center for the sake of my next visiting Polish artist, Anna Konik. After members of the Center so graciously showed Anna around Slavic Village, she called me the next day demanding that I eat more Polish food and spend some time with these great people. Anna’s new friends visited us at SPACES for her public lecture, and then again for the opening of her exhibition, a video project about homelessness.
When the Cleveland International Film Festival came around in March of the following year, SPACES and the Center decided to collaborate: After the showing of My Nikifor, we held a reception and discussion in the gallery. This event took place during ArtMart, the annual members’ show and sale at SPACES, where anyone can become a member and exhibit and sell their art in the gallery for one week. I am proud that at least one member from the Center was one of the ArtMart artists. That night, a few of us were inspired to organize a community art exhibition and sale at the Center. Art at the Center was a huge success, and continued the process of cultural exchange and partnership between the arts community and the Polish community in Cleveland
These collaborations continue this month with the upcoming Polish films at the Cleveland International Film Festival, followed by a reception at SPACES. ArtMart 2007 will have just opened in the gallery, providing visitors with a look at the diverse array of artists who contribute to the local arts community. In May and June, with the support of the Ohio Arts Council (which also supported Roman and Anna’s residencies), we welcome Polish artist Malgorzata Markiewicz to Cleveland for six weeks. Anna Konik’s friends from the Center have offered to help SPACES host Malgorzata. This kind of partnership is what helps make the SPACES World Artists Program successful.
As funding is being sought to renovate the rooms below the Polish Heritage Museum for a contemporary art gallery in the Center, I’ve started to dream about what our partnership will mean in the future. I hope that together we will find and select Polish artists to bring here, that we will give them the freedom, time, space, and support they need to create new art, and that by working together, we will all learn about each other’s cultures, and be the better for it.
For more information about SPACES and its international residency program, please visit www.spacegallery.org.