LOVE OUR ARTISTS. 70 years of the Polish Artists' Association in Bielsko-Biała. 1945-2015

15 May - 21 June 2015 (both exhibition rooms)
vernissage: 15 May, 6 pm


Graphic sign of the event by Jacek GrabowskiThe 70th anniversary of the Polish Artists' Association in Bielsko-Biała will be marked by a series of art events and exhibitions. Galeria Bielska BWA will show the latest work by a number of living members of the Association who represent various artistic disciplines, while the Historical Museum of Bielsko-Biała will hold an exhibition highlighting the historical significance and accomplishments of the local branch of the Association, including the profiles and artistic achievements of some of the dead artists.

The humble beginnings can be traced back to the summer of 1945 when the local branch of the Association was founded by several artists: Jan Chwierut, Franciszek Dudziak, Anna Golonkowa, Jan Skawiński, Tomasz Woźniak, Jan Zipper, Jerzy Zitzman, Zenobiusz Zwolski and the art historian Stanisław Oczko. The first Management Board of the Association was appointed on 10 November, 1945, soon after the Painting Exhibition in the halls of the local castle which served as the seat of the Association until 1960.

In February 1947, the Bielsko-Biała Branch of the Association, with the total number of 30 members, was officially approved at the Second National Congress of Association Delegates which was held in Kraków. From the very beginning, the artists have been involved in the foundation and organization of numerous cultural institutions which are still in operation today; these include the Secondary School of Art, the Banialuka Puppet Theatre, the Municipal Museum, and the Animated Film Studio.

They also initiated the construction of the Exhibition Pavilion, which was subsequently remodelled and transformed into the present-day Galeria Bielska BWA, as well as launching the National Painting Exhibition "Bielska Jesień", now the Painting Biennale "Bielska Jesień", and the Local Art Exhibition, now organised by Galeria Bielska BWA as the Bielsko-Biała Festival of Visual Arts.

Between 1960 and1978 the Association Branch had its seat at what is now ul. 3 Maja 11. During that period, the artists belonging to the Association organized more than two hundred exhibitions, as well as numerous meetings, lectures and other artistic events - all these without any special funds.

In May 1971, an exhibition was held in the Pavilion marking twenty-five years of the Association's presence in Bielsko-Biała. For that occasion, sixty-four artists exhibited their work. On 1 January, 1976 the Pavilion was taken over by the present Gallery, and on 24 February 1978 the Artists' Association received a new building at Rynek 27 which is still used for this purpose.


Alfred Biedrawa, Kamilla, 1997, oil, canvas, 100 x 71 cm


Michał Kliś, Bulls, 2007–2009, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm


Bronisław Krzysztof, On My Way,  2014, sculpture, bronze,100 cm in height

Agata Smalcerz, director of Galeria Bielska BWA in Bielsko-Biała:

"After the Second World War , artists in Bielsko-Biała were among the most active in Poland. Suffice to say that the first post-war exhibition, with works created before or immediately after the war, was held as early as on 30 September 1945. Although it would have seemed that a country rebuilding itself from the ravages of war should be preoccupied by rather more important things, the artists managed to draw the audience's attention to higher values and show that art is as important as bread and a place to live. Nine artists, who had received their education before the war, created a natural bridge to the period of the Second Republic of Poland; and yet one must remember that the pre-war Bielsko had an international artistic community with German, Jewish and Polish artists. Those of German descent left after the war, and the local Jewish artists shared the tragic fate of their compatriots who died in concentration camps. In that period, the entire artistic life revolved around the Artists' Association, as there were no other opportunities. Founded in 1945, the local branch of the Association soon increased its membership with artists who had settled in what were then Bielsko and Biała, including a number of repatriates from the eastern borderlands, as well as a handful of post-war graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, Warsaw and Wrocław.

The Association flourished in the 1960s, with the construction of Silesia's first Artists' Pavilion - a building dedicated exclusively to the promotion of contemporary art, and organization of the National Painting Competition "Bielska Jesień" - a biennial which has survived until the present day. After the introduction of the Martial law (1981) the Artists' Association was dissolved and replaced by a number of new state-run organizations, the former artistic circles were dissipated and have never returned to their former glory. The new re-evaluation of the principles of running freelance occupations was hardly conducive to the strengthening of the group's position. And yet, today the Artists' Association is back in operation, with new challenges and better opportunities, which makes it fully justified to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its original foundation."


Teresa Gołda-Sowicka, First Lesson in Philosophy, 2002, oil, canvas, 110 x 150 cm


Ernest Zawada, Red Horizon, 2007, oil, canvas, 70 x 50 cm


Teresa Sztwiertnia, My House, 2015, oil, canvas, 60 x 80 cm


Mirosław Mikuszewski, Chairman of the Board of the Artists' Association Branch in Bielsko-Biała:

"We survived the Martial Law, and the dissolution of the Association with the subsequent confiscation of property in1983-1989. Reactivation, or should I say "resuscitation", of the early capitalist era was soon followed by the degradation of the role of the artist and related professions. Currently, our group gathers 114 artists, half of whom have already reached the retirement age. Nowadays, however, we are receiving more and more young and active graduates of art schools. Gradually we are renovating the building which became the property of the Artists' Association two years ago. The facade already looks good, and soon we're going to open a new gallery on the first floor (Galeria PPP).

The original local art exhibitions at Galeria Bielska BWA, and the subsequent Bielsko-Biała Festival of Visual Arts both show excellent condition and high creative potential of the art circles. I believe that the actions undertaken by the group bring practical advantages. Our many voices are louder and better heard at the top. The role of the artist is constantly changing and our rights will not defend themselves."

The 70th anniversary of the Artists' Association in Bielsko-Biała will be accompanied by the publication of a comprehensive catalogue showing the history and achievements of the group. The album has been designed by a couple of artists from Bielsko-Biała - Jacek Grabowski and Piotr Wisła, and written by Teresa Dudek Bujarek.

Curator of the exhibition in Galeria Bielska BWA - Agata Smalcerz.

Curator of the exhibition in the Historical Museum of Bielsko-Biała (19 June-30 August, 2015) - Teresa Dudek Bujarek.


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