Polish Arts Club

of Chicago

The Polish Arts Club of Chicago is an affiliate of the American Council for Polish Culture.

Copyright Polish Arts Club of Chicago. All rights reserved. 

History of the Polish Arts Club of Chicago

To write a history of this club would take some time, however we shall be brief in enumerating some of the most important events and accomplishments of our club to promote better understanding of our Polish heritage and its role in the cultural enrichment of this country.


As Dr. Charles Baretski, historian of the early years of the American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC), reported in his introduction to the history of the national organization, "as the Americans of Polish ancestry have taken their place in American society, they have felt the need of conserving and interpreting their Polish heritage." This provided the impetus for a group of Polish-Americans who met while attending cultural programs in Chicago – Orchestra Hall, The Civic Opera House, Ravinia Park, and particularly, a memorial held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1925 to honor Wladyslaw Reymont, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.


The PAC was founded by an independent thinking group of young Polish-Americans under the leadership of Thaddeus Slesinski. The club was officially chartered on February 14, 1926, with the following objectives:

  • To broaden their knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of music, art and literature.
  • To render moral and material aid to promising musicians, artists and writers.
  • To make Polish music, art and literature better known in the United States.
  • At different periods since 1926, the following activities have been promoted and carried out successfully.
  • Public lectures on music, art, literature drama and history by authorities in their respective fields.
  • Publicizing the cultural events in Chicago through our club bulletins and releases to the press,


To fulfill this mission PAC has been active in the following fields:


ART


Our first Art Exhibition was held in1933. Since that time we held a total of 74 other annual Art Exhibitions. In the last years these exhibitions were held at the Polish Museum of America.


In 1992, following a visit to our annual Art Exhibition by a representative from the Mayor’s Department of Cultural Affairs, we had a special exhibit by thirty artists at the Chicago Cultural Center.


In 2007, the PAC established a Klemens Kwapiszewski Art Scholarship at the Art Institute of Chicago. The scholarship is financed through the sale of Mr. Kwapiszewski’s artwork, which was bequeathed to the PAC by the artist. In 2009 the PAC presented to the Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) Mr. Kwapiszewski’s sculpture of Lech Walesa, President of Poland and leader of the Solidarity movement. The sculpture is exhibited at the Lech Walesa Hall of NEIU.


In addition the PAC donated the sum of $5,000 towards the installation of "Agora" by Magdalena Abakanowicz at the Grant Park in Chicago.


MUSIC


The PAC has been fortunate to include among its members, professional musicians who have provided the Club with wonderful concerts and recitals. To name a few memorable events:


For many years, DePaul University Prof. Thaddeus Kozuch and his wife, Jacqueline, have opened their home to duo-piano recitals. This special annual event benefited a music scholarship at DePaul University.


Wanda Paul, Professor Emeritus of piano at Northwestern University, and a former national concert pianist, during her career popularized the music by Polish composers, especially Chopin and Szymanowski. In 1982 Wanda Paul organized a concert in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Karol Szymanowski. The concert featured panists, Thaddeus Kozuch, Wanda Paul, pianist Eloise Niwa and violinist David Niwa. Other participants included vocalist Jolanta Pawlikowski and the Lira Singers.


Violinist Raymond Niwa, a former recipient of the PAC music scholarship, has been a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for fifty years, and participated in many musical events presented by the PAC. At present, he is the music chair of the PAC music scholarship fund.


On June 10, 2001, the PAC sponsored the world premier of an original composition by Jaroslaw Golembiowski, titled "Millennial Polonaise" performed by the Lake Shore Symphony Orchestra of Chicago at the Compernicus Center.


Other musical events sponsored by the PAC include:


  • "Polish Day Concerts at Ravinia Park" from 1926 to1937, featuring prominent musicians of Polish ancestry and leading Polish choral groups accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • The PAC was involved in creating interest for the debut performance of tenor Jan Kiepura in "Tosca" with the Chicago Civic Opera Co. at the opening night in 1931 and throughout that operatic season.
  • The PAC organized and sponsored a piano recital by Pawel Checinski at the Auditorium Theatre.
  • Pawel Checinski received his doctorate at Juliard Conservatory and is former professor of piano at Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. He is also an international concert pianist.
  • The Szczecin Choir performance at the DePaul University was also sponsored by the PAC during their first trip to the USA.
  • Another musical form, jazz, was sponsored by us at two concerts performed by Polish pianist Adam Makowicz in 1982 and 1986.
  • In 2003 the PAC sponsored the Penderecki Quartet of Canada in concert at the Polish National Church Cathedral in Chicago.
  • In 2010 we sponsored a recital of the music of Polish composers, performed by Piotr Folkert, an international pianist.


In addition the PAC encourages young musicians to follow their calling by providing auditions, scholarships, and debut recitals for those students selected by the judges. Recently we sponsored the following young artists: Adam Golka, Natalia Szadkowski, Michal Pecak, Helen Weberpal,


LITERARY


For many years, our Literary Competition has provided high school students with an opportunity to demonstrate their literary skills in Polish and English. For example, in 1997 close to 200 schools participated in the competition. Several hundred students submitted their short stories, essays, poems in both languages, as well as translations from Polish to English. However, in recent years due to lack of interest we have discontinued this program.


Also, we supported publications of books like "Anthology of Polish American Poetry" and the promotion and sale of other publications like the opera "HALKA" with English translation of vocal parts by Anthony Lukaszewski who was the impresario when "Halka" was presented in English at the Opera House.


A number of international authors have appeared at PAC programs over the years, including: Wieslaw Kuniczak, Adam Zamoyski, and Norman Davies.


During our various programs a number of special lecturers appeared. These included Edward Dusza, Stuart Dybek, Leonard Kosinski, Joanna Radwanska-Williams, Beata E. Pawlikowska and Joseph W. Zurawski.


SPECIAL PROGRAMS


Over the years many programs have earned the label of "memorable". A few are mentioned here:


  • One of the noteworthy programs was the 45th Anniversary of the PAC which featured the"Kujawiaki Dancers" in the Chicago’s historic Auditorium Theatre. The performance was followed by a reception for the dancers and their director Janusz Sejda, former member of "Mazowsze",
  • Chicago’s Polish Churches. Marion Winters secured a grant from the Illinois Arts Council and the Polish Arts Club prepared an impressive architectural exhibit of 19 Polish churches throughout Chicago. Professor Marya Lilien of the School of the Art Institute assisted with the exhibit. She was the first woman architect/apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright. This exhibit was located at the Architectural Center of Chicago, at Copernicus Center and the University of Illinois. It was featured in a special brochure by the Chicago Historical Society and, in 1996 at the State of Illinois building during the Polish Heritage Month.
  • The PAC joins other organizations each year in celebrating the Polish Constitution Day Parade at the big event in downtown Chicago. For many years Stan Tabor has been instrumental in designing the PAC floats.


CONVENTIONS AND AWARDS


The most significant endeavor was the initiation of national conferences with similar cultural groups in other cities. These conferences initiated by Thaddeus Slesinski culminated in the establishment of the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs (ACPC) in 1948 in Detroit.


The PAC hosted in Chicago four national conventions of the ACPC. In1956 at Northwester University, in 1976 at DePaul University, in 1982 at the Radisson Hotel on Michigan Avenue, and in 2001 at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Also, in 1980, the PAC sponsored the 3rd ACPC Regional Discussion Meeting, "American Polonia and the Cultural Issues".


At the ACPC Conventions the following members of PAC received special awards, these members are:


  • 1982, Michel Kobelinski – Distinguished Service;
  • 1985, Klemens Kwapiszewski – Cultural Achievement;
  • 1987, Stefania Gondek – Founders Award;
  • 1989, Wanda Paul – Cultural Achievement;
  • 1989, Marion Winters – Founders Award;
  • 1990, Lucyna Migala – Cultural Achievement; and
  • 2005, Vivian Walkossz, PhEd. – Founders Award.


In 1991 the PAC was the recipient of the Copernican Award, granted by the Board of Directors of the Copernicus Foundation.
In reviewing our activities of the past eighty-five years, it is impossible to acknowledge all the hard working officers and committee members who have contributed their talents and energies to the Club’s activities. They have all made a significant impact on the cultural life of Chicago and the Polish-American Community. This has been a memorable eighty-five years and the PAC is grateful for the support and financial assistance it receives from the leading organizations of Chicago’s Polonia.