The establishment of the Centre for Sculptors’ Creative Work
In the 60s, the board of the Sculpture Section in the Association of Polish Artists initiated an all-Poland action of creating sculptures for the public space. Orońsko found itself in the orbit of artists’ interest during the first event organized, Sculpture Meetings. It was 1965. Thirteen artists who were working in the Kielce quarry during the summer, decided to arrange a post-workshop exhibition on the ground of the Orońsko park. They included Małgorzata Bereźnicka, Paweł Binder, Domicella Bożekowska, Teresa Brzóskiewicz, Władysław Frycz, Rajmund Gruszczyński, Seweryn Jasiński, Zygmunt Kaczor, Maria Owczarczyk, Zofia Pociłowska, Grażyna Roman, Józef Tarnowski and Kazimierz Żywuszko. The effect created by the combination of stone sculpture and the wild Orońsko nature, exceeded the boldest expectations of the participants. It aroused a discussion on the sculptural shaping of landscape and gave rise to the idea of creating in Orońsko a permanent technical basis for the needs of artistic circles. The local regional authorities approved of the prospective programme of the region cultural development, taking into consideration the annual Sculpture Meetings and a permanent outdoor exhibition of sculpture in Orońsko. The first concepts of the development of the post-manorial area assumed the building of sculpting studios and the technological and social base. The buildings of the stables were to be turned into studios. While the area north of the stables was to become a square for outdoor sculptures. The granary was going to be adapted to house the hotel, conference hall and canteen. It was not until 1969 that the Centre for Sculptors’ Creative Work was officially established and the sculpting studios opened.
It was Rajmund Gruszczyński (1929–1994), sculptor and chair of the Sculpture Department of the Association of Polish Artists, who played a key role in these pioneer days. In 1969, he established the Society of Sculpture Friends which was administering the park and manor complex as well as the Centre for Sculptors’ Creative Work from 1971 to 1974.
The establishment of the Centre of Polish Sculpture
In 1974, the Association of Polish Artists (ZPAP) once again took over the supervision over the Centre of Sculptors’ Creative Work. In agreement with the Ministry of Culture and the local government, new wider principles for the functioning of the centre were drawn up, giving it the name of the Centre of Polish Sculpture. ZPAP activity did not have a favourable effect on its future development. The open Sculpture Meetings, annually organized by the Society of Sculpture Friends, engaging many towns and factories with their finale in an exhibition in Orońsko, had their rules changed and were limited to local Sculptors’ Workshops. The park exhibition was sold out. Only those works remained which could not find buyers. The growing maintenance costs resulted in ZPAP request to the Ministry of Culture and Art to take direct charge of the centre. In 1981, the official change of the owner was approved, and the Museum-Centre of Polish Sculpture became a state institution. For the Centre of Sculptors’ Creative Work it initiated the period of its fastest development. At last, the granary was renovated and put into use, sculpting studios were modernized again. In 1987, a new pavilion of technological services with a foundry and ceramic workshop was built, and in 1992 in the new edifice of the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture woodwork and monumental sculpture workshops were arranged.
The Centre for Sculptors’ Creative Work now
At present the sculptors’ centre offers various forms of services. First of all, the sculpting studios enable artists to realize their projects of different scale, so both small scale and monumental works are made. The technological or material capacities do not limit artists in any way. The Centre provides sculptors with excellent conditions for creating sculptures in diverse materials: stone, wood, metal, clay, plastics. Specialist technical crew co-operate in the realization of artistic projects using modern technological potential. Thanks to it, artists can benefit from a whole range of casting, metal, carpenter, stonework or ceramic services. Every year, over 200 artists make use of our sculpting studios.
Both Polish and foreign artists realized their projects here, and the selected names will give evidence to the rank of these residential stays. Among Poles we have hosted: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Paweł Althamer, Sylwester Ambroziak, Mirosław Bałka, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Jan Berdyszak, Wanda Czełkowska, Barbara Falender, Jerzy Fober, Zbigniew Frączkiewicz, Wiktor Gajda, Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz, Andrzej Jocz, Marek Kijewski, Grzegorz Klaman, Grzegorz Kowalski, Jarosław Kozakiewicz, Jan Kucz, Stanisław Kulon, Jerzy Łukomski, Zbigniew Maleszewski, Adam Myjak, Antoni J. Pastwa, Zdzisław Pidek, Antoni Porczak, Stanisław Radwański, Ryszard Stryjecki, Józef Szajna, Maciej Szańkowski, Olgierd Truszyński, Magdalena Więcek-Wnuk, Barbara Zbrożyna. Our foreign guests include: Patrick Bailly-Cowell (France), Christian Bolt (Switzerland), Philippe Brodzki (Belgium), Beata Czapska (France), Tomas J. Daunora (Lithuania), Tomáš Franta (Czech Republic), Tadashi Hashimoto (Japan), Aldona Jonuškaité-Šalteniené (Lithuania), Artur Klinow (Byelorussia), Patrik Kovačovsky (Slovakia), Martin Kuchař (Czech Republic), Samm Kunce (USA), Guy Feaux de La Croix (Germany), László Lugossy (Hungary), Yosikaru Maekawa (Japan), Anna Pabis Guillaume (France), Martin Piaček (Slovakia), Patricia Quilicini (USA), Uwe Schloen (Germany), David Seaton (Great Britain), Bob Verschueren (Belgium), Jan de Weryha-Wysoczański (Germany), Andrzej K. Wiśniewski (Spain).
Besides individual artists, we are also visited by art students. Other customers of the specialist workshop offer are groups of artists organizing their open-air creative stays. Orońsko attracts artistically talented youth, too. In the studios, various educational classes are conducted, which deal with sculpting techniques for groups of children or teenagers, and in the several recent years we have successfully organized a project called Orońsko Academy. Apart from them, there are also amateur groups that use the potential of the specialist workshops.
The history of exhibition activity
Following the effort of the Polish Artists’ Association (ZPAP), in 1981 the Ministry of Culture and Art established a new institution of state status – the Museum – Centre of Polish Sculpture, which since 1985 has been functioning as the Centre of Polish Sculpture (CRP) in Orońsko. Continuing the tasks of the centre for creative work, CRP was supposed to realize the idea of the capital of Polish sculpture. Highlighting the value of research or documentation work, the fundamental museum mission of the institution was indicated: gathering a representative collection of sculpture and organizing exhibitions devoted to sculptors and the issues related to sculpture. They also remembered about the cultivating the memory of the old owners and stressing the continuity of tradition.
The formal take-over of Orońsko by the culture department, happened in a period of dramatic socio-political events. Despite all that, no other period in Orońsko history enjoyed such a complex and visionary development programme. To a large extent, the credit goes to the directors – initially, Janusz Przewoźny, but first of all Tomasz Palacz who was appointed the head in 1983. In 1982, a refurbished annexe was put into use, in 1984 the coach-house opened, and in 1985 so did the chapel, smithy and stables, in 1986 the palace and in 1987 the granary. In the same year the orangery, which had been pulled down after the war, was reconstructed. Parallel to architectural activities, works connected with the landscaping of the green area were carried out. The task of modernization was finalized in 1992 by building a modern exhibition venue – the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.
Over 20 years had passed from the first outdoor exhibition in 1965. The successive editions of Sculpture Meetings contributed to the enlargement of the collection of park sculpture. Orońsko itself still did not meet the exhibition requirements. The first exhibitions were organized in the gradually modernized farm and manor buildings. First, in the separate coach-house, since 1987 in the ‘Chapel’ Gallery, since 1988 in the ‘Orangery’ Gallery. In the same year the exhibition of 19th century manor interiors in Józef Brandt’s Palace was open to the public. Finally, in 1992 the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture was launched. The inauguration of the activity in the new building was honoured by the exhibition Modern Polish Sculpture.