Originating in Sydney under the name of Art-Pol in 1975, the idea behind PolArt came from the passion and motivation of the Polish Women’s Union in Australia and New Zealand. Art-Pol was created with a vision to celebrate Polish culture and traditions among first and second generation Polish migrants in Australia. Art-Pol’s success set the foundations for subsequent festivals, with the next festival being held three years later in Adelaide under the name of PolArt.
Established as a Polish folkloric dance festival, PolArt has more recently grown to include more diverse artistic domains such as theatre, film, fine arts, music, and literature. Organised triennially, most major cities in Australia, including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart have all hosted PolArt.
This truly remarkable community initiative serves as a springboard to unite the Polish and Australian communities across Australia. Since the very first Festival, first and second generation Polish youth have been the main participants (dancers, actors or artists).
The twelfth PolArt Festival will be held in Perth for the very first time in 2012.
PolArt, Adelaide 2009-10
Scena 98 performed Balladyna, one of the most iconic Polish dramas in Adelaide, to a full house. Creating an enchanted world filled with magic, love, lust and murder was exhilarating and challenging in equal measure. This play carries a very clear moral message about crime and punishment. Sooner or later all crimes are recognized and punished, if not by people then by God himself (the final scene of Balladyna). But Slowacki’s romantic drama is not only atrocities and crimes. It is also, in the words of the author an “old ballad” – a fairy tale – going back to Slavic legends and the magic of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
PolArt, Hobart 2006/2007
Travelling to Tasmania with Wyspianski’s The Wedding was a mammoth organisational and logistical task to undertake. Many PolArt participants emphasised that seeing The Wedding performed on stage was the most important part of the festival for them. This magical production was performed in Hobart’s Royal Theatre (not dissimilar to Slowacki’s theatre in Poland, where the play was originally performed over 100 years ago).
PolArt, Sydney 2003/2004
Sydney was the first PolArt festival Scena 98 had attended. Despite knowing about the festival, the director never had enough courage to sign up Scena 98 to participate. The costs and organisation required of flying the group to Sydney were substantially. However, after the successful tour of Melbourne, the youth were excited about the idea.
Scena performed The House of Bernarda Alba and Doctor Faust for the festival. After the festival, the group were invited to perform So the wind has something to sway at the Polish Consulate of the Republic of Poland. The warm and friendly reception at the Consulate will remain in our memories forever, and we are very grateful for the financial support the Consulate has provided to our group over the years.
Participating in the PolART Festival also allowed the group to see other performances, and to take in the sights of Sydney. Being on the Eastern seaboard, the group also travelled to Canberra and the snowy mountains, where some members braved the cold and wet conditions to climb Mount Kosciuszko.