In June of 2013 I defended my thesis in Intermedia and only two months later I signed my first employment contract. It just so happened that a vacancy had appeared in a local community centre and I decided to apply. I was terrified by the prospect of being a freelancer and constantly having to search or wait for work. The position at the community centre was stable and secure so much that I settled in and stayed for quite a few years.
The local community centre, “Sun”, in which I started working, is part of the housing association, which for me meant that I had to become familiar with the complex structure of the workplace and learn the new rules of functioning. For me, it was an opportunity to learn about different ways of living. For the last few years I had been around people similar to me. One might say we pitched a tent on the roof of the University of Fine Arts and we were rarely leaving the place, and suddenly I found myself a few floors down, in the middle of a completely different reality.
Even though it was hard at the beginning, with time I started noticing thought-provoking and moving things as well. My attention was caught by a senior vocal band led for many years by the same instructor, Aleksandra Karlik. It was a group of several people, almost all women. They were meeting at rehearsals once a week. Aleksandra was playing on the keyboard. Everyone had their own signature solo piece. Meetings with the vocal band gave me that familiar thrill of excitement, I liked to sing with them. I felt something important was happening, something almost ritualistic in character. The lyrics of the songs were bittersweet. Supposedly about how we should smile every day, but in reality they were about how we can’t do anything else but smile. We felt both the joy of the meeting and singing together as well as melancholy and sadness. Both the instructor and all the band members were excited to hear the proposal of making a film about them. I had the impression they were happy that somebody noticed them.
The community centre “Sun” was built on the “Friendship” housing estate [Osiedle Przyjaźni] at the beginning of the 1970s. However, the cultural life of the estate flourished earlier, practically at the same moment when the first flats were put into service. At the beginning workshops and local clubs were located in the basements of the blocks of flats; arts workshop in one, seniors’ club in the other, and an aeromodelling workshop in yet another, the only one still located in a basement. Almost from the very beginning the aeromodelling workshop has been led by Piotr Zawada, and it is worth adding that not much has changed there for many years. The renovation was carried out quite recently, when Piotr passed away. I’m glad that I managed to document the workshop’s atmosphere before it changed, and that I could hear the story of a man who worked in the quiet of this place and shared his passion with others for more than forty years. Piotr Zawada was very successful in the field of aeromodelling, he won international competitions, and all of his masterful models were built in the basement on the “Friendship” housing estate!
When I worked on the “Friendship” housing estate, I think I became the closest with the older inhabitants, probably because I was seeing them most often. I have very fond memories of Ewa who would feed the local cats every day, sitting on a bench in front of the community centre, and of Zdzisława – a painter who succumbed to her passion only after retiring and since then have had many exhibitions in the community centre. I also remember Maria who was the first to reply to my invitation to share photos from the times when the housing estate was under construction, and Alina who, together with her husband, used to come to almost every event organized by the community centre. I remember Nina too, an author of a beautiful chronicle documenting the first cultural activities on the “Friendship” housing estate. Thanks to her, I learned about the vibrant life that took place in the basements of blocks of flats.
Today, after many years, when I go back to the films shot in the community centre, I see monuments of amateur art. I moved from the art school where I learned to create art from the professionals to a community centre where I could learn from amateurs. As I mentioned at the beginning, it was like jumping off the roof. I was falling down for a long time since the distance between the two worlds is enormous. Today I know I would like to build lifts that would allow quick travelling between them. I also know that I need the entirety of culture, both so-called “low” and “high” culture, and I would like all the city’s cultural institutions and organizations to be like a system of interconnected vessels, because I have the impression that the same type of fuel runs through them. I also believe that there is no point in pumping in only one vessel since the rest are then drying out, and in times of general drought, present even before the outbreak of the pandemic, we especially need to make sure everyone has something to drink (and eat).
Kinga Mistrzak – a graduate of Cognitive Science (Adam Mickiewicz University) and Intermedia (University of Fine Arts in Poznań). She received an honourable mention in the competition at the 8th IN OUT Festival for the film The Road to the Stars (Gdańsk, 2014). An author of the individual exhibition Museum of Dogs in the Siłownia Gallery in Poznań (2013). A prize winner of the competition “Cooperation in culture” (A Very Young Culture, 2016). She took part in many group exhibitions, e.g.: Collective body in BWA Gallery in Zielona Góra (2011), in the exhibition Startpoint: Prize For Emerging Artists in the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague (2013), in the SURVIVAL Art Review in Wrocław (2016). An author of workshops and educational projects for children, teenagers, and adults. She worked in the “Sun” Community Centre and Initiatives Centre for Seniors in Poznań. She is currently responsible for education and animation in the Municipal Art Gallery Arsenał.