Art For The People In A Polish Village

It’s been a good month for field trips with the international women’s group here in Warsaw.  Yesterday’s excursion took us (among other places) to the Muzeum Ludowe Rodziny Brzozowkich w Sromovie (People’s Museum of the Brzozowski Family in Sromov.) I’m pretty good at sniffing out local museums, but I would never have found this one on my own, well off the beaten track in a small village outside Warsaw.

One reason that it can be difficult to find these terrific little museums, in Poland and elsewhere, is that they get lost in translation. I mean, take “people’s museum.” What does that mean to you as an English-speaker? if you were looking for folk art, would you search for “people’s museum?” Probably not. Even the large (and awesome) folk art museum in Warsaw is called the “ethnographic museum.” What? People don’t want to go see “ethnography.” They want to see folk art.

Even the famously literal Germans and Austrians get that point, with volkskunst museums everywhere. I’m just saying, marketing could be a thing. Sell the cowbell, people.

But anyway, this museum was great, and well worth the trip!

The museum occupies a series of concrete-block buildings on a lot in the village of Sromov.
The museum occupies a series of concrete-block buildings on a lot in the village of Sromov. It was started in 1972 by the Brzozowski family. The founder’s son now operates the museum with other members of the family.

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“Poseidon” in the garden. 
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A peaceful scene by a small pond.

The museum is, to a degree, a visionary art museum as well as folk art showcase. Because some of the art was…odd. And, this being Poland, very, very Catholic in its themes.

Three scenes from the life of Jesus face the road out front.
Three life-sized scenes from the life of Jesus face the road out front.
Most of the art mixed mythical/religious figures with contemporary ones.
Most of the art mixed mythical/religious figures with contemporary ones. Here, Jesus stands with policemen.
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A traditional wedding celebration. See the animated version, below.
The "spiders" shown in miniature in the dioramas are a traditional craft in Poland. The museum features several of them. I think they are gloriously tacky.
The pajaki, or “spiders” shown in miniature in the dioramas are a traditional craft in Poland. The museum features several of them. This one is extra-fancy with Christmas ornaments instead of yarn pom-poms. I think they are gloriously tacky.
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Women spinning and cooking.
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A Nativity scene featuring a procession of the Three Kings, skeletons, the devil, soldiers, and farmers. Because why not?
A Polish family on their way to the market.
A life-sized Polish family on their way to the market.
I especially liked these little squealing pigs.
I especially liked these little squealing pigs in the wagon (see video, below).
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Guess who? Lech Walesa, of course!

Quite a bit of the museum was also political. I’m not supposed to blog about Polish politics, so I’ll just post those photos without comment. But trust me, they commemorate historical events while expressing the artist’s personal views about them.

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Nativity with Pope JP II.
Nativity with Pope JP II.

I absolutely love this stuff. Folk art, visionary art, just plain odd art of all kinds.

To top it off, many of the dioramas were animated! A complicated system of gears and pulleys, operated by a hand crank in some cases, made all the little figures move in dances and religious processions, or perform various every day tasks. Check it out in this video.

The museum is partly financed by a small gift shop with items made by the Brzozowski family. I bought a couple of very nice folk art pictures there. This souvenir photo was free 🙂

Official souvenir pic.

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