— Zuzanna Golec
When reflecting on my great experience working with Art Camp participants, I think that the most important impact on their lives came from the encounter with Poland itself. Since all the camps were situated in rural areas, such as the Carpathian Mountains, our students enjoyed walking through meadows, watching storks and listening to meadow larks, smelling the fresh manure ready to fertilize potato and wheat fields, chasing friends with burning nettles, and marveling that they can walk freely wherever they want thanks to the lack of fences separating private properties.
They swam in pure water of Sola River and took hikes in Tatra, Beskidy and Pieniny Mountains. At the end of the day they were proud conquerors of Turbacz, Przelecz Lipowska or Babia Gora, each about 5000 feet above sea level. For kids from New York suburbs, used to concrete, asphalt and cars, so much walking was a challenging but fascinating way to explore new places. They could hardly believe they had really had climbed so high and from the tops of the mountains admired the breathtaking views and looked down on their friends who never embarked on such an experience.
Discovering Polish architecture was another new experience for the American youth. For nearly all of our students, the Nowodworski Art Camp was their first contact with the European culture. When visiting medieval Krakow, standing in the middle of Krakows Rynek, the biggest medieval plaza in Europe, made them realize how old and culturally rich a country Poland was. They visited many medieval wooden churches, inns, castles and villages. They greatly enjoyed living in a fifteenth century castle in Jezow. Its director, Mr. Duda, told them all about ghost who inhabited the old castle and we were all lucky that the day before our departure, after dusk, one of the ghosts graciously appeared in the park. Boys showed their bravery trying to catch him but they failed, for how can one catch a ghost?
Art and Friendship
Making art was of course the main occupation at the Nowodworski Art Camp. Our teachers, first Kinga Lesniak during the first two camps, and Marek Kapturkiewicz for the rest of them, were truly committed to teaching art. They made our students feel that each piece of their work was great. They knew how to help the students discover that they can do art, even if they felt helpless at first. Students did pencil sketches on the slope of a mountain or sitting deep in ferns in a forest. They did watercolor painting, dipping their paint brush in a mountain stream, and they did theater during the rainy days when they could not go outside. They had fun together working, dancing, and singing. The last activity before leaving Poland was traditionally a visit at the locally famous Water Park in Krakow. Each time they all enjoyed it tremendously.
For many students each Nowodworski Foundation Art Camp was a beginning of a new friendship. Many of our students continue to organize get together parties and talk to each other every week. The Nowodworski Foundation Summer Art Camps will have a life-long impact on all who took part in them. Each student was happy with his or her experience and all wanted to take part in the next art camp. Paul Fortunato was so determined to go again to Poland when he came back home in 2004, that he once told me : If you don’t take me next year I am ready to swim through the Atlantic free style to go to Poland again. I believe that the legacy of the Art Camps is love for arts and friendship, and I know that all of our students have a special place for their memories from Poland in their hearts.