Brown bear on Krupówki Street

The finale of the Zakopane artist's project entitled „White cub, brown bear”, awarded in the 3rd edition of the "Wena" Grant Programme of the Starak Family Foundation, had a unique setting. It was awarded in the 3rd edition of the Starak Family Foundation's "Wena" Grant Programme Competition entitled "The world from my window".

"White cub, brown bear” - Antoni Kenar Art School Complex in Zakopane. 

Each activity in the project was symbolic and contained a profound message. 


The finale of the project, which took place on 30 May in Zakopane, consisted of three parts. We started with a visit to the Władysław Hasior Gallery, a branch of the National Tatra Museum. There we saw the exhibition entitled „trzysta diabłów zjadłeś…” („three hundred devils you ate…”) by eminent visual artists Katarzyna Depta-Garapich and Małgorzata Mirga-Tas, a painter, sculptor and educator, who returned for the final part of the project just after the success of the exhibition 'Przeczarowując świat’ or „De-mystifyng the world”, presented in the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale. 

The exhibition 'three hundred devils you ate...', by its title, refers to a story described by Stanisław Witkiewicz about a bear hunt that ended happily for the animal. In the works presented at the exhibition, the artists take up the bear theme, consistent with the project, and interpret it in different ways. Małgorzata Mirga-Tas's large-format, colourful textiles allude to the mutual relations between humans and wild animals. In the artist's works, bears are shown as an inseparable part of the former life of the Roma community. Katarzyna Depta-Garapich refers to the figure of the bear as a metaphor for transitional states between childhood and adulthood and for coping with a sense of loss. Black and white family photographs, printed, based on recently found negatives from the 1970s, together with bears drawn by the artist, form a narrative depicting the process of the main character's transformation into a bear.



In autumn 2021, on the 100th anniversary of the presence of the iconic „Biały Miś” or 'White Bear' on Krupówki Street, the artists, in self-made white bear costumes, set off for the Tatra forests and the High Tatras. 


At a workshop with the artists, students from a secondary school in Zakopane learned how to sew brown bear costumes, in which they set off on 30 May for Krupówki Street with a performance. 





The actions of the artists and the students overlap and complement each other in a message with an ecological dimension. 


They draw attention to the dissonance between the white bear and the brown bear. The students reflected the theme of the competition „Świat z mojego okna” ( „The world from my window”), referring to the time of the pandemic when there were no tourists in Zakopane and wild animals started to appear in the streets and squares. This way, the creators reminded us of the natural assets of Zakopane, wildlife and how tourists should use its offerings, respecting its rights. During the performative action on Zakopane's famous promenade, tourists watched with disbelief and slight consternation the strolling figures in brown bear costumes, because most often the white bear is seen here. "The students locate their project in the context of contemporary Zakopane, a city that in places resembles a funfair obscuring the noble culture of Zakopane. The costume of the white bear and its popularity in mass culture, specifically in the context of Zakopane, thus bears the hallmarks of a carnivalesque role reversal. By taking up the theme of the brown bear, the pupils want to draw attention to man's impact on the environment in which he lives and the infantile use of the image of animals to promote and develop tourism, which has a negative impact on nature" said lead teacher Marcin Tas about the project.


The march ended near the Oksza Villa, where a vernissage of pupils' graphic works with a bear as the exhibition's leitmotif took place in the 20th Century Art Gallery.


We learned that it is possible to influence local issues through art. We want to influence the image of our town - the natural and cultural Zakopane. We are interested in activities that go beyond the school curriculum, the effects of which are visible outside the school studio. Participation of our project in the "Wena" Grant Programme Competition gave us such an opportunity," say the students from the project team. 




We would like to congratulate the young people and thank the artists and educators who led the workshops, which were a great inspiration for the young artists.  


Marcin Tas - the teacher in charge of the project - graduated from the Faculty of Graphic Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow in the poster studio led by Professor Piotr Kunce (in 2004). He works at the A. Kenar State Secondary School of Fine Arts in Zakopane in the graphics studio.





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