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Exploring the Polasek Museum

If you’re not a big fan of art and gardens, you may be wondering why you should visit small museums that you might not have heard of before.  In a world of non-stop thrills and excitement in our hands daily, we have to make a concentrated effort to learn about the lesser known or understood parts of our world. 

Besides pure curiosity and a quest for knowledge about the unknown, visiting different and new places can provide insight into how connected your current environment is to a past one.

If you’re in the Orlando area and you’ve never heard of Albin Polasek before, here’s a convincing list of reasons to visit the Polasek Museum Sculptures & Gardens.

Address: 633 Osceola Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

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Just a Reminder…

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Learn About Albin Polasek

Seldom are artists actually celebrated in their own lifetime, but Albin Polasek was.  Born in 1879, in Moravia (now the Czech Republic), he immigrated to the United States in his early twenties while studying classical techniques of sculpting.  His woodcarving interests began during his early years in Moravia, witnessed with a display in the museum of a nativity he carved at the age of 15.  

His many accolades during the course of his life include winning the Prix de Rome competition(1910), being invited to head the Sculpture Department at the Art Institute of Chicago (1916), and elected as an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design(1927).  

Prix de Rome – an elimination contest for artists that began in 1663 France under Louis XIV.  A student would be given a topic and isolated in a booth with no references available to help with their creation.  The winner was awarded a 3 – 5 year stay at the French Academy in Rome.  Some of history’s well-known and beloved artists, like Edgar Degas, attempted the competition without success.  The competition was abolished after the student riots of 1968.

National Academians – A lifetime honor from the National Academy of Design that cannot be applied for or solicited. The tradition began in 1825 and continues presently to celebrate the story of American Art and Architecture.  The current members confidentially nominate and elect a new class each year.

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Polasek retired to Winter Park in 1950, later that year marrying his long time friend, Ruth Sherwood.  At the museum you can learn more about his life including his large public commissions. Witness over 200 of his works including the ones he was able to complete even after suffering a stroke that left him with only the use of his right hand.

His story is one of inspiration and his love of culture and justice shine through his works.

Observe His Celebrated Creations

You may find Man Carving His Own Destiny(1907) speaks to you in volumes.

The Spirit of Music (1924) was commissioned in honor of the founder of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Theodore Thomas.  Polasek made several models, my favorite is this version carved in wood.

Share in his delight as you find his favorite mythological creature, Pan, recreated in various versions.

Pan is a Greek God, son of Hermes and a nymph, that is one with nature and mischief.  Visualized as half goat and half man. 

pan view

You could hunt for all the Pans represented not only in their own sculpture but also in pedestals, fountains, and doorways.  Polasek hid 26 small faces of Pan for you to find.

Enjoy a picnic in the gardens.

Overlooking Osceola Lake with fountains all around you, enjoy quiet moments in the garden.  Great for spending time alone or with someone special.

Special Exhibit

Take a moment to check out any featured exhibits.  We were able to feast on a bounty of brightly colored whimsical works from Cynthia Holmes – Sweet Surrealism.

I love how she intertwined sweet fruits with landscapes and animals.  If surrealism is meant to be a release of creativity in capturing the imagination then she has definitely executed it brilliantly.  It felt like Willy Wonka met nature, for me. 

Day Trip to Ocala

Find your favorites

We all connect differently to various things including the art that someone creates over their lifetime.  It could be his poignant way of addressing world issues through art during World War II or the joy expressed in Ruth Sherwoods sculptures or the Stations of the Cross that speak toyou personally.  So, find your favorites and reflect on how and why they evoke a particular emotion in you.  Art walks can be an exploration of self-awareness and reflection.

Making the Art Museum Fun for Kids 

Some kids hear “art museum” and they might not get too enthused. Most museums do a great job of helping make it more fun by giving loaner art materials when you visit or a scavenger hunt list.  If they don’t, here’s a few things you can do to make the visit more meaningful and interactive:

Set a goal or mission:

  • Find a favorite
  • Find a certain color
  • Find a certain theme (nature, mythology, love, hope)
  • Bring your own drawing kit and recreate something you see (a painting, a sculpture, view in the garden)
  • If they prefer photography, let your budding photographers capture some of their favorites.

15 Questions to Ask about the Art you see and spark conversation:

  • What’s the first piece that draws your attention in this room?
  • Why do you think this one attracted you the most?
  • Tell me about the colors in this. (or lines, space, balance, proportion)
  • Close your eyes and describe it from memory. What did you remember most? WHy do you think you forgot about ____?
  • One word to describe this.
  • What would you name this?
  • If this had a sound, what would it sound like?
  • What would you have added to this artwork?
  • How do you think it was made?
  • Tell me a story about this art or does this artwork tell you a story?
  • How do you think the artist felt when they made this?
  • What would you ask the artist about this?
  • What symbols do you see and what do you think they mean?
  • Is there a culture represented in this artwork? What is similar in your life to theirs?
  • Does it tell you something about the past or the future? 

Places to stay at Disney World

Nearby Favorite Stops

Mead Botanical Garden

Ethos Vegan Kitchen

Krave Tea

SoHo Juice Co

Krungthrep Tea Time

4 Rivers Smokehouse

Bad As’s Sandwich

Boca Fresca

Hunger Street Tacos

Try a Flavors of Winter Park Foodie Tour

Happy Wandering the Polasek Museum & Gardens!