Łódź is a fascinating city, one of the highlights for those interested in industrial history and development of trends in art of the past. For nearly 200 years it has been a major, renowned textile industry hub. Besides that, thanks to Władysław Strzemiński, Katarzyna Kobro and many other artists, it became a centre of Avant-garde art inspiring many generations of artists. Among institutions which make the city extraordinary are world-renowned Lodz Film School and Book Art Museum. Łódź holds a unique position on the map of artistic events in Poland also thanks to such initiatives as PATA International Summer Courses – Printmaking and Textile Art, the only courses of this kind in Poland, which attracts art enthusiasts from all over the world. Alicja Habisiak-Matczak, the Summer Courses coordinator described the creative potential of the event saying: „Our courses provide a perfect opportunity to share your artistic experiences with others and to find your individual path in the world of visual arts, no matter how old you are and irrespective of your academic background, nationality and artistic achievements”.
I talked to Alicja Habisiak-Matczak about what inspired her to start organising the Summer Courses and what has been happening during their previous editions.
Anna Dziuba: How did the idea of such kind of event originate? What was your inspiration?
Alicja Habisiak-Matczak: The idea of organising International Summer Courses in Łódź came to me many years ago, namely in 2004. Back then I found out a lot about the activities of KAUS Urbino International Art Centre in Italy. I used to be an assistant during courses organised at that institution. Meeting artists and art enthusiasts from different parts of the world strongly inspired me, I also enjoyed working in an atmosphere full of passion and good vibes. Unfortunately, long time passed after that until it became possible to make my idea of courses in Łódź happen. In October 2012 an initial scheme was drafted on how to adapt the event schedule to the venue – Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź – developed in cooperation with Giuliano Santini, director of Urbino International Art Centre. We decided to divide the whole programme into two sessions, one to be organised in July and another one in August. We added the eleventh day to each 10-day session, when exhibition of works prepared by course participants was to be held. These exhibitions is the aspect which makes our courses different from the courses organised in Urbino. Thanks to amazing lecturers, numerous teaching resources and suitable technical equipment available at our academy we were able to organise courses on different topics which were running simultaneously.
AD: This year marks the 7th edition of the International Summer Courses – Printmaking and Textile Art at the Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź. How did this event change throughout these years and what does PATA mean?
AHM: We started to use the name PATA International Summer Courses – Printmaking and Textile Art in 2014. PATA is an abbreviation made of the first letters of names of the fields of art on which we focus at our workshops – Printmaking and Textile Art.
During the previous six editions PATA courses managed to build up a reputation in the international art community. At the same time the Academy of Art in Łódź became one of the major centres offering summer courses in Europe and around the world. Since the very beginning our courses were dedicated to disciplines that our city is famous for.
During the first edition (2013) only printmaking courses were offered, featuring such techniques as letterpress printing, intaglio printing, lithography and combined techniques. We were extremely pleased with the fact that the first edition of our courses enjoyed such enormous success, so in the following years we added textile art courses to our programme. In this way we wanted to highlight our Academy’s impressive legacy in the field of textiles. We also added interdisciplinary courses, e.g. papermaking and graphic design courses, courses in designing comic books. There were also courses in games and films pre-production. Although we have so many editions under our belt, we still try to add something new to our programme every year. Every time we offer new techniques and artistic concepts, which make our offer richer.
AD: Is there any central theme in each edition? Do you offer different courses every year?
AHM: The motto that is common to all editions of our courses from their early beginning is “From Tradition to Innovation”. The idea behind this event is to promote our precious legacy and to develop well-known techniques and fields of art by means of innovations. The valuable source of inspiration for us are visits by internationally renowned experts who add a perspective to our established understanding of art. This year our special guest will be Marilene Oliver from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
Some courses are left unchanged throughout subsequent editions because there is a group of enthusiasts who eagerly participate in them. An example here is our “Graphic Diversity” course which focuses on various graphic techniques. Although the topic of this course is always the same, the classes are different every time. The teacher presents different techniques every year, especially those which are least familiar to participants. It can be advanced ferrography, iron sheet lithography, sometimes the so-called „Kitchen litho”, i.e. a simple technique of printing graphics from a matrix made of kitchen aluminium foil pickled in caramelized beverage.
Textile art courses are extremely popular as well because our academy is a renowned institution in this field. We aim to use this potential to the fullest and we certainly have a lot to offer thanks to our studios with excellent equipment and amazing teachers who have a long list of achievements at international exhibitions and conferences.
AD: I am sure it is very challenging to organise and coordinate such a huge project. What is the most difficult aspect of the whole preparation process?
AHM: Indeed, being a coordinator of PATA Summer Courses equals hard work all year long. Preparations for the next edition begin right after closing the current one in August. Everything starts with making conclusions and proposals as to what could be done better in the future. At this stage questionnaires filled in by course participants are also analysed. Afterwards we start drafting a programme for the upcoming edition. Giuliano Santini has been assisting us with the process of coordination since the very beginning. We have been discussing ideas for the following editions, new suggestions and necessary modifications. Then we invite our teachers who will teach the classes.
The biggest challenge is always arranging details of visit of our international guest and planning his/her schedule. This process involves a lot of e-mails and videoconferences, sometimes we need to take time zone related differences into account. Such was the case this year when we had to deal with an 8-hour time difference in order to arrange conversations with Marilene Oliver from Edmonton.
We also have to convince major local and state institutions to extend patronage over our event and find media sponsors. Apart from that, we supervise the process of creating visual identity for each edition of the courses and develop promotion strategy. The best way to advertise our courses is using enthusiastic opinions of our participants who play a vital role as informal PATA ambassadors around the world. At the PATA Facebook profile you can clearly see how much creative energy and positive vibes are created by those who are eager to exchange cultural experiences.
Before the courses commence we send basic organisational tips to all participants and buy materials for all planned classes. We also take a lot of care while preparing classrooms for upcoming workshops. During the sessions I am responsible for every little detail and for solving any unexpected issues which occur on the spot.
So, overall, the project requires strenuous effort all year long. I would never manage to deal with this enormous task without the help of my colleagues from the Academy.
AD: What is the typical schedule during the day for PATA courses participants?
AHM: All classes are held in the Academy, they start at 9 a.m. and finish at 4 p.m. The courses include both lectures and practical workshops. The participants follow an individual educational programme under the teacher’s supervision. During recess they can eat lunch at the school cafeteria which offers delicious home-cooked meals.
After classes the participants visit galleries and museums in Łódź. On the first day we invite everybody to the welcome dinner and visit to the Book Art Museum. There is a possibility to participate in typography workshops for everyone who expresses such wish.
The courses last 10 days. Classes are held on business days only, which means there is free time during weekends, so our participants can visit other Polish cities. On eleventh day we hold the Final Show, i.e. exhibition of works prepared during the courses. During the show participants are awarded diplomas which confirm completion of our course.
We also want our courses to be an opportunity to meet new, interesting people, therefore extra initiatives are added on top of the main programme, e.g. the annual international dinner where everybody is asked to bring something to eat that is traditional for the place he/she comes from. We even accept popcorn and croissants…
AD: Since your offer is also directed to international participants, are the classes held in English? Are there any accommodation options offered to course participants or do they need to arrange it on their own?
AHM: Indeed, participants from abroad are warmly welcomed. To date we had participants from over 40 countries. This is why classes are also held in English. The atmosphere during the courses is really warm and everybody is friendly towards one another, so communication is never an issue.
All participants, not only those from abroad, can have accommodation arranged at Academy of Art Student Dormitory at ul. Młynarska 42a. The dormitory offers single and twin rooms. The common spaces which course participants can use are a dining room, laundry room and a studio. This is a perfect arrangement which gives a lot of opportunities for integration of participants’ community.
AD: Do participants need to somehow prepare themselves before coming to the course? Do they need to bring something specific?
AHM: PATA courses are open for everyone who wants to learn new techniques of develop their skills in the field of art. Participants do not need artistic education background or any particular experience in this field. Each course has its own programme and the role of teachers is to adjust the pace and level of difficulty of proposed tasks to the skills and capabilities of participants.
Basic materials and tools are available in the classrooms. Apart from that, the teachers prepare a list of any additional materials which may come in handy. We distribute this list among participants before the course commences.
We usually encourage participants to prepare an initial idea of the work they want to prepare and think about things they would like to learn or achieve. Such information is invaluable for the teachers in order to adjust the content of the courses to expectations of participants. Nevertheless, we are aware that these initial ideas may change after a brainstorming session with teachers or other course participants. Of course, we do not forbid such changes. The final result often brings innovative solutions from the point of view of used technique. When initial ideas transform, works presented at the final exhibitions are even more intriguing than they were supposed to be at the beginning.
AD: How can you enrol on a course? What is the tuition fee?
AHM: All necessary information is available on our website. From this website you can also access an online application form. In order to fill it in, you need to open a description of a course you are interested in, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Apply for this course”. Afterwards you will need to pay a registration fee of PLN 420/EUR 100. The remaining portion of the fee needs to be paid a week before the course commences at the latest (PLN 1520/EUR 370, which makes a total of PLN 1940/EUR 470). If you need additional information you can contact us by writing an e-mail to: email@example.com
(Associate Professor, PhD)
Coordinator of the International Summer Courses – Printmaking and Textile Art (PATA)
Head of the Intaglio Techniques Studio
Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź