“A SAFE PLACE”
Second edition of the CHRIS SCHWARZ MEMORIAL ART AWARD

The aim of the Chris Schwarz Memorial Art Award is to promote and develop contemporary art as well as to open a space for dialogue on Polish-Jewish history and relations. The competition is open to professional visual artists, holders of a master’s degree in fine arts and students in their final year of their MFA who are Polish citizens or permanent residents of Poland.

The Competition is held triennially, with the individual editions devoted to different themes. The Competition Jury plans to award a cash prize of 20,000 PLN to the winning project, as well as funding its production and presentation as part of an exhibition organized by the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków.

Chris Schwarz was a British photographer and the founder and first director of the Galicia Jewish Museum. His intellectual courage, willingness to ask difficult questions and efforts to find the answers behind them brought together multitudes of people from different backgrounds and showed them new ways to understand Polish-Jewish history. Chris died prematurely in 2007, but the Museum continues his mission to this day.

 

STORIES AND PLACES

Over the years, we have presented dozens of exhibitions and told countless stories of specific individuals, families, and entire communities. The starting point for many of these was the tragic events of the 20th century – wars, genocide, famine, shifting waves of refugees. In many of them, a common denominator emerged: the search for a safe place. A place where we can feel safe, a refuge from the realities we can’t control.

Such a place can take many forms. It could be a hiding place in the attic or under the floorboards of the house in which we once lived. It could be another country, “the promised land” in the east or west, that can only be reached after a long and exhausting journey, abandoning our previous lives. It could be vast, huge like an entire continent or small. It could simply be a corner where we could have privacy and freedom. It could be a real place, such as a family home visited after decades of absence, or imaginary, like an office to work in better times “when it’s all over”. It could be a specific place on the map, an address we know, or one pointed out to us by a kind person, or one found quite by accident. It could also have no specific concrete form at all, but rather be a state of mind.

As we prepare new exhibitions for the museum, we have increasingly realized that the stories we tell do not only belong to the past, but are reflected in contemporary events, and do not require only reflection on what took place but also a reaction to what is happening now. In the context of successive political upheavals, a global migration crisis, economic uncertainty, the unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing, brutal war in Ukraine, it is easy to see why the old Chinese saying “may you live in interesting times” is more of a curse than a blessing.

 

“A SAFE PLACE”

The idea of a safe place, a sanctuary, a refuge – something we took for granted until recently – is constantly questioned today. There are contradictory and sometimes confusing narratives on this subject but, ultimately, we all have the same basic needs and having a sure, safe place is – it would seem – a fundamental right for every human being.

That is why we decided to dedicate the second edition of the Chris Schwarz Memorial Competition to the idea of such a place – and such places. In announcing the second edition of the Chris Schwarz Memorial Art Award, we invite artists working in all mediums to tell us about such places – about their character, shape, structure, and about the opportunities and risks that accompany their exploration, construction and existence. Although the activities of the Galicia Jewish Museum are primarily devoted to Polish-Jewish history and culture, we do not want these to be the only inspiration for the works submitted to the competition. Because the phrase “a safe place” can be interpreted in so many ways, the theme of the competition is universal and meant to encourage deeper reflection and creative reworkings of its various meanings in historical and contemporary contexts.