Our History

The POLISH ARTS AND CULTURE FOUNDATION was established in 1966 when Poland celebrated her Christian Millennium. The Foundation’s Silver Anniversary was celebrated in 1991, a year in which Poland realized the full restoration of the democratic government. For all these years the Foundation has shared with Americans the wealth of Polish history and cultural achievements. The operations of the foundation are supported entirely by individual and corporate contributions. In keeping with its charter, the Foundation is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization and engages only in nonpolitical activities.

The Foundation believes that art and culture are timeless treasures to be shared by all people, and provide important avenues to universal dialogue and mutual understanding.

In the past, the Foundation has arranged large-scale exhibits on the 1000-year history of Poland at the University of California in Berkeley and Riverside, at Stanford University and at the San Francisco Main Public Library; on Polish tapestries at the Oakland Museum; on Polish posters at the Legion of Honor Museum; on the Warsaw Uprising, and polish contributions to California at San Francisco public libraries; and on Polish art in numberous Bay Area art galleries, as well as at the Foundation’s own gallery. The “History of Polish Music” was produced by the Foundation’s President on radio station KPFA in Berkley, and Polish-language radio programs on KBRG in San Francisco. The PACF is now the sponsor of “STUDIO POLAND” on KUSF 90.3 FM every Sunday morning from 9:30 to 10:30am.

Exhibits on Polish music were presented at the San Francisco Symphony, where a traditional Polish Christmas Tree is set up annually by our members to grace the lobby. In Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the Foundation presented an exhibit at the San Francisco Main Public Library, entitled “Poland’s History and Culture.” One of the 14 show cases was devoted to “Poland in the United Nations.”

The Foundation has also cooperated with the California Academy of Sciences; the Oakland Syphony; the Pacific Films Archive; the International Institutes of Oakland and San Francisco; the International Diplomacy Council; the World Affairs Council; the Commonwealth Club of California;the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Foundation initiated the naming in San Francisco of Lech Walesa Street near the Davies Symphony Hall, and the establishment of the Polish Black Madonna Chapel at St. Mary’s Cathedral. In addition, the Foundation assisted the San Francisco Maritime Museum Association in the creation of Joseph Conrad Park near the Cannery and Fisherman’s Wharf.

A branch of the Foundation was established in 1975 in San Antonio, Texas. During the presidency of Mrs. Valerie Grace, the members purchased a large historic building with a park near the Alamo. In 1909 the building was sold and the branch closed.

In 1989 the VISTULA Polish Dance Company was established at the Foundation, which sponsored it for five years.

In 1996, on its 30th Anniversary, the Foundation was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit by the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Lech Walesa. In November 2002, Foundation President Emerita, Wanda Tomczykowska received Poland’s highest civilian Order, “Polonia Restituta” in the presence of former Polish President Lech Walesa at the annual Polonaise Ball at the Fairmont Hotel.

The POLISH MEMORIAL RESEARCH LIBRARY was established in 1976. It housed thousands of books, periodicals, music scores and tapes, films, videos and photographs. These materials were available to members and the public for research purposes by special arrangement. In 1994 a second POLISH ART GALLERY was established at the Foundation.

When in 1998 the building at 1290 Sutter Street was sold, the bulk of the library was donated to the St. Wojciech Polish Mission Parish (now Nativity Church on Fell Street) in San Francisco. Special collections and rare books went to Stanford University, the Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California, the Slavic Collection Department of the New York Public Library, and the Hoover Archives at Stanford. After 19 years in the beautiful building at Sutter Street and Van Ness Avenue, the Foundation was moved once again to the private California Club of California at 1750 Clay Street, also at Van Ness Avenue, until 2003.
At that time, due to a doubling of rent, the PACF moved to Oakland and its inventory put into storage. Access is easy to create exhibits and share information with Researchers. The diligence of collecting pertinent information over the years has facilitated the excellence of materials presented.
Regardless of where the PACF is, we continue to work on its Mission: To educate the public about the historical, artistic, and cultural acheivements of Poles and Polish Americans. To facilitate and support presentations, publications or exhibits on these subjects we rely on the generosity of our supporters and members. Much of the PACF inventory now is unfortunatley in storage awaiting a new home. The collections of 200 paintings, 800 posters, 9000 books and valuable folk art and regional costumes are exhibited as time and place permits. The elaborate POLAND school kit is loaned to various scools or students as part of their international leaning experience for a nominal fee.