This growing every year collection of art in public space is available to all residents and tourists.
Murals began appearing in Bielsko-Biała quite tentatively at first. In 1996, Dariusz Gierdal painted the mural “Primavera” on the wall beneath the viaduct on PCK Street. Surprisingly, this mural survived a couple of years before the walls on PCK Street were taken over by graffiti artists and street artists, making the place an unofficial gallery of paintings which changed fairly frequently. If anyone has been photographing this place, they will have a considerable collection of street art by now.
Occasionally these street artists, who, acting illegally, work anonymously or under pseudonyms, leave behind them interesting traces of their creativeness, but the vast majority are usually acts of vandalism that deface walls, just as in every city in the world. However, this graffiti mania is counterbalanced by well-planned, legally painted murals, which are designed and often personally undertaken by known artists from Poland or abroad.
Sadly, there is nothing left to be seen of the murals created by the most famous contemporary Polish painters – Wilhelm Sasnal and Leon Tarasewicz. ”Maus” by Wilhelm Sasnal was located on the western facade of Galeria Bielska BWA (between 2000 and 2001) , while the mural by Leon Tarasewicz could be found (between 2009 and 2012) on the wall of Gemini Park facing Gen. Bora-Komorowskiego Street.
In 2008, two murals were created under the ”Prze/mieszczanie malarstwa” project run by the Galeria Bielska BWA and co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. The mural by Joanna Stańko on the wall of the town house near Żwirki and Wigury Square blends in beautifully with the surrounding architecture, creating a feeling of peace and harmony, and prompting contemplation. In addition to the white lotus flowers floating on a blue background, the Warsaw artist commemorates the names of all of Bielsko-Biała’s twin towns, giving the whole work a symbolic nature. A mural that creates an impressive effect is the one painted by Karolina Zdunek on the western facade of the Galeria Bielska BWA facing Mickiewicza Street. The artist has designed a huge illusory window with single, open window sections alluding to the real window on the neighbouring wall. The restrictive palette of red, white and black give this very modern mural a sophisticated character, while at the same time alluding to architectural painting from earlier times, as seen for example in baroque architecture. During the same year, the mural “To tłum” by the artist-duo Twożywo was painted on the eastern facade of the Galeria Bielska BWA, giving a lasting, characteristic appearance to this part of the town through which the main thoroughfare runs.
The huge boom in mural-painting began in all seriousness in 2014 with the ”oBBraz miasta” project, which was run by the Galeria Bielska BWA in collaboration with the Fundacja Galerii Bielskiej, and which was co-financed by the Bielsko-Biała municipal council. During the first editions of the project, works were presented by artists from Bielsko-Biała and the surrounding region: the artist-duo Etnograff, Turbos, Malik, Izabela Ołdak and Ilona Krieser; for subsequent editions, invitations were extended to famous Polish artists NeSpoon and Natalia Rak. Seven large-format murals were created, inspired by nature and creatively reproducing motifs from highland folklore, images somewhere on the borderline between dream and reality, photorealistic, or giving free rein to fantasy in their decorative expression. In addition to the murals by Izabela Ołdak and Natalia Rak which overflowed with colour there appeared the black-and-white images by Etnograff and NeSpoon, and Ilona Krieser’s illusionist mural depicting a chamois which is sparing in its use of colour and form.
In 2014, the Museum of Bielsko-Biała invited the famous Gdańsk street artist Mariusz Waras to paint a mural on the wall of the Old Factory – one of the museum’s departments. The mural ”m-city 744” is an exceptionally multi-coloured work for this artist and fits this industrial part of the city superbly well.
Right next to it is the mural by the Bielsko artists Jacek Grabowski and Piotr Wisła that alludes to the history of Bielsko-Biała and commemorates the trams, which the city’s older residents will recall with sentiment.
Also alluding to history is the mural dedicated to the memory of Irena Sendler, designed by Małgorzata Rozenau, which thanks to an initiative by the Klamra Foundation was created in collaboration with the 3Fala.art.pl group. The delicate drawing with its muted colours, the fine features of the young woman and the numerous hearts symbolising the children she saved, shows an alternative face to the dramatic subject of war and sends a positive message that puts the stress on goodness and beauty.
”Beyond Time/Poza czasem” is an international artist-in-residence programme organised every year by the Galeria Bielska BWA thanks to which artists from all over the world travel to Bielsko-Biała. These artists create ephemeral projects in urban spaces which only exist for a short period of time, although it can happen that they become more permanent works, such as the murals painted by Labuenaylamala and Awer. The mural by the artist-trio from Grand Rapids in the USA formed by Tim Fisher, Sean Hamilton and Megan Jones was created within the framework of twin-town collaboration as an initiative of the Bielsko-Biała City Promotion Department.
More and more initiatives aimed at creating murals are happening in the city. The murals are an important element of building awareness among residents, who identify with the various ideas put forward in public spaces by these works of art. References to the campaign slogans ”Bielsko-Biała is a playground” and ”Bielsko-Biała protects the climate” have been made in the recently painted murals by Piotr Graff and Dawid Celek.
As you wander through the city’s streets it is pleasing to come across a large-format image painted directly onto a wall instead of the ubiquitous advertisements which are all alike. Murals achieve their effect through colour or form; they send a message, giving random passers-by something to reflect on. For admirers of this type of artistic expression the murals are a city attraction encouraging them to wander about the enchanting streets of Bielsko-Biała, a city with a rich history and a city that is equally rich today.