Art installation celebrates Polish heritage
By Taylor Hale
STEVENS POINT – A new symbol of Polish-American unity was unveiled during a public event at the Cultural Commons in Pfiffner Pioneer Park in Stevens Point on Sept. 18.
The new installation, titled “For Your Freedom and Ours,” was created by Portage County artist and blacksmith Boleslaw Kochanowski. Polvision TV from Chicago was on-site during the event along with members of the Polish American Congress and the Polish Awareness Society of Wisconsin.
The sculpture depicts a bald eagle (representing America) and a white eagle (representing Poland) atop two large metal spires. The eagles purposely have their backs to each other, guarding each other’s flanks, according to Kochanowski.
Kochanowski worked on the piece with three of his sons, putting in over 2,000 hours on the piece. Kochanowski’s sons also have a long-lasting career in artistry and metalworking in Portage County, with pieces like the SPASH Panther and UW-Stevens Point pointer sculptures being created by them.
Kochanowski said that the sculpture is one of the most relevant pieces of art to honor Polish heritage since the Kosciuszko monument in Milwaukee in 1906. Kochanowski was also nominated for the creative Arts Prize of the Polish American Historical Association for his efforts on the project.
“This sculpture here took 100 years in our family history to make,” Kochanowski said. “There are 100 years of blacksmithing tradition in my family.”
Kochanowski’s father was a blacksmith in Poland, working as a master blacksmith before being taken into custody by German Nazis during the war. He later ended up in Chicago, speaking very little English, but understanding the language of dedicated effort and metalworking.
Kochanowski and many others see the new sculpture as a reminder to remember where you came from, noting that roughly half of Portage County’s population has some percent of Polish heritage.
Wiza said the Cultural Commons is the perfect spot for the sculpture, stating that the purpose of the location is to celebrate diversity in the city.
“It recognizes not only the indigenious people before us, whose land this was, but all of our partner and sister cities,” Wiza said.
Stevens Point’s sister cities include Rostov Veliky, Russia; Gulcz, Poland; and Esteli, Nicaragua.
Want to learn more about Kochanowski and his work? Stay tuned for upcoming issues of the Portage County Gazette where our readers will get an inside look into the artist’s life and background.