About Dave Motak
Although Pennsylvania-born, folk artist, art educator and graphic designer Dave Motak can be regarded as a “native Cracovian” for the culture, history and art of Poland’s ancient capital, his family’s ancestral home, is his driving passion. . Dave attended the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland for two years, where he studied Polish culture, history and ethnography. While a student in Cracow, Dave studied with prominent Polish art historian Karl Estreicher, one of the first art historians to promote the serious study of the traditional Cracow “szopka” (pronounced “shop kah”) as a legitimate art form. Dave’s creation of the Pittsburgh Szopka Project in 2003 was the result of a life-long study of Central European naïve folk art and his over 20 years of experience as a facilitator of various cultural programs within the nonprofit sector, as an art administrator and graphic designer. He has become a recognized expert on the szopka art form in the United States and is the first person to develop a teaching methodology for this art form, which is not taught in Poland. Dave’s Pittsburgh-based workshops are therefore unique and the only effort of their kind. With near-native fluency in Polish, he travels to Cracow often, and has created associations with the Cracow Ethnographic Museum and the City of Cracow History Museum as well as with several prominent szopka masters.
Dave also served as the Director of Communications for the Polish Falcons of America, one of the nationís leading ethnic fraternal benefit societies and one of the leading Polish-American cultural organizations. The Polish Falcons provides a wide range of insurance, cultural and physical fitness programs for over 15,000 members nation-wide.
So Why Pittsburgh?
While Dave Motak developed his art project as an asset to Pittsburgh’s cultural vitality, through his innovation, drive and determination, his efforts have grown to achieve national and even international prominence. Szopka making is not taught in Cracow, where it has traditionally been an art form passed down from one generation of artisans to another. It originally began as a “blue collar” art form, built by craftsmen and members of the trade guilds who would augment their winter incomes by constructing these structures. With its rich history as a “blue collar” town, its ethnic legacy and its commitment to supporting the arts, Dave has used Pittsburgh as the logical center from which to promote szopka making throughout the United States. Through the annual Pittsburgh Szopka Exhibition which he annually produces, Dave has established one of the region’s newest holiday traditions and generated a growing number of area artisans practicing this unique art form, thereby enhancing the region’s arts scene.
Creating and Promoting a New Art Genre
Dave is the first person to develop a comprehensive, step-by-step building methodology for making szopki. And he has been eager to share his unique knowledge and building methods with young and old alike. Determined to establish this art form in this country, Dave has worked tirelessly to learn the szopka art medium, to acquire the highest level of craftsmanship, and to share his love of this medium with others. Through countless hours of study, travel, design and building, Dave has become the leading expert on szopka history, tradition and construction in the United States. Since first launching his Pittsburgh Szopka Project in 2003, Dave has traveled to Poland 8 times to meet leading szopka artisans and to research and study this unique art form.
Achievements as Producing Artist
Dave’s access to original sources and his success in networking with existing szopka masters in Poland have proven invaluable in elevating Dave’s skill level as a producing folk artist, educator and specialist in this folk art genre. In addition to workshops and public exhibitions, he also continues to refine his skills as a szopka artisan and he continues to gain substantial recognition as a producing artist. An increasing number of his pieces are in private collections and he has shown his works at various public exhibitions. In 2008 he was commissioned to create a major piece for a major exhibition at the prestigious Gagosian Gallery in New York.
Dave’s work has received support from various funding agencies, including the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts program, administered by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. In 2008 he was awarded an Apprenticeship in Traditional Arts by the Institute for Cultural Partnerships to study with eminent szopka artisan Maciej Moszew in Cracow, Poland for several weeks. The caliber and extent of Dave’s work is evidenced by the fact that he was recently awarded a prestigious Fellowship in Traditional Arts by the Institute for Cultural Partnerships/Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
His projects have also received funding from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Pittsburgh Council for the Arts, the Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester, New York, the Polish Embassy in Washington, D. C. as well as the Parliament (Sejm) of the Republic of Poland in Warsaw.
One of Dave's most notable public presentations is a major art installation depicting the history of Poles in Western Pennsylvania entitled " The Poles in Pittsburgh: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow". Produced for the Polish Cultural Council of Pittsburgh, Dave researched, wrote and designed the work, which is a 25 foot graphic portable mural incorporating text, vintage photographs, illustrations and his own photographic images.
In recognition of his unique achievements and contributions to the regional cultural community, Dave was recently awarded the prestigious Work of Art Awards, presented by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
Poles In Pittsburgh Installation
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