Folklore preservation, including traditional arts, is associated mostly with rural areas. In many villages the tradition of regional arts is cultivated and more often operates as a local tourist attraction.
The protection, development and promotion of Polish folk culture are also the main aims of the “Cepelia” Polish Art and Craft Foundation operating since 1984. In particular, it supports research in the field of art, handicrafts and ethnography; arranges exhibitions, shows, concerts, lectures, conferences; establishes, maintains and supports the activities of the exhibition centres, art galleries and outlets selling works of art and handicraft products; supports the publishing of books, magazines, brochures, etc.; and promotes Polish culture and art abroad.
Folklore in its many forms (from arts and crafts to music and dance) is slowly gaining the interest of younger generations. It is no longer perceived as boring and unoriginal. Initiatives to popularise and re-new folk culture are becoming more common. Numerous design and music events using traditional folk patterns, instruments, tools, etc. in a modern way are gaining a wider audience every year.
The biggest organisation in Poland active in the field of folk culture and connected with the activity of unprofessional folk groups is the Polish Section of the International Council of Folklore Associations, Festivals and Folk Art (CIOFF – Conseil International des Organisations de Festivals de Folklore et d’Art Traditionnels). Poland was one of the initiators of this organisation in 1970. It aims to protect folklore and folk art; foster international cooperation in the field of preservation and popularisation of folklore and folk art; and include the younger generation as much as possible in the implementation of these objectives. According to the CIOFF Annual Report 2015, CIOFF includes 118 members.
There are two professional folk ensembles in Poland: “Mazowsze” Tadeusz Sygietyński State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble and “Śląsk” Song and Dance Ensemble. The former is in a very good financial situation and owns an extremely modern base, which was renovated with the assistance of EU Structural Funds several years ago. There are also many amateur folklore groups and student groups.
Due to the engagement of local institutions, regional ensembles and ethnographers, traditional music is still present in rural areas. Folk music is increasingly an inspiration for modern musicians who play it in a traditional way or with jazz, rock or even techno arrangements. The festivals of folk music are becoming more and more popular. Since 1999, the Folk Artists Association in Lublin has conducted a national database entitled “Village artistic groups” including over 2 000 music ensembles, bands and theatre groups.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Prior to 1989, cultural houses in Poland were leading institutions of the communist cultural politics. It was difficult to find their equivalent in democratic European countries. There were even problems with translating the term itself. No law defines cultural houses. The Act on Organising and Conducting Cultural Activity merely states that this is one of the possible forms of organising cultural activity, but does not indicate differences or gives a description. However, cultural houses run by state enterprises were dismantled in the free market economy environment because their costs were seen as unjustified.
Today, cultural houses and centres are creating a new image for themselves as a shelter for amateur art and various programmes aiming at broadening participation in cultural life, with a special focus put on those parts of the population which are “socially excluded”. Together with libraries, they are often the only cultural institutions in the Polish suburbs. Their activities are undertaken in co-operation with and financed by local governments, mostly the municipalities and communes.
The extent to which cultural houses and community cultural clubs are financed by the the government and local administrations is presented in chapter 7.1.3.
An important programme has been launched by the National Centre for Culture. The Culture House + (Dom kultury +) aims at creating equal access to culture for the inhabitants of rural areas and improvement of participation in culture. The concept of the programme is to initiate the process of transformation of the existing culture houses into modern local culture centres. The programme consists of three priorities: Training, Development and Infrastructure. An important part of the programme is creating the Support Network – an interactive platform of cooperation and exchange for all culture houses. It aims at having development strategies created on the basis of socio-economic-cultural diagnosis of the given municipality or commune; actively animating the cultural life of local communities; creating possibilities for basic but universal cultural education, etc.
In 2018, there were 4237 cultural centres, houses and clubs (in 2017 – 4230). The majority of them are located in rural areas (63,3%) (GUS Kultura).