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Gdansk shipyard with an artistic spirit

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The Gdansk docks has a special place in the Polish history. The first shots of the Second World War rang out here. It was also here that Lech Walesa led the anti-Communist Solidarity movement, which eventually resulted in the collapse of Communism in Poland and other countries of the Soviet Block.

The shipyards used to employ 16,000 workers and produce 16 ships per year but now they lie mostly derelict or sold to overseas invertors. However, where industry declines, art rises in its place…an artists’ colony settled down in Gdansk’s shipyard district.

In 2001 the city gave to 20 spaces to a group of artists, who try to keep the shipyard area alive. In 2004 they set up Wyspa Institute of Art, which holds exhibitions, workshops and other kinds of artistic activity. There are about 20 artists working in the colony. Among them are dancers, architects, musicians, painters and film directors.

One of the artists’ mission is to keep the memory of the people who spend all their lives working in the shipyard. One of the artist created murals, which tell the story of lives and work of shipbuilders. Another artists prepared a photo exhibition presenting a series of shipyard workers' portraits and a slow decline of shipbuilding industry in Gdansk. He comments on his photographs: “These are forgotten heroes – unneeded workers replaced by machines, and it’s up to us to tell their story”.

There is a project afoot for the shipyards. Investors are planning to build modern shopping malls and apartments and the artists’ colony will have to move to another place. One of the artist says: “The future is coming quickly. Soon the shops and apartments and the world will arrive. I don’t know if we’ll survive, but we’ll try”. To learn more about the Colony please visit their website at:

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