The Civic City

Civic Society

photo: Grzegorz Piątek

„The Oxygenator" by Joanna Rajkowska in Grzybowski Square


Fortunately, rent is not the only promise offered by the new Warsaw. Many residents feel responsible for their city; education and civic awareness compensate for an absence of roots that goes back several generations. In Kabaty, which despite its image as a lair of anonymous yuppies is one of the richest and most well-educated new districts, a single individual has motivated his neighbours to create an illegal park. The pressure from the local media (and, let it ruefully be added, the crisis in the property market) makes the city authorities increasingly willing to rent premises that would otherwise remain vacant to non-governmental agencies or individual entrepreneurs, at preferential rates.

Due to this trend, the premises of the former Nowy Świat café, almost opposite Starbucks, are now home to the utopian-sounding Nowy Wspaniały Świat (Brave New World), a café-club of the leftist Stanisław Brzozowski Foundation. Mokotowska Street, which is gradually turning into a mecca for lovers of elegant boutiques and fine restaurants, is also, as if balancing this out, the address of the Bęc Zmiana New Culture Foundation (at No. 65) and the Association of the Creative Initiatives “ę” (at no. 55). The former houses a ground floor gallery and a Warsaw culture information point.
Grass-roots transformations often have their starting point in art initiatives, as art is not only an ornament but often also a tool for criticism and change, in the public space of Warsaw. The “Oxygenator” by Joanna Rajkowska – a fountain pond hollowed out in Grzybowski Square (invigorated that forgotten spot for some months and integrated the local community for a much longer period. Paweł Althamer is tireless in canvassing his neighbours from the Bródno estate, with whom he organised the millennium light installation “Bródno 2000”. For this, he created the Sculpture Park with a paradise garden designed according to the drawings of local children, some of whom he took to Brussels in a golden airplane, wearing gold-coloured space suits, as part of the “Wspólna sprawa” (Common Cause) project. On residents of the disreputable Praga district, he bestowed a life-size statue of Mr Guma the local hobo.