The mission of the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture
Gardens is to enrich lives with the inspiration found in our story, setting and
The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens was
founded in 1961 by Albin Polasek, an internationally-acclaimed artist and
resident of Winter Park, Florida. Polasek arrived in the U.S. in 1901 from his
native Moravia (now the Czech Republic) as a wood-carving apprentice with an
aspiration to follow the American Dream. Within fourteen years, he became an
award-winning artist and was appointed head of the Sculpture Department at the
Art Institute of Chicago.
The Polasek Museum is a noted cultural destination, ranked within the “Top 20 Tourist Attractions” in the region by Orlando Business Journal. The Museum and Foundation continues the work of Polasek through public education, specialized courses in the arts, music recitals, exhibits, and tours. The board is focused on increasing the Museum’s profile and impact through strategic partnerships, infrastructure improvements, and expanded programming while remaining mindful of long-term fiscal stability. The Winter Park Paint Out – our premiere fundraising and outreach event—grows larger and more inclusive each year, with free access to art and an emphasis on breaking down social and economic barriers for diverse communities. More than 35,000 people visit our grounds annually, and we are working towards reaching each one with compelling stories in the arts.
Welcome to the inspired world of internationally acclaimed Czech-American sculptor Albin Polasek. We invite you to explore his home, galleries, and sculpture gardens located in the heart of Winter Park, Florida, on Lake Osceola. At the Polasek, you will discover the story of the life and work of one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent sculptors, Albin Polasek, while enjoying experiences with historic architecture and the abundance of nature.
The Polasek Museum is one of Winter Park’s cultural keystones. Our roots date back to a time when there were very few arts institutions in Central Florida. Polasek dedicated himself to creating the museum more than a half century ago. Along with his wife Emily Muska Kubat Polasek, he established the Albin Polasek Foundation and the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens in 1961 as a permanent home for his art, or as he called his sculptures, “his children,” and opened the residence, galleries, gardens, and chapel to the public.
The Albin Polasek Foundation (APF) remains dedicated to our mission of life-long learning and contributing to the cultural richness of our region. In addition to operating the museum, the APF has donated numerous sculptures to the cities of Winter Park and Orlando. Reproductions of Albin Polasek’s works are featured throughout Winter Park, including sites at the Winter Park Public Library, City Hall, and Central Park.
Over the past decade the Albin Polasek Foundation has devoted great resources into conserving our art collection, enlarging the gardens, stabilizing our historic buildings, and being a proactive member of our region's rich cultural heritage.
On behalf of the Albin Polasek Foundation staff and trustees, thank you to all who have committed their time, talent, and treasures to the Albin Polasek Foundation and the preservation of the legacy of Mr. Polasek. Your gift not only helps to carry on the timeless impact of Mr. Polasek's works, but it also serves to honor Mr. Polasek and the remarkable standard of character, citizenship, and faith that he set during his lifetime.
After the death of Emily Polasek (Albin’s wife) in the late 1980s, the Board of Trustees began a transition to grow beyond a small group of her friends and family to refocus the Museum on the mission established by Polasek and the Albin Polasek Foundation at its founding in 1961. The board has accomplished five of its major goals in the last 14 years – established as part of a 20-year strategic plan – through strict oversight of a modest endowment paired with prudent fiscal management and an assertive fundraising program.
The biggest challenge--expanding our capacity with the addition of an adjacent lot and museum structure – has been completed with the acquisition of the Capen-Showalter House in 2013. Rather than commissioning new construction, the board cooperated in a widespread effort to save the historic home dating from 1885. The community enthusiasm generated during this landmark effort increased the profile of the Museum both regionally and nationwide. The board is excited to have brought this 130-year-old historic building back to life for the community and ensure the stewardship of the structure into the 21st century.
Continued support and grants from local and regional organizations are key to our continued success. A website and publication project funded by a grant from the Winter Park Community Foundation funds at the Community Foundation of Central Florida, Inc., allowed the Polasek to create polasekartsales.com. This website allows us to ensure fiscal stability through sales of limited edition reproductions of Albin Polasek’s most compelling sculptures. The grant also helped raise our museum shop revenue by 133% over the last year by providing funds for site-specific publications. Generous funding from Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs and the Galloway Foundation helped the organization raise the capital needed to save and restore the historic Capen-Showalter House on our east lot.
The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens has proudly served our community for 55 years, providing one of the most unique cultural and inspirational experiences in Central Florida. The Polasek offers a holistic journey through fine arts and history. Today we strive to be engaging, dynamic, and to meet the many needs and expectations of our diverse community.
The Polasek Museum was founded in 1961, by a man with a vision to share his love of classical and figurative art with future generations. We remain dedicated to that vision. More than fifty years later, the Polasek Museum serves more than 30,000 guests annually, and contributes to the economic health of our community through its facilities, programs, and events with an estimated industry impact of $1.6 million. Recently, the Orlando Business Journal listed the Polasek Museum at number 20 of 25 “Top Tourist Attractions” in the region, ranked by 2013 paid attendance.
We strive to create a positive environment that encourages community, exploration, discovery and life-long learning. In addition to grants and private donors, support comes from our members and local businesses. In order to fulfill our mission we seek partners to help with key funding in the following areas:
In the past five years we have developed at all levels of our organization and continue to explore new opportunities. We invite you to help ensure that the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens continues to thrive and serve future generations.
We primarily serve residents of and visitors to the Central Florida region. However, that constituency includes a number of international guests that seek out the home and studio of Czech-American sculptor Albin Polasek. Our Foundation also maintains a relationship with the American Friends of the Czech-Republic. The Museum also works with the City of Prague, and assisted in the 2011 re-creation of Polasek’s 1928 Woodrow Wilson monument, destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.
At the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, our
goal is to inspire the public to enrich their own lives by learning about our
art collection and exhibitions, visiting our historic buildings, and spending
time in our lakeside gardens. Guests of all ages come to the Polasek in search
of a meaningful connection with and new appreciation for history, culture, and
the environment. Numerous recent studies confirm that children and senior
citizens, in particular, thrive when exposed to the arts and nature. We strive
to be the source for that audience while seeking out new opportunities to
connect with underserved populations that can benefit from our collective
The Polasek Museum, originally founded by renowned Czech-American sculptor and artist Albin Polasek in 1966, is a well-established organization that has made a lifelong impact on its guests. Visitors from Central Florida and throughout the world return to the Polasek Museum because of our dedication to strategically improving the collection and the grounds, thereby helping to secure the long-term economic sustainability of our organization.
In late 2013, the Polasek Museum expanded its infrastructure with the addition of Winter Park’s historic Capen-Showalter House. Built in 1885, the home was threatened with immediate demolition. In a landmark effort, the Polasek and community partners moved the house across a lake to save it. The Polasek Board of Trustees developed a five-year plan to renovate and re-use the house for exhibition areas, public events, and offices, with the goal of increasing revenue for the museum while providing an opportunity for the people to enjoy this gracious Victorian-era home.
Our visitor demographics span every age group and socio-economic level. We engage our members through a number of annual events, including the Winter Park Paint Out, which invites artists to create their works outdoors within the Central Florida area.
The Capen-Showalter House will contribute to our regular programming with new exhibit areas featuring collections that contribute to the story of Polasek’s life and work as well as sculptures and reliefs he completed of Capen-family descendants, friends of his in Chicago. Together, the buildings, artworks, gardens, and lake views create an unduplicated experience rich in culture and history, found only at the Polasek Museum.
There are several strategies that we will implement to accomplish our goals at the Polasek Museum. These encompass both short-term and long-term issues and will increase the overall strengths of the museum, staff, and organization.
1. Identify and build upon new partnerships with community-based organizations, focusing on cultural and educational collaborations.
2. Identify preservation and conservation needs for the historic home and studio of founder Albin Polasek, N.A., and continue our maintenance and improvement of the property for visitors.
3. Develop a comprehensive long-term plan for the outdoor sculpture gardens, including implementing quality programming and sustainable vegetation.
4. Collaborate with diverse, talented artists to host innovative exhibits in our gallery space.
The Polasek Museum team is excited to begin a new era for
our museum with the opening of the Capen-Showalter House on our property in
2015. With this new facility space, we
are well-situated to expand our mission and program goals. Additional rental income with bolster our
financial position while offering the space for use by local organizations
builds our connections and capacity within the community. Finally having an adequate location to host
lectures, discussions, and classes enables us to offer programming never before
possible at the museum.
Our current staff is composed of arts and history professionals as well as individuals well-versed in landscape design and maintenance. We have a core group of four full-time employees, twelve part-time employees, and more than 150 volunteers that assist in the museum galleries, sculpture garden, and Capen-Showalter House. Debbie Komanski, the Executive Director since January 2004, is an active member of the community, both in business and in the humanities, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including most recently the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Community Leader Award.
The Polasek Museum maintains a number of professional affiliations—local, regional, and national—that benefit the position of the organization as a premiere arts and history organization. The museum is a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios program and the Polasek home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Polasek Museum maintains a number of key assessment markers to measure progress towards our long-term strategic goals..
Expanding the infra-structure of the Polasek Museum was
targeted as a primary goal in 2000. With the addition of the east lot—now home
to the Capen-Showalter House—the museum and board fulfilled this long-term goal
and are moving ahead on the next steps.
Next long-term goals include upgrades to and restoration of the historic
Polasek Home and Studio as well as creating an onsite research center.
The Polasek’s unique story, setting, and art can be experienced daily by visitors through docent-led tours of world-renowned Czech-American sculptor Albin Polasek’s historic home, studio, and chapel, as well as exploring our peaceful gardens and outdoor sculptures.
Through educational tours of the Polasek home, studio, and sculpture gardens, we hope to inspire visitors by sharing Albin Polasek’s story as well as further their appreciation of representational art. We expect that they will share their experience with others and them to visit as well. By providing a unique and memorable experience for visitors, we also hope they will leave positive comments on online review sites, which will in turn raise the reputation of the museum and encourage even more to visit.
Ultimately, we hope that Polasek’s story and art will
inspire our visitors and have a positive impact on their lives. We also hope that visitors to the Polasek
Museum will become engaged with the arts and with us by becoming members,
volunteers, donors, or attending a class or event. This kind of support and engagement will in
turn allow us to reach others with the inspiring story of Albin Polasek and
continue sharing his art with future generations.
Success is monitored by tracking numbers of annual visitors, museum members, and volunteers, as well as analyzing comments left by visitors on surveys given onsite and online.
Numbers of visitors increase steadily each year at a rate of about 10%. Some recent comments from our museum guestbook include the following:
The gallery space at the Polasek Museum hosts about four
rotating exhibits per year. These
rotating exhibits allow us to offer visitors new and more varied experiences in
the arts each time they come. Exhibits
range from traditional to contemporary and include all forms of art, historical
collections, and exclusive private collections that can be enjoyed in our
intimate gallery space. The gallery
exhibit program enhances our visitors’ cultural experience and helps us reach
more diverse audiences than our permanent collection would. Examples of recent and upcoming exhibits include:
Through the varied offerings in our gallery exhibit program, we hope to reach more diverse audiences than our permanent collection otherwise would and inspire them to appreciate and become engaged with the arts. We hope that they become repeat visitors and that they will share their experience with others and encourage them to visit as well. By providing a unique and memorable experience for visitors, we also hope they will leave positive comments on online review sites, which will in turn raise the reputation of the museum and the arts in Central Florida.
Ultimately, we hope that the art we present in our gallery exhibits inspire our visitors and have a positive impact on their lives. We also hope that visitors to the Polasek Museum will become personally engaged with the arts and with us by becoming members, volunteers, donors, or attending a class or event. This kind of support and engagement will in turn allow us to reach others with the inspiring story of Albin Polasek and continue sharing his art with future generations.
Success is monitored by tracking numbers of annual visitors, museum members, and volunteers, as well as analyzing comments left by visitors on surveys given onsite and online.
Numbers of visitors increase steadily each year at a rate of about 10%. Some feedback from our museum guestbook relating to our recent Sight Unseen: Touchable Sculpture exhibit includes the following:
The Polasek hosts several types of educational programming events throughout the year. Each one of our gallery exhibits includes events tailored to extend the visitor experience. These may include lectures, workshops, panel discussions, meet-and-greets with the artists, or free open house days that typically include complimentary arts activities and feature community partner collaborations. Past examples include the Winter Park Public Library, Winter Park History Museum, Audubon Birds of Prey Center, Michelee Puppets, Florida Sculptor’s Guild, Greater Orlando Council of the Blind, VSA Florida, UCP of Central Florida. Other educational programming has included or will include student art mingles, beginner art critiques, genealogy workshops, and stroke awareness day.
The short-term goals of our educational programming are that participants learn something new and have a positive interaction with our museum.
The ultimate goal of our programming is to provide a service to the community by offering enriching and educational programming. Our art-focused programming aims to engage people of all backgrounds and age groups in the arts. Through other educational programming such as stroke awareness day, we hope to use Albin Polasek’s story to affect positive health outcomes in the community by raising awareness of stroke prevention and also by providing inspiration to survivors.
Success is monitored by tracking numbers of program
participants as well as analyzing their feedback.
We can ascertain that our educational programming is well-regarded because of the continual referrals we receive from local humanities professors and teachers, particularly from UCF and Valencia. Our programming is often recommended through the Burnett Honors College and the Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE), both at UCF.
This much-anticipated week-long event focuses on the art of painting in “plein air,” a French term meaning “in the open air.” Throughout the week, 25 nationally-acclaimed artists gather to create one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork reflecting the beauty of Central Florida. The museum is open free to the public for the entire event, held annually in April. As many as ten educational painting demonstrations are held for free for the public, and our gallery is open for the public to view the artists’ works. A student component is held each year as well, which hosted the Eatonville Boys and Girls Club for a painting class in 2016.
Short-term success for the Winter Park Paint Out includes: increasing the number of visitors who interact with the Polasek Museum through this event; generating public awareness and interest in the museum; and drawing in new visitors, members, and potential programming participants.
Long-term change we hope to affect through the Winter Park Paint includes raising the profile of the Polasek Museum and the arts in Central Florida as well as increasing appreciation for plein air painting and the arts in general.
Success is monitored by tracking numbers of program participants, painting sales, and feedback received through on-site surveys.
Visitor numbers to the annual Winter Park Paint Out steadily increase each year, with a total attendance of nearly 30,000 in 2015. Attendees in 2015 represented visitors from 25 states, 5 countries, and 19 counties in Florida outside of Orange. The event has been consistently supported by Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs through Cultural Tourism Funding. Winter Park Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Patrick Chapin has said, “The Winter Park Paint Out has become a signature event for our community and is the occasion to see some of the finest artists from around the country. The national reputation for excellence this plein air festival draws visitors from other areas of Florida and from around the United States. I can’t state strongly enough how wonderful this week-long event is to our community."
The Polasek was founded in 1961, more than fifty years ago, by a man with a vision to share his love of classical and figurative art with future generations. We remain dedicated to that vision.
• Conservation of our historic building and permanent art collection
• Exhibition funding
• Educational programming
• Enhancement of the Sculpture Gardens
In addition to donors, support comes from our members, local businesses, and other organizations. In the past five years we have grown at all levels or our membership base. We invite you to help ensure that the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens continues to grow and thrive for future generations.
In 2016, the Albin Polasek Foundation Board of Trustees is actively working to recruit new board members that more closely represent our diverse community. Other high-priority board projects for 2016 include an ongoing review of our strategic plan and updating personnel policies and by-laws with the assistance of the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.
Debbie Komanski has served as the
Executive Director of the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens since
January 2004. She received her degree
from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. As a native of
Winter Park and graduate of Winter Park High School, she brings a deep
knowledge of the cultural arts and history of the area to the Polasek Museum
and the city of Winter Park. Over the
past 35-plus years, Komanski has served as president of a number of
organizations including the Rotary Club of Winter Park, UCF Alumni Association,
Volunteer Center of Central Florida, Town and Gown Council, and held other key
leadership positions on multiple boards of directors for non-profit
organizations and schools in the community. She was recently named by Winter
Park Magazine as one of Winter Park’s most influential people and the honoree
of the 2015 Winter Park History Museum’s Peacock Ball. The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce awarded
her the 2016 Community Leader of the Year award and the Polasek Museum as the
Community Organization of the Year.
Other activities include: serving on the International Committee for the Woodrow Wilson Monument in Prague, Czech Republic; the Florida Association of Museums; the American Association of Museums; American Association of State and Local History; South Eastern Museum Association (SEMA); the Museum Directors Council of Central Florida Council; the Winter Park Cultural Collaboration.
Other awards: Ms. Komanski received the highest honor presented by the University of Central Florida Alumni Association – the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award – in 1987. Additionally, she was the recipient of the esteemed University of Central Florida 1998 President’s Award bestowed by President John Hitt in recognition of a lifetime of service to the University. She has also received the Jefferson Award for Lifetime of Public Service and the Orlando Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Community Service of the Year award.
Rachel Frisby serves as the Polasek’s Curator and directs
our exhibitions and programming. Frisby
received her Bachelor’s in Art History from the University of Wisconsin
Superior and was her Master’s degree in Museum Studies from the University of
Kansas. Before joining the Polasek staff, she worked as the Lead Teacher for
the Whatsoever Community Center in Kansas City, Missouri. She also worked as the Collections Specialist
for the University of Kansas Archive of Recorded Sound and has been trained as
a laboratory technician for books and works on paper at the Stannard
Conservation Laboratory in Lawrence, Kansas. Her curatorial experience ranges
from coordinating university-based art shows to creating exhibitions for
historical institutions such as the Mt. Hood Museum in Oregon. Since joining
the Polasek in 2011, she has curated original exhibitions ranging from juried
contemporary shows to historic object and art based collections. As exhibitions
and programming director Frisby strives to develop collaborative partnerships
and opportunities for artists and organizations and acts as the representative
for the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios Program. As an artist and educator,
her goal is to promote collections accessibility and offer exciting educational
programming and visual arts experiences for all visitors. Frisby is an active
member of the regional arts community as an organizer, judge, and volunteer for
artist organizations, festivals, civic entities, and schools throughout Central
Elaine Noel serves as the bookkeeper at the Polasek Museum. She received her B.S. in Accounting in 1982 and her M.A. in School Counseling in 2004, both from the University of Central Florida. She maintains the accounting records for the museum on a part-time basis. Noel is active with several fundraising events for non-profit organizations each year.
Byron Walker serves as the Polasek’s Facility Manager. He is a graduate of the University of Idaho in landscape architecture and has worked with the Polasek since 2012. He oversees maintenance, safety, and welfare of visitors and has a comprehensive knowledge of the site and facilities. He is also a noted sculptor and landscape planner. He directs a large number of volunteers in the Polasek gardens, which cover more than three acres along Lake Osceola.
Lane Epps is the Polasek’s Development Coordinator, handling museum memberships, grants, and fundraising. She is a native of Orlando, a graduate of Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, and has a B.A. in Political Science from Boston University. Epps has more than 15 years of experience working in communications and fundraising capacities in education, government, and nonprofit. Past roles include serving as an assistant to the Chancellor of Boston University, an aide to a United Sates Senator, the director of parent relations and communications at Trinity Preparatory School, and grant coordinator for Harbor House of Central Florida. Epps received her Certificate in Proposal Writing at the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College in 2015.
Petra Hays, Senior Docent, graduated with a B.A. in German and French from the University of Central Florida and with an M.A. in German Literature from the University of Florida. She is the museum’s in-house editor, docent trainer and lead docent, regularly conducting tours of the property in English, German and French. She has been with the Polasek Museum since 2002.
Key collaborative and cross-disciplinary partners include:
The Polasek Museum’s strengths are evident in the quality of the staff, the historic significance of the site, and the story of our founder Albin Polasek, which continues to resonate with visitors of today. Additionally, the Polasek Museum stewards the largest collection of outdoor statuary in Central Florida with more than fifty sculptures displayed on our 3-acre site. The Polasek is completely accessible and features one of the only ADA-compliant lakeside museum/interpretive paths open to the public in our area.
The Polasek Museum continues to address the challenges of maintaining a large collection and two historic homes within the budgetary constraints typical for non-profit organizations of this size. Long-term plans for the museum and the interpretive experience throughout the site must conform within these restrictions, limiting the number of events and scope of our programming while also extending the maintenance schedule for our facilities.
The Polasek Museum actively seeks new opportunities to collaborate with other organizations in Central Florida and internationally through innovative programming, public outreach, and an ever-increasing presence as a destination for cultural tourists in this area. A stronger profile helps the Museum to achieve successful outcomes in terms of public education and the architectural preservation of our landmark site. We are also excited to explore new avenues for illuminating the story of our founder Albin Polasek, through further research into his life, sculpture, methodologies, and artistic motivations.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
The opening of the Capen-Showalter house in 2015 puts the
Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens in an improved financial position,
having fulfilled a long-term goal of adding an additional building to the property
for programming as well as securing additional rental space to generate extra
operating income. A spike in the Polasek’s
revenue in 2013 can be attributed to the Capital Campaign during that time which
helped us secure the Capen House, move it to our property, and restore it for
use as a public facility.
The Polasek operates in a conservative fiscal manner with limited full-time staff, extensive volunteer support and generous in-kind professional services in order to conserve our financial resources and direct our funds to use for the most effective expenditures to complete our mission. At the same time The Polasek partners with others to collaborate whenever possible to better serve our community. All aspects of the Museum’s operation and programming are regularly reviewed by the Executive Director, Board of Trustee’s leadership, and the Budget and Investment Committee which meets on a regular basis.
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