The Sopot School
The legendary origins of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk date back to 1945 – the period of very difficult socio-political conditions. Poverty, banditry, chaos, mass repatriations, fear of the return of the Germans but also of the Red Army, pogroms and mob law – such was the picture of Poland just after the Second World War. The collapse of the current social structures was accompanied by the destabilization of the state and a deep distrust of the communist authorities. At the same time, it was the period of dynamic changes that took place in the atmosphere of the reconstruction euphoria and hope. It was this enthusiasm that accompanied the possibility of working and creating that became the driving force for one of the most important artistic circles in Poland.
From today's point of view, there is no doubt that the establishing of the artistic academy in Sopot in 1945 had a direct impact on the creating of local, unique artistic circles in the Tricity. The decision of establishing the artistic school in Gdańsk with its seat in Sopot, together with the local branch of the Associations of Polish Artists and Designers, was made in Kraków in August 1945 during the 1st Polish National Congress of Artists and Designers. The founders were Janusz Strzałecki, Krystyna Łada-Studnicka and Juliusz Studnicki, Marian Wnuk and Józefa Wnukowa, Hanna Żuławska and Jacek Żuławski. They came to the coast in September and they managed to organize recruitment and start the educational activity in a flash. Ruined Gdańsk could not became the house for the new artistic school.
That is why the founders chose Sopot, which survived the war and which, during the next decade, became the real center of cultural life of Tricity. Classes were held in Berger's Villa, surrounded by a garden, at Obrońców Westerplatte street. Built in 1870 at Johann Immanuel Berger's request, the villa was used as the headquarters of the school – the State Institute of Arts and Design at first and then, since December 1945 to 1954 – the State College of Arts and Design in Gdańsk with its seat in Sopot. The university staff lived in the neighboring villas and houses. Apart from Berger's Villa, the classes were held in the formerly German Kunsthalle – the Sfinks and in the “Pavilion" by the pier. In 1954 it was decided to move the main seat to the newly restored building of the renaissance Armory in Gdańsk. The lectures in Sopot were held till 1958.