USCA students to host Polish art exhibit featuring historical posters donated by the late Dr. Leonard V. Kosinski

The University of South Carolina Aiken Department of Visual and Performing Arts will host a student-led exhibit next month featuring historically significant representations of Polish culture. The exhibit, titled “Struggle to Solidarity,” will open March 20 with an event from 6 to 8 p.m. in the campus Etherredge Center.

The exhibit will showcase a collection of posters donated to USCA by the late Leonard V. Kosinski, Ph.D., and his wife Mary J. Wiesen-Kosinski in the 1990s. Kosinski was a scholar, patriot, and promoter of Polish culture and a long-time resident of Aiken. He designed the English curriculum for the Aiken County Public School District and taught courses in education and English at USC Salkehatchie, USC Aiken, Paine College, and Augusta College.

Kosinski was passionate about Polish-American cultural causes and founded the Polish Cultural Club and the Polish Heritage Association of the Southeast. He was also a member of the Order of Saint Stanislaus, a charitable order with historical Polish roots. For his tireless work, he was awarded the Cavalier’s Cross, Order of Merit, by then-Poland President Lech Walesa in 1994. Locally, Kosinski was honored by USC Aiken Chancellor Robert Alexander for establishing the prestigious Josef Hofmann Piano Competition at the university.

Posters became a significant art form in Poland during the World War II and Cold War eras. Because there was not a large market for art during the Nazi occupation, many artists earned their living by creating state-sanctioned posters containing subversive messages. The posters were used by the Polish people as a form of communication and rebellion against their occupiers.

When the collection was donated to the university, several posters were displayed before being placed in storage. Professor of Art Dr. Michael Fowler began planning this year’s exhibit as a means of educating his students in the process of organizing such an affair and sharing these works with a broader public. The collection is comprised of 49 posters, of which 20 have been selected for exhibit. With thoughtful examination and application of historical and social context, Fowler and his students hope to broaden cultural awareness and compassion for the people of Poland and others suffering under similar conditions.

“Most of us are used to thinking about a poster in terms of its function as an advertisement for an event or a product—a pretty mundane purpose despite its initial visual splash,” Fowler says. “But Polish posters, especially those created under the oppressive Communist regime in the latter years of the Cold War, embody strong emotional content. Polish poster artists, trained in architecture and painting, have brought a rich tradition of the fine arts to this medium, often reflecting the struggle of a people too long deprived of their voices.”

The exhibit is being presented by upper-level graphic design students under Fowler’s direction.

Senior graphic design student Brandy McSorley says, “In doing research for this exhibit, the class has learned a great deal about Polish history as well as graphic design. The purpose of this exhibit is to also share with the American public an art form that is less known in our community and encourage the appreciation of the culture from which it is derived.”

The Struggle to Solidarity exhibit is free and open to the public from March 20 through April 1. For more information, contact Dr. Michael Fowler at