Tom Podl was a great friend of Poland, renowned Polish art collector, a co-founder of the UWPSEC, a community leader, and a longtime active member of the Polish community in Seattle.
A recipient of numerous awards and medals, Tom has been persistent in his support of Polish culture, inspiring Poles to discover their roots and redefine their Polish identity through activism, film and art.
In the 1980s, he provided financial assistance to the Solidarity movement in Poland and served as treasurer of the Polish Home Association. He was the initiator of the quarterly PHA publication Nasz Dom. As a member of the Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association (SGSCA), inspired by other notable Polish film festivals, Tom, with other Polish community leaders, started the Seattle Polish Film Festival (SPFF) in 1992. In the 90’s, he served as president of the Polish Museum of America and Chairman of the Society for Arts in Chicago.
His biggest passion was collecting art of his heritage and roots. Over the years, Tom amassed one of the most important collections of Polish art in America (paintings and sculptures). His art collection reflects a remarkable diversity of Polish modern art created between 1890 and 1939. It demonstrates how the visual arts served as a focused response to the period’s divisive geopolitics and, how in the two decades after independence was achieved in 1918, they contributed to the cultural identity of a sovereign Poland.
Tom Podl’s collection was exhibited in numerous cities across Poland, USA and Switzerland. On the occasion of the 2001-2003 exhibit’s tour of Poland, Microsoft software designer Ryszard Kott provided Tom with digital expertise for a first of its kind CD and internet site. The exhibition “Colors of Identity” visited eight cities, including the National Museum in Kraków and the Zachęta Museum in Warsaw.
In 2002, Tom gave a memorable lecture “Colors of Identity: Discovering Polish Heritage through Art”, inaugurating a series of lectures titled “50 Years of Polish at the UW: Celebrating Polish-American Heritage”, organized to commemorate half a century of teaching Polish at the UW. Two years later, this series was pivotal in the creation of the UW Polish Studies Endowment Committee (UW PSEC) with Tom as one of the organizers and co-founders. Later on, Tom co-chaired the committee with Martha Golubiec and, in 2005, he was one of the co-signers of the Polish Studies Endowment Fund agreements with the University of Washington.
In recognition of unwavering support for Poland and Polish culture Tom has received numerous awards, among them Gloria Artis Gold Medal, Cavalier Cross of the Order of Merit, Polish Angel of Polish Film Festival Award and Haiman Award.
For more information about Tom Podl and his art collection, visit the following sites: