CEIL WENDT JENSEN BOOK SIGNING AT THE POLISH ART CENTER
We recently filmed a book signing by Michigan Polonia expert (and great friend to ‘Our Polish Story’ crew, as well as a dynamic, charming and endlessly knowledgeable resource) Ceil Wendt Jensen at Hamtramck’s Polish Art Center. Jensen is the author of Detroit’s Polonia (Arcadia Publishing, 2006), which chronicles the life and times of an overlooked and previously underrepresented segment of immigrants who came from Poland with little more than a dream and who ultimately crafted a soulfully rich heritage for not only Detroit and America, but for future global generations.
We were immediately drawn to Ceil, since her mission and the mission of ‘Our Story Of’ appeared to be the same.
The signing was packed, and Ceil discussed her research into several local cemeteries which are the final resting places of numerous Detroit Poles. Her presence, and the crowds she drew, were instrumental in helping the Polish Art Center have a blockbuster afternoon!
The Polish Art Center is a visual feast of the sights and sounds of old world Poland. Everything from books and music, to stoneware, fine crystal, folk art, foods, chocolates and much more. DVD’s covering all aspects of Polish culture, from polka music to classical Chopin make this one of the most comprehensive destinations for Polish cultural artifacts.
Founded in 1958 by Polish immigrant Joseph Kalenkiewicz, the Polish import shop sold in 1974 to Raymond and Joan Bittner, who had long since dreamed of running a family-owned and operated business celebrating Poland and all her rich cultural traditions. That dream actually began in 1967, when Raymond first fell in love with Poland during an educational pilgrimage. Later, he met Joan, a Canadian of Scottish descent, who immediately became enamored with Raymond's Polish heritage. The two married and eventually welcomed three children who would go on to help support the family business.
Since then, the Bittners have developed The Polish Art Center into one of the country's premier emporiums of Polish cultural and traditional goods. The Center is also an important member of the Hamtramck Polish community. Aside from preserving Polish heritage through The Center's wide assortment of items, Raymond and Joan remain active in their civic duties, regularly displaying their Polish cultural artifacts at festivals, schools and libraries. In 2004, the couple expanded their operation into an adjacent building and converted it into an educational center featuring lectures, book signings, folk-art demonstrations, and pisanki-making classes.