Sztuka Wyboru combines everything I love in one place: it's a cafe, bookstore, shop with locally designed and handmade goods, art gallery and an event and workshop space. I found myself coming back to have coffee in their sun filled space and read through their amazing selection of Polish magazines and books, and to browse through local makers' creations in their nicely curated shop.
But more importantly, Sztuka Wyboru is a part of something bigger - a trend in Gdansk, Poland where old, sleepy, very often historic neighborhoods are being transformed into thriving social, cultural and art districts and that's just so refreshing to witness.
When I sat down to chat with one of the owners of Sztuka Wyboru, Magda Kalisz, I was fascinated with her story and her drive to create something unique for the community. There are just so many things she's being involved in, and she's doing such an amazing job of connecting it all together under one giant umbrella of Sztuka Wyboru.
What is Sztuka Wyboru?
Sztuka Wyboru (Art of Choosing) is a hybrid of things I like the most in life: good coffee and sweet pastries, art, books and design..... add to that creative and inspiring people and you will get Sztuka Wyboru.
Where did the idea for the space come from? How did it all come about?
About three years ago my partner found an ad in a local newspaper. At that time we used to live in Warsaw. In the ad a development company based in Gdynia was looking for creative people and ideas for a new project called Garnizon Kultury.
We answered the ad and got invitation for the interview. Our project was chosen and within one year we moved from Warsaw to Gdansk to open Sztuka Wyboru.
Describe your average customer?
Depends on the time of a day. In the morning/early afternoon Sztuka Wyboru is a co-working spot for creative freelancers. There is a group of young moms coming here after walking with their babies. They meet with other mom-friends for pastries and coffee. There are also businessmen coming to have short meetings with their clients, seniors come for coffee and to read a book. In the evening, it's usually a hangout spot for women having tea and a snack after work, grabbing a few things from our shop.
3-4 times a week we host special events: author meetings, exhibition openings, workshops for designers and photographers, photobook club meetings etc. During those evenings Sztuka Wyboru is full of people who are into arts, design, photography and literature.
What makes your place unique?
We're not just a cafe, bookstore, an art gallery or a design shop. We combine all of it and have become an important cultural hub not only in our district but in the whole Tri-city area.
How does it fit in your city/neighborhood?
We've definitely filled the gap in the area. There is no other place like this, combining books, coffee, arts and design. We are based in one of Gdansk districts called Wrzeszcz, which 2-3 years ago was known to be a sleepy part of Gdansk, with not a lot of things happening.
During the last couple of years Wrzeszcz, mainly because of Garnizon Kultury, has become a popular entertaining and cultural spot filled with restaurants, cafes, music venues and creative places. It's very interesting to be a part of this change.
Who designed your space?
We occupy a part of a former redbrick military building (dated in 1880). When we first saw it 3yrs ago it was in a very bad state. Now, after being restored, it's really impressive. My partners and I came up with ideas for interior design . We were inspired by Scandinavian design and wanted to keep it simple, with light colors, soft sofas and chairs for comfort of our clients. We thought it'd work well with the backdrop of red brick walls, filled with books and art.
The project (based on our ideas) and realization came from Studio Potorska.
What's your biggest challenge?
To give up new challenges! For example at the moment I like to nourish my two projects: art gallery and photography workshops. Both of them need more of my time and attention which means I need to give up other things. It's a matter of choosing what's more important at this specific moment.
What's your creative background?
I studied law and American culture. After a couple of years working for legal office I left Poland and travelled extensively around Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and Australia. I was doing seasonal jobs and traveling in between. I spent 8 years this way - on the road, changing jobs, countries, working as a guide on whale watching boats in Iceland, then working as a driver, chef and ski instructor in the Swiss/French/Italian Alps, then as a destination manager in Turkey, Thailand and Italy. When I got back to Poland, after all the adventures around the world, I set up a small publishing house with a couple of friends and started writing alternative guidebooks to main Polish cities called Ogarnij Miasto. I'm still involved in that but I put most of my time and energy in Sztuka Wyboru. At the moment half of my career is very creative and free: writing guidebooks, creating new events and workshops and the other half is dealing with arranging events, setting up exhibitions, managing the crew and planning basic things that need to be done in terms of smooth operating such a big project as Sztuka Wyboru.