The Orava Gallery in Dolny Kubin
The specific character of fine arts of the Orava region instigated an idea of foundation the Orava Gallery. Its main feature is the connection between professional arts and folk visual art expressions from the Gothic period up to the 19th century.
The Late-Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist churches in Orava and their decoration in interiors as furnishing, paintings and sculptures are the best pieces of evidence of this belief.
It is interesting how many different kinds of arts were spread geographically through Orava, which were influenced by the religion of people. For Lower Orava, where the Protestants preferred the surface decoration, were characteristic ornamental and figurative paintings as well as decorative elements; and for Upper Orava were more characteristic woodcarving and cutting stone sculptures, which were influenced by the Counter-Reformation from Poland. Due to an economic decline, the old visual understandings of the saints were kept in Orava much longer than in other regions of Slovakia. Even in the 20th century paintings, sculptures and reliefs of saints had a strong position in Orava´s people lives and fulfilled their original functions, where public beliefs and the Church promised the protection of man, his family, property and labour. They were situated in chapels, crossroads, on columns along the roads, cemeteries and on house facades. The Orava Gallery was officially established on 3rd November 1965. Its task was to collect pieces of visual art expressions of the Orava in such a way, that not only typical characteristic features of folk artists from Orava would come to the fore but also the intensity of the expression, an abundance of artistic forms in the folk and in the professional art, differences among artists standing on different levels of understanding of the world and their artistic reflection.
The beautiful natural scenery of Slanica Island, in the middle of Orava Dam, was chosen as a suitable place to install permanent exhibitions from the Orava Gallery´s collections. A permanent exhibition of Slovak Traditional Folk Sculpture and Glass-painting was installed in the interior of the Church, originally built as a Baroque chapel, which was the dominant part of the now flooded villages. The history of the flooded villages is documented in the former tomb and an exhibition of Orava Stone Sculptures has been situated in the lapidary of church exterior. Access to the Island is with an Orava Galleries ship “OG-SLANICA” from port No.2 in Slanická Osada during the period from May to September.
Another external permanent exhibition from Orava Gallery´s collection is the exhibition of lifelong works of a national artist Mária Medvecká (1914 - 1987), which has been installed in the yeoman mansion from the 19th century in Tvrdošín – Medvedzie, in 1979. Mária Medvecká studied in the European capitals Vienna, Prague and Bratislava and after her university studies she returned to her home region – Orava. Together with her husband, painter Ctibor Belan dedicated themselves to a creative work as well as to important cultural and social activities. In fact, thanks to their diligence and cooperation with painters couple Ignác a Běla Kolčák, the Orava Gallery was founded. If we look at works of many painters, who were inspired by the beauty of the Orava and connected to this region by a longer stay, we come to the conclusion, that the Mária Medvecká effort to capture the essence of this region and its people is incomparable. Her realistic figure compositions, inspired by mothers with children and women working on the fields, have become a visual document of this unique region at that time. The Mária Medvecká gallery is opened from April till October.
In 1995, the Orava Gallery moved into a new reconstructed building, County House from the 17th century, which has become it’s an administrative and exhibition centre. Besides permanent exhibitions from the Gallery´s collections (15th — 19th Century Art; Icons; 20th Century Slovak Art; Traditional Folk Art; Štefan Siváň — woodcarver from Orava) the gallery also organizes short-term exhibitions of Slovak and international art in four exhibition halls.