Winter Park museum offers free admission for a day.

For one day on Saturday, Sept. 29, the Albin Polasek Museum in Winter Park will be open to the public — for free. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

WINTER PARK – It starts, quite obviously, with that special offer: for one day, the admission price is gone, and a local museum is opening its doors to the public – for free.
“This is probably the fourth or fifth year we’ve participated in this,” said Claire Ponsonby. “We can have anywhere from 200 to 300 people come through. We have an open house format, so we don’t do formal tours, but we will also have some family-oriented activities.”
Ponsonby is the curator of the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, which on Saturday, Sept. 29 will open its doors free of charge from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be complimentary art activities in the museum’s Galley, and kids can create garden-inspired artwork out of recycled materials in a hands-on, eco-friendly project.
In addition, Amy Wieck, president of the Florida Sculptors Guild, will be attending this event and demonstrating the process of “life casting” and mould making. Visitors can learn about this ancient technique through Wieck’s demonstration.
The Albin Polasek Museum is not doing this alone, though. It’s part of the eighth annual Free Museum Day Live, which more than 1,400 other participating venues and museums will be taking part in.
“It’s the Smithsonian-sponsored event,” said Ponsonby. “They have a link to it on their Web site, and they came up with Museum Day, so it’s something the whole country participates in, and it’s a nationwide event.”
It’s a way, she said, to remind people that they have museums in their communities that record different aspects of the local history. Located at 633 Osceola Ave. in Winter Park, the Albin Polasek Museum was founded in 1961 and is the home to an art collection created by the Czech-born American sculptor Albin Polasek. The museum’s primary exhibit is American representational sculpture, with more than 200 works by Polasek.
The museum also exhibits contemporary art in its gallery space, with guided tours of the historic Polasek residence and chapel on the property, and of the sculpture garden located on Lake Osceola.
The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
By taking part in Free Museum Day Live, Ponsonby said, the event serves as a reminder to the community that the museum is a part of Central Florida’s cultural activities.
“Any museum that offers free admission that day, we’re all promoted on the Smithsonian’s Web site,” she said.
To gain the free admission, log on to the Smithsonian Institution’s Web site at
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/ and download a ticket.
The Polasek Museum is also working on another program right now: to recruit volunteers through its new volunteer and docent training program.
Polasek volunteers and docents – or tour guides who learn all about Albin Polasek and provide speaking tours to visitors – don’t need to have experience, although they should be comfortable speaking to the public.
Volunteer opportunities include being a part of the museum’s guided tour program, assisting with keeping the gardens looking beautiful, and assisting guests with questions or in gift shop purchases.
“We’ve relied on volunteers as a non-profit museum since our inception,” Ponsonby said. “We really have a good volunteer core group working in our gardens. It’s been an ongoing program, and we have several different things available for our volunteers. They can work in the gardens and learn about garden care, and our gallery receptionists are either greeting visitors or assisting in the gift shop. People can also train to be docents, and learn about Polasek and be able to take the visitors through the museum.”
“Being a museum docent is unlike other volunteer experience,” says Trudy Furno, docent trainer and research specialist at the museum. “Docents become well acquainted with Polasek’s life story and art, and have many opportunities to interact with museum visitors. It can truly be a rewarding experience to make a connection with a group of guests and get them excited about what we have to offer here.“
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1-4 p.m., and can be reached by calling 407-647-6294 or emailing volunteer@polasek.org.
“We do rely on a broad section of people,” Ponsonby said. “Sometimes it’s the retired person looking to do something, sometimes it’s the students doing volunteer hours for academic credit. There is a broad section of opportunities here. It’s an ongoing need, and an ongoing cultivation process as well.”

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