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What To Expect At Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens In Winter Park, Florida

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If you're in Winter Park, check out this What To Expect At Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens In Winter Park post before your trip.

Ever since the world closed last March, we haven’t really been able to go to our local church. At first, churches were closed completely in North Carolina. Luckily, during that time, we found the St. Margaret Mary’s Church livestream.

Each week, we stream the mass — which started out as just the priests having mass and has turned into the priests and the congregation. We really look forward to it each Sunday. We love the priests and deacons. Each one has such a distinct personality and have really gotten us through the last year.

When churches started to reopen around here, I didn’t really feel comfortable going and sitting inside, with all the doors and windows closed (since it’s still cold here in North Carolina) for an hour. So we kept streaming St. Margaret Mary’s.

When we went to Florida recently, we knew we had to get tickets to mass at St. Margaret Mary’s Church.

It’s in Winter Park, Florida, the same town that houses the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. It’s a reciprocal garden to Airlie Gardens, our local botanical garden. Since we have a garden pass to Airlie Gardens through the American Horticultural Society, we’re able to get into reciprocal gardens for free.

So we decided to check out the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens.

What To Expect At Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens In Winter Park, Florida

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens (633 Osceola Ave) is a residence-turned-museum.

Albin Polasek originally had the residence built as his retirement home. He moved from Chicago, where he was head of the Department of Sculpture at the Art Institute, to Winter Park in 1950.

He picked the Florida town because his long-term on and off again girlfriend, Ruth Sherwood, (of over 30 years!) was living in the area, taking care of her aging mother.

Within months of his retirement, he suffered a stroke that left his right side paralyzed. Not too long after that, he and Ruth finally married.

And a mere 22 months later, Ruth passed away.

Doesn’t sound like a relaxing retirement!

And in fact, it wasn’t. Polasek retired, sure, but he had a huge studio set up in the Winter Park home and used it to complete sculptures, paintings, a plaster version of the Stations of the Cross, and more.

He completed 18 major works post-stroke, which is amazing.

But is the museum amazing?

Honestly, his accomplishments are a little more amazing on paper than the museum is in actuality.

The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is comprised of five main sections: the historic Polasek home, the sculpture gardens, the chapel, the Capen-Showalter House, and the rotating gallery space.

If you get to the museum at the right time, you can take a guided tour of the home. That’s definitely worth it.

While you’re on the tour, which is included with your admission, you sit in one of the rooms of the home to watch a 15-minute video about Polasek’s life and the museum.

After the video, you’re brought into the main room of the historic home to marvel at Polasek’s works. Our favorite was the wooden nativity scene he carved when he was 15 years old. He made his own pigments for the scene and carved the faces of his neighbors into the characters in the scene.

You’ll come to find out later this is definitely a quality he took into other works.

Our tour guide was so knowledgeable of Polasek, his life, his wives, and his work. She was able to answer any questions our group asked — and even ones we didn’t.

The tour takes between 30 and 45 minutes, give or take. If you don’t take the tour, you’ll probably only spend 30 minutes total at the sculpture garden because it’s only three acres.

This is, mostly, because the Capen-Showalter House, which is on the property, is closed for private events pretty often. It was closed the day we went to visit the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. You can have a wedding there, and if you do, that area of the museum is closed to the public.

If there’s a private event at the Capen-Showalter House, you’re told about it when you walk in the museum to pay your admission. So you can decide to skip the museum due to part of it being inaccessible, but by the time you’re there, you’re probably not going to turn around.

Unfortunately, the museum’s event calendar only lists the current exhibit in the rotating gallery space, not any private events. You could probably call the museum ahead of time to ask about private events, but it would be helpful if this information was listed online somewhere.

I did see someone else complain about this, wishing she would have known about the Capen-Showalter House closure ahead of time, so it wasn’t just us.

Without being able to get into that section, we weren’t able to spend that much time at the museum.

The part of the sculpture garden we were able to see were beautiful. And the chapel, which I think you’re only able to access if you take the tour, was amazing. Polasek hand drew the Stations of the Cross with colored pencils and charcoal, and it’s incredible.

Those drawings were more impressive (to me anyway) than the bronzed version of the Stations of the Cross that are on the property.

While we were looking at the Stations, one of the museum’s staff members came to talk to us. She let us know that Polasek felt awful when his mother passed away and he decided to be with her for eternity in sculpture.

If you look at Station 12 of 14, you’ll see Polasek and his mother. He used his mother’s face as the mother (aka Jesus’ mom Mary) since no one exactly knows what Mary’s face looked like. There were no cameras back in Jesus’ time, after all.

On Station 12, Mary is there, bearing Polasek’s mom’s face, just like he used his neighbor’s faces in the nativity he made.

And Polasek is there in the corner of the Station, hidden unless you know to look for him.

This Station is also his monument at Winter Park’s Palm Cemetery.

Polasek passed away in 1965, over 20 years before his second wife, Emily.

Emily, who was also a widow before she married Polasek, was the impetus behind the museum itself. She started a foundation in his name and that foundation turned his home into the museum that’s there today.

Emily was able to live in the home until she passed away in 1988. And that’s when it was turned into a museum, officially, even though the home and Polasek’s studio had been open to the public since 1961.

For more about Albin Polasek, you can check out Carving His Own Destiny; the Story of Albin Polásek by his first wife, Ruth Sherwood Polasek, or Albin Polasek: man carving his own destiny by his second wife, Emily Polasek.

Both books are titled after his sculpture, “man carving his own destiny”, which is arguably Polasek’s most famous sculpture. He carved 53 different variations of it during his lifetime.

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens Information

Address: 633 Osceola Avenue; Winter Park, FL 32789

Phone: 407-647-6294

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 4 pm; Sunday: 1 pm to 4 pm; closed on Monday

Admission: Adults $10, Seniors (60+) $8, College Students with ID $8, Students (K-12) $3, Members and children 4 and under are free

Parking: There’s free onsite parking

Food: There’s no stores that sell food on site

Other museums in Winter Park, Florida

If you’re heading to check out the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, it won’t take you all day. So be sure to check out these other museums in the area:

Day trips from Winter Park, Florida

Winter Park, Florida is just under 15 minutes out of the city center of Orlando, and less than 30 minutes from the Orlando theme parks. So you could definitely drive out to one of those in a day.

You could also visit the following places: