FÉSZEK ARTS CLUB

Kertész utca 36.
BUILT IN: 1867


STORY

The building on the corner of Dob Street and Kertész Street was built by the Pest Jewish Women's Association in 1867 with funds generously provided by Baron Mór Hirsch, one of the noted philanthropists of the 19th century. The Society had been founded in 1866 at the initiative of Johanna Fischer, daughter of Herend porcelain manufacturer Móric Fischer and wife of David Bischitz. It had 230 members at its founding. Johanna Fischer devoted her life to charity and welfare work, and she served as president of the Women’s Society until her death in 1898. Franz Joseph gave her a golden cross of distinction in recognition of her achievements, and he gave her family a title of nobility in 1895. Chief Rabbi of Dohány Synagogue Wolf Alois Meisel also labored tirelessly for years to ensure that the buildingwould be erected and would serve as an orphanage for girls. It was designed and constructed by renowned architect Vilmos Freund, who had close ties to the Jewish community. From the moment of its foundation, the Society, honoring ancient Jewish traditions, made the provision of care and assistance for women and girls who were sick or poor its essential aim. In their charter, they specifically set the construction of an orphanage for girls as one of their goals, and thanks to the help they were given by Baron Hirsch they were able to meet this goal relatively quickly with the construction of the building in Kertész Street, where 100 orphaned girls were given accommodation. In 1869, the Women’s Society created a soup-kitchen, which provided 300 meals every day for the indigent, regardless of their religious beliefs or backgrounds.

By the turn of the century, the building began to prove too small to serve the function for which it had been constructed, so the orphanage was moved to another building. In 1901, it became home to the Fészek Művészklub ('Nest Arts Club,” the acronym is from “Festőművészek, Építőművészek, Szobrászok, Zenészek, Énekesek és Komédiások klubja,” or “Visual artists’, architects’, sculptors’, musicians’, singers’, and comedians’ club”), hence the name by which it is known today. The soup-kitchen, however, continued to work out of the building until 1925.

Today, the three-story building, which has been declared a protected historic monument, remains home to Fészek, which functions as a public association. It was founded in 1901 with funds contributed by artists. The intention was to provide a forum that would bring together creative minds from a diverse array of branches of the arts in order to promote the exchange of ideas and nurture personal and professional relationships. According to the first point of the charter, the goal of the club was “to encourage social interaction among artists so that groups which have been scattered can meet in a shared, warm nest and serve the arts by interacting and engaging in the fruitful exchange of ideas. This intimate inner bond will give the association moral prestige in the eyes of the outside world.”

The founders included some of the most prominent artists of the day, such as painter Gyula Benczúr, writer Sándor Bródy, actor Gyula Csortos, sculptor János Fadrusz, painter Adolf Fényes, actor Sándor Góth, actor Gyula Hegedűs, writer Jenő Heltai, composer Jenő Hubay, composer Pongrác Kacsóh, painter Károly Kernstok, architect Ödön Lechner, writer Ferenc Molnár, actor Árpád Ódry, actor Imre Pethes, painter József Rippl-Rónai, actor Kálmán Rózsahegyi, sculptor Alajos Stróbl, painter Pál Szinyei Merse, actor Ede Újházi, and painter János Vaszary.

In January 1945, the building, which was on the corner of what at the time had been designated as the Jewish ghetto, was hit by bombs and shells and became unusable. The members of the association had the building restored at their own expense. In 1950, the club was nationalized after having been dubbed a meeting place of the bourgeois by the regime, but it continued to function under the cultural portfolio until the change of regimes in 1989, with the incorporation of the Artists’ Labor Unions. Following the democratic transformation of Hungary in 1989, the club regained both its independence and the building. It remains active today and indeed is unique in the country and perhaps the world as a cultural center and theater that welcomes representatives of all of the branches of the arts.

See the artist: Dániel Halász 

By Viktor Cseh and Zita Mara Vadasz