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Feb 28, 2024

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A Painting’s Incredible Journey

The first Polish immigrants who came to Baltimore in the late 19th century (among them, the artist’s grandparents) settled in the waterfront neighborhoods of Fells Point and Locust Point. It was in Fells Point that they worked hard and saved money to build their own church (one of three) in 1889, St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, seen in the background with its distinctive steeple with a large white cross. The priests who ministered to the parishioners were Conventual Franciscan Friars.

(Photo of painting: CHRIST’S PRESENCE IN FELLS POINT
Artist: Stella Dernoga Hazard)

This painting began its life in 1977 when Stella Dernoga Hazard was commissioned to paint it by Ms. Marie Giza. Marie wanted to donate the painting to her home parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka on Ann Street in Baltimore’s Fells Point. The painting was made to a specified size to fit in a niche in the rectory’s dining area. Marie requested that Christ be the central figure and that a Franciscan be a part of the picture, along with other figures representing the Polish immigrants and others from the community.

Over the decades there was a shift in the demographics of the neighborhood, with the Polish families achieving the American dream of a better life with good jobs, education, and newer larger homes. They dispersed farther outward, away from the inner city. With the ensuing drop of the traditional attendance, the church was closed by the Franciscans in 2000 after 111 years of faithful service to the local Polonia. A dispute arose between the remaining parishioners and the Franciscan Order who claimed ownership of the property. The Franciscans wanted to sell the entire property and replace the church and all its other buildings with upscale condos. The parishioners, both past and present were horrified at this development, Marie Giza among them. The bitter dispute pushed Marie to take back the painting away from the Franciscan’s possession and try to find another home for it. Luckily, she did this, because the rectory where it rested for almost 25 years was eventually torn down.

After that, the painting mysteriously disappeared from view. At one point, an associate of the Giza family communicated with our Polish Heritage club via email asking if someone would be interested in buying it, but that connection went dry, and the painting slipped into obscurity for the next 11 years.

Then late in 2014 we receive an excited email from our club president exclaiming – “It’s a miracle”! She received an email from the church secretary at St. Anthony of Padua church in northeast Baltimore saying some man dropped off a large painting of Christ in Fells Point, wanting to donate it to the church. The man was a member of the Seafarer’s International Union, located on Essex Street in Fells Point. Originally, the painting had somehow made its home at the “Seafarer’s Church” which then gave it to the Seafarer’s Union, who had it for about two years. They couldn’t hang it up because they didn’t want to offend anyone of another religion, so they ended up giving it to him in 2014.

He held onto it but had to move away and could not take it with him. He offered it to one of his neighbors ( a couple who are both pastors of nearby Lutheran churches) but they said they couldn’t take it. His wife told him to try bringing it to the local Catholic church up the street – St. Anthony of Padua. He said he should have thought about it since he had gone by so many times. He was afraid that he had done something wrong and the church told him no, he had done well by bringing it to them. He only wanted a receipt that stated he brought them the painting. The receipt stated that they had received a “large oil painting of Christ in Fells Point.” He said that if the church hadn’t taken it he was going to throw it in the dumpster!!

How did the church secretary track us down about the painting? In 2014, the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland celebrated its 40th anniversary with a party where Stella was honored for her 99th birthday as the club’s oldest living member. Photos of her and a small article about the event were published in the PolAm Journal newspaper which also has an on-line edition. The church secretary Googled the signature of the painter and up popped the recent article about Stella’s 99th birthday, which also had an email address for our Polish Heritage club president.

All of us familiar with Fells Point and its history know about the SIU union hall and the Seafarer’s Church. They manned the tugboats in the harbor which used to tie up alongside the old recreation pier in Fells Point. The odd part about it in this story is that Stella’s daughter lives right next to the SIU’s training facility way down in Piney Point in southern Maryland, and she worked for them for seven years! We can only assume that the Giza family eventually had given the painting over to the Seafarer’s Church (now the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center) at some point in time.

What an incredible journey – just like those oft -times perilous journeys of those immigrants portrayed in the painting– a survivor, it has finally made its way home to its resting place, back into the hands of its creator.

by Carla Hazard Tomaszewski

 

Please read the following story about the above named artist
STANISLAWA “STELLA” MARTA DERNOGA
By Richard Poremski and Carla Tomaszewski

Stella Dernoga Hazard –
An Artist’s First Hundred Years”

Stella’s family has an extraordinarily long and distinguished history working as professional artists, stemming in part from her paternal grandfather Kazimierz and her father, John (Jan) Dernoga whose creative talents as a self-taught woodcarver and ship model builder were passed on to his only child, Stella. Stella’s husband Charles Oliver “Hap” Hazard, Jr. also inherited artistic talent and supported his family as a top graphic designer and art director in Baltimore. It was inevitable that both their children, Charles and Carla, would go on to become accomplished and productive professional artists in their own right.

BabyStella1916forwebStella’s lineage is 100% Polish. She was born Stanislawa Marta Dernoga, November 2, 1915 to Martha and John Dernoga, whose parents had immigrated to Baltimore from Poland in the 1890’s. Martha came over on the boat as a babe-in-arms and was only 16 years old when she married her husband John. A year later, they had their only child, Stanislawa.  (Photo: Baby Stella 1916)

John was born in Fells Point on Shakespeare Street and when grown, started out as a cook-baker in the Merchant Marine. John had artistic leanings, making a name for himself doing cartoons for the local Polish newspaper, Jednosc Polonia, and creating wooden ship models for many different clients. Clearly his creative talent was inherited from his own father, Kazimierz, who painted folk art designs of flowers and angels on the walls of their east Baltimore rowhouse and made carved and painted devotional shrines to Mary and the Saints. This artistic sensibility was passed on to little Stasia. She sold her first art piece to her favorite uncle Pete Dernoga, earning a whole dollar for her drawing of a bunny rabbit. Her father encouraged her artistic talent by sending her to Saturday art classes at the Maryland Institute of Art on Mt. Royal Ave. During this time, Stella grew up in the heart of Baltimore’s large Polish immigrant neighborhood in East Baltimore, centered around Holy Rosary Church, then at Eastern Ave. and Broadway. Polish was her first language, and she attended the church’s Polish school until around the age of ten. Then her parents moved out of the Polish neighborhood to south Baltimore where they bought and ran the Westport bakery.

Stella%201921forwebAfter graduating near the top of her class at Western High School, Baltimore, she was awarded full four-year scholastic scholarships to William & Mary College in Virginia and to her chosen Maryland Institute School of Fine and Applied Arts, Baltimore. She began her career there, at the tender age of 18, as an assistant instructor in classic watercolor, and basic drawing, under the mentorship of instructor, Ms. Adele Becker. Later she taught her own regular classes in watercolor and antique cast drawing. She earned a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the Institute. It was there that she met her future husband, Charles Oliver “Hap” Hazard, Jr. who was a lettering instructor. They married in 1942 right before Hap joined the war effort. Her classical artistic training at the Maryland Institute under the leadership of the famous sculptor, Hans Schuler, prepared her to become an accomplished fine artist specializing in watercolor and portraiture in oils and charcoal. (Photo: Stella 1921)

After art college, Stella worked as a botanical artist/research assistant to Dr. William H. Brown at Johns Hopkins University, Homewood campus, Baltimore. She also did freelance research art for various biologists there, including a Dr. Chen, researching cancer cells at University of Berkeley, CA. and for Dr. Ladeema A. Langdon, head of the biology department of Goucher College.

Ollie&StellaHazard'42forwebIn 1939, she began work at the Baltimore EVENING SUN newspaper. When World War II broke out in 1941, with all the men being called into service, she became a pioneer in the then male-dominated newspaper business by being named the very first woman editorial staff artist of the Baltimore EVENING SUN newspaper, working beside the likes of journalist/essayist H. L. Mencken, photographer A. Aubrey Bodine, historian Gerald Johnson, cartoonists Yardley and Stees and arts critic R. P. Harris. Her wartime duties included receiving and preparing for publication photos from the war fronts in Europe and the Pacific, creating large pictorial spreads. The SUN sent her off to different military training sites to chronicle the role of women in the military. She produced several full broadside spreads of drawings from those assignments. Her specialty became fashion illustration at the SUNPAPERS whose editors would send her on assignment to the famed 7th Avenue New York fashion houses of Traina Norell, Nettie Rosenstein, Lilly Daché and Claire McCardel to draw the latest fashions as they were introduced. She worked at the SUN until 1947 when her firstborn son, Charles Rodger was born. Not long afterward, Stella and Hap bought their first and only home in Sudbrook Park, Pikesville, and in 1951, their daughter Carla was born. (Photo: Ollie & Stella Hazard)

StellaMaryvale2forwebLater in her career, she headed the art department at Maryvale Trinity College Preparatory high school from 1966-1979 and at Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University), north of Baltimore, until her retirement at age of 64. She earned a Masters in Educational Psychology through an in-service program run by the University of Notre Dame for Maryvale faculty.

Over the years, Stella has painted numerous commissions for churches, synogogues and private patrons. In 2003 she was commissioned by the National Katyn Memorial Foundation to do a large watercolor of the National Katyn Memorial in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor East. The finished piece was presented to the monument’s sculptor, Andzrej Pitynski of Poland, in gratitude for his fine work. Her later years she spent pursuing her hobby of manuscript illumination, iconography, and calligraphy, in addition to doing illustrations for Poppyfield Press, a graphics business she and her daughter founded to promote knowledge and appreciation of Polish culture, history and traditions.

Well, that’s the first hundred years!