This program requires all students to take a core course, "An Introduction to Modern Germany and Berlin," which examines both history and culture, taught by Dr. Roland Dollinger. It provides a basic context and a timeline with a weekly focus (Weimar, Nazi Germany, Divided Germany, 1989-Present) that will serve as a foundation for in-depth study in one of the following areas:

  • Dance: Practice and Study
  • Creative Writing (Poetry/Short Fiction)
  • Visual Arts & Architecture: Practice and Study
  • German Language

Complementing the course work are walking tours, museum and archive visits, excursions, theatre-going, film nights, and opportunities to meet working artists.

The fifth and final week of the program is dedicated entirely to realization of independent projects.

2020 Focus

In 2020, the group excursion is to Leipzig, where the "velvet revolution" that ended communism and united Germany began. Since Medieval times, Leipzig has been a trading center. Students will tour some of the finest Renaissance architecture from the 16th century as well as Baroque period trading houses still in commercial use. We’ll also visit the Baumwollspinnerei, a vibrant utopian suburb of artists, galleries, art libraries and media center situated in a former cotton weaving "city". We also plan an evening at the Leipzig Opera House to see a full chorus, ballet, and orchestra production of Bach’s Johannes Passion. For a break we’ll visit The Arabian Coffee Tree, which first opened its doors to gentlemen and intellectuals in 1694. A small and fascinating museum tells the history of coffee, from politics and myth, to the personalities it influenced—and how it is to be enjoyed.

2020 is the 11th Berlin Biennale. Through guided and non-guided time, students will explore what a team of curators have determined to be the most avant garde art trends to-date. Exhibitions, installations, and events turn unexpected locations into viewing stages. We can expect to be provoked and inspired, engaged and even enraged as trending art from around the world is set against an unfamiliar backdrop of the city, its people and their relationship to art. That is Berlin!

Course Descriptions

An Introduction to Modern Germany and Berlin

Instructor: Roland Dollinger
Required course

This four-week summer course introduces all students to the history and culture of modern Germany with an emphasis on its capital, Berlin. Through the exploration of literature, film, and historical sources, students gain a solid overview of the main historical and cultural developments in modern Germany from the early 20th century to the present. As the site of some of the most fascinating, momentous, and horrifying events of the 20th century, Berlin offers an ideal vantage point for an in-depth study. An essential component of the seminar consists of extended class visits to historical sites.

Using the timeline provided in Professor Dollinger’s core course, students will delve into specifics on alternative days in dance, literature (creative writing), or visual arts/architecture seminars.

Dance Practice and Study

Dance students will take four technique classes a week at studios of their choice in the Berlin community, in addition to a weekly workshop in composition and improvisation taught exclusively for Summer Arts in Berlin dancers by Professor Ingo Reulecke. This workshop has a strong focus on somatic work, encouraging students to bring physical knowledge into a form and enables them to find new compositional methods through improvisation and visualization that will inform and nurture the choreographic process.

Study—“From Political Revolutionaries to Cultural Missionaries: Dance and Dancers in Germany from 1900–2017”

Instructor: Jacalyn Carley

Seminars are held at the dance archives, Mediathek, where extensive material is made available to us. Exploring the unique biographies of German modern dancers who created and performed as part of and under five different political systems in the past 100 years, we’ll follow the intertwining of dance and history, and look closely at how modern dance in Germany today reflects and actually influences social history. Decades of cross-pollination between US and German expressionist, modern, and postmodern dance are part of the bigger picture. Our perspective is confluent with Professor Dollinger’s core course in German history.

We will extend the scope of classroom lectures and help students grasp the German notion of dance as a sustainable, revolutionary, exportable, and life-changing art form by visiting various institutions and attending off and off-off dance performances.

Independent Choreographic Project and Studio Presentation

In the fifth and final week of the program, students are given 24-hour use of a studio-theater at either Ufer or Eden studios in Berlin. With instructor feedback, dancers complete and then show their work to fellow students and invited guests in a studio presentation.

Visual Arts & Architecture: Practice and Study
Practice—Fine Arts/Drawing

Instructor: Lara Faroqhi

Three mornings a week, drawing students explore the visual culture of Berlin, creating sketchbooks that include notes, drawings, found images, and creative writing. Students are on-the-go, visiting exhibitions, galleries and artists’ studios, usually at locations that resonate with the historical timeline being worked on in Professor Dollinger’s core course. Students are encouraged to refine and define their personal motivations for making and understanding art, while, at the same time, gaining insight into the Berlin art scene. In addition, some assignments use works of art and architecture to train the eye and develop an understanding for what is critical in a particular work.

Study—“Challenging Art and Architecture: Critical Interventions in Berlin”

Instructors: Gundula Avenarius, Christian Dengler

As the capital of a united Germany in search of its identity, Berlin is the place where east and west clash and mesh. International architects and artists have flocked to Berlin, fascinated by the vast open tracts in a European capital.

The breathtaking transformations of the last 30 years are, however, but another chapter in a tradition of upheaval in Berlin. Twice a week, students have 3-hour seminars on location, looking at art and architecture. Locations and topics are confluent with the core course in German history, enabling students to place art, architecture, and political history into context.

Examining vivid and often controversial positions in art and architecture, students learn to analyze each period as an expression of a (national or post-national) state of mind, and come to comprehend concepts like figurative or abstract, traditional or modern. By studying symbolic and image politics, students understand how art and architecture transport political ideas, and how these are read, displayed, and consumed. Students also learn about the changing notions of art, from Romanticism to Bauhaus to Beuys, and consider the concerns of the individual artists and architects as well as the wider historical, political, economic, social, and cultural background in which their works were created.

The key prerequisites for this program are intellectual curiosity and creativity, and the desire to interrogate personal assumptions about the meanings of art and architecture.

Note: Visual Arts students spend a lot of time on their feet each day, getting to various locations in greater Berlin and then exploring them, and should be prepared for the physical demands.

Independent Project and Presentation

Instructor/Mentors: Lara Faroqhi

During the final week of the program, students pursue independent projects. During morning practice and the afternoon academic seminar, students will have developed the artistic skills and acquired the intellectual background for understanding their own positions in the art field. In the culminating fifth week of the program, they complete projects that take on an artistic challenge, reflect the process thus far, or investigate new perspectives. Students learn to write an artist's statement and to present their work as part of the group show.

German Language Studies

Please note: Students should have studied at least one year of German at the college level (or equivalent).

Our partner, Die Neue Schule, offers eleven levels of classes, enabling students to be accurately placed according to their current skill level. Classes meet every morning for five weeks, and twice weekly in the afternoon (four weeks) for intensive conversation. Language skills acquired at Die Neue Schule are reinforced in the German culture core seminar and by various excursions, and are thus experienced in a true historical and cultural context.

Independent Project

In the fifth and final week, students work exclusively on an independent project. We encourage students to develop ideas that engage with Berlin and to use their German language skills. In the past, language students have done projects that interview local historians, written poetry on-site, investigated ruins. Language students meet with Professor Dollinger in individual tutorials during the independent study week. Projects are presented to fellow students and invited guests on the final day of the program.

Creative Writing

Instructor: Dr. Donna Stonecipher

Creative Writing accommodates students with interests in poetry and short fiction. It consists of three parts: morning practice, afternoon seminar, and independent project. All sections are taught by Dr. Donna Stonecipher, a Sarah Lawrence College graduate and prize-winning poet.

Morning Practice

Morning Practice takes place twice a week, often in a different location, and configures with the historical epoch being studied in Professor Dollinger’s class. Prompts are provided. For example, when examining Divided Berlin, students might write about Modernist architecture at Hansaplatz, or at the monumental sculpture commemorating the Soviet War losses. Or, we might choose music, art, or film of the various historical epochs, for example, "Expressionism in the Weimar Republic" can be prompted with Schönberg’s music or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or by selected art works on view at the Berlinische Galerie.

Afternoon Seminar

Afternoon Seminar, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, introduces selected seminal writers of each historical period during the first part of each session. Translated German texts provide the student with a broad-based understanding of literary responses to historical upheaval in terms of form, means of publication, and responses of the time. From Dada (nonsense) writers like Kurt Schwitters/Scheerbart responding to the horrors of World War I to Bertolt Brecht’s plainspoken political poetry and Walter Benjamin’s essays leading up to World War II; Paul Celan’s poems and Ingeborg Bachmann’s fiction post-World War II; East German writers like Christa Wolf and Helga Novak, West German ‘pop’ poet Rolf-Dieter Brinkmann; to post-1989 writers such as poet Monika Rinck, novelist Jenny Erpenbeck and hybrid fiction writer Yoko Tawada, who writes half in German and half in Japanese. The second half of each seminar is dedicated to workshopping student work.

Independent Project

Independent Project works should result from student engagement with Berlin. All students present their projects on the final day of the semester to each other and invited guests.

In addition, Creative Writing students will visit various international literary institutions, translation groups, local expat writing venues/events, and/or possibly meet successful expat writers.

Independent Projects

During the fifth and final week of the program, all students pursue independent projects under the mentorship of a faculty member. At the end of the week, each student presents a summary of work accomplished during morning practice, as well as the results of their final project to a gathering of fellow students, faculty, and invited guests.

  • A visual art and architecture project might involve architectural model building, photographic essays, extended site explorations, fine arts investigations, or the completion of a conceptual sketchbook.
  • Creative writing students might, for example, create a series of poems or a work of short fiction as an extended investigation into one of the many prompts offered during Morning Practice.
  • Dancers, in the final week, have sole use of a studio space at Ufer Studios or at EDEN where they create works for a final presentation.
  • Language students might consider interviewing ordinary Germans in the streets or cafés of Berlin about political or cultural events, writing reviews of art exhibitions or German movies, or visiting significant cultural sites and creating a detailed report.