Summer Arts in Berlin

Summer Arts in Berlin is a Sarah Lawrence program for students of dance, language, fine arts and photography, as well as being open to those who are simply interested in learning about the broader cultural history of Germany and Berlin’s place in it. Berlin is, and always has been, defined by its vitality and the arts in equal measure. By understanding the city's cultural relevance and critical position in Europe, students will gain a new perspective on their own work. The program is comprehensive in every aspect: students are asked to rigorously engage with the material, the city, and with their colleagues. We will be actively seeking out our place in a broader social-historical context, continually on-the-go, making art and engaging with those who live from the arts. Language students are encouraged to explore the various contextual layers of history that Berlin presents.

Program Overview

A core course in “German History and Culture” (twice a week) provides all students with basic historical context as of 1900. This required course serves as a jumping off point for in depth study and practice in one of the following options: 

  • Dance Practice and Study
  • The Practice and Study of Visual Arts and Architecture
  • German Language Studies

All classes are complimented by walking tours, museum and archive visits, excursions, theatre-going, film nights, and opportunities to meet working artists in a salon environment.

Dance Practice and Study

Dancers will engage in the broader cultural conversation, touching upon common history with architecture, fine arts, and music in the last century in Europe. We will explore the paths first tread by radical choreographers and various utopias in the 1910s, examine the effect of WWII and various political systems on the dance, talk about the American Invasion of dance in the 1980s. Today, Berlin is home to the most small companies and independent dance artists in all of Europe, as well as boasting the largest state ballet company in Germany. In a city with a strong dance history and exploding dance scene, we will follow the notion that Berlin continues to be a place in progress, one that never arrives. Please note: Students should have at least one year of dance study at the college level (or the equivalent). Learn more about the  core curriculum and courses offered.

The Practice and Study of Visual Arts and Architecture

Layers of history exist beneath the fast changing architectural landscape that currently defines Berlin. For over a century, the city has been a nucleus and catalyst, a place where inexpensive living and interesting venues continue to grant the arts a dominant role in Berlin life. Low rent as well as a high number of galleries have meant an influx of world renowned personalities working next to young artists—from the fine arts to photography, from performance to complex interdisciplinary ventures—the sheer amount of art on display is inescapable and ubiquitous. Classes are held at different locations so that we can cover all aspects: from the Baroque to Socialist Realism, from Bauhaus to the Post Modern, from Expressionism to conceptual art. Learn more about the core curriculum and courses offered.

German Language Studies

Open to all students (previous knowledge of German is not required), this program will provide the opportunity to become more proficient and experience the German language in a living cultural context. Daily language lessons, directed communication with native speakers, and excursions to other German cities provide an intensive and rich learning environment. At the completion of this program, students should advance to the next level of proficiency. Learn more about the core curriculum and courses offered.

2016 Focus

2016 will focus on roughly one hundred years of modernity, with a strong concentration on contemporary developments. Investigating selected key places, events, and personalities, we will be chasing the elusive and ever-changing character of Berlin—which includes understanding the distinct artistic and architectural histories of East Berlin and West Berlin, the deep and enduring relationship between America and Germany, finding the roots of Expressionism, DADA, New Objectivity, and other art movements that serve to inform us as artists and thinkers today. In addition to examining the remnants and effects of Nazi Germany on everyday cultural life, we place a strong emphasis on the current tsunami of new talents in Berlin’s contemporary art and dance scenes.

Our two-day excursion in 2016 will be to the mountains and rivers of Saxony-Anhalt (also called Saxony-Switzerland) providing a time-out for reflection and relaxation. Along with breathtaking vistas in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, students can also visit a local spa or simply enjoy the picturesque village of Bad Schandau with sketchbooks and cameras. Our guided hike along the Malerweg (Path of the Painters) is one of the most beautiful and popular hikes in Germany, traversing fascinating rock formations that have impressed and inspired painters, musicians, and poets from across Europe for hundreds of years.

Throughout the semester, students have the opportunity to expand their field of study beyond the stated curriculum with a wide range of events such as artists’ salons, film nights, art festivals, organized tours to ‘extra’ museums, and visit a concentration camp.