Summer Arts in Berlin

Summer Arts in Berlin is a Sarah Lawrence program designed for students of dance, language, the 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 defined by its vitality and the arts in equal measure. The program is designed to get students into the city, to help them understand and participate in current debates in the contemporary arts, to become engaged with artists of all types, and to provide a real taste of what is happening now in one of Europe’s most dynamic metropolises. From fine arts to architecture, literature, theater and dance, understanding Berlin’s cultural relevance and critical position today (and in the past 100 years) will give students a new perspective on their own work.

Summer Arts in Berlin is a rigorous program that puts students into the shifting heart of this fascinating city.

Program Overview

A core course in “German History and Culture” (twice a week) provides all students with basic historical context as of WWI. 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 academic programs are complimented by walking tours, museum and archive visits, theatre-going, film nights and opportunities to meet working artists in a salon environment.

Dance Practice and Study

We will engage in the cultural conversation, and have mutual interests with architects, artists, and writers. We will explore the paths first tread by radical choreographers in the 1910s. Today, Berlin hosts the largest state ballet company as well as the largest number of independent modern companies of any city in Europe. We will examine the dance companies, venues, festivals, and performances. In Germany, experimentation is part of the mandate. Please note: Students must 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 in the ever-changing architectural landscape of (unified) Berlin. From Bauhaus projects of the 1930s to current works by major architects that re-invent the Wall landscape, students will be on-site for every class to examine everything from the Baroque to Socialist Realism to the Post Modern. With over 170 museums and galleries, Berlin has historically been the home to artists for over a century—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. 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 its living cultural context. Daily language lessons, directed communication with native speakers in the exciting streets of Berlin, 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.

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall


Summer 2015 Preview

2015 will find us chasing the elusive and ever-changing character of Berlin as we investigate key places, events, and personalities. Our scope includes understanding the very 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 now, we also place a strong emphasis on the current tsunami of new talents in Berlin’s contemporary art and dance scenes.

The 2015 summer program includes extensive visits to museums, galleries and archives, and will engage students with the ongoing debate whether or not public monuments—of which Berlin can claim hundreds—can truly memorialize historical events. Students have the opportunity to focus on and expand their fields of study beyond the stated curriculum with a wide range of optional events such as artists’ salons, film nights, art festivals, organized tours to ‘extra’ museums and a concentration camp, and/or a walking tour of Potsdam.

Our three-day excursion in 2015 will be to the mountains and rivers of Saxony-Anhalt, providing students with a time-out for reflection and relaxation. From the village of Bad Schandau, we will venture into the mountains of Saxonian-Switzerland. Along with breathtaking hikes that explore the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, students can also take time off at a local spa or simply enjoy the picturesque village with sketchbooks and cameras. Our guided hike (optional) along the Malerweg (Path of the Painters) is one of the most beautiful and popular walks in Germany through fascinating rock formations that have impressed and inspired painters, musicians, and poets from across Europe for hundreds of years. On our way to Bad Schandau we will spend a full day exploring the Baroque splendor and museums of Dresden.