Summer Arts in Berlin

Sarah Lawrence College is pleased to announce Summer Arts in Berlin—its first summer abroad program. Berlin, one of Europe's most vibrant cities, has been defined by the arts for well over a century. It now sets trends for all of Europe in contemporary arts as well as dance and architecture, and can rightly call itself home to many of the most innovative cultural developments happening today.

Rebuilding after the Wall has brought on lively debate in the cultural community as to how to preserve markers of the past without getting in the way of history in the making. This dialogue encourages students to become engaged in their own work with issues that will expand perspectives and cultural borders.

Students may select from the following three program 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. 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

For students who have completed at least two semesters of college level German, 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


2014 Summer Arts in Berlin Focus

America's presence and influence in German cultural life first exerted itself in the 1920s (Weimar Republic), and it grew exponentially during post WWII reconstruction and the Cold War. Currently, America and Germany savor an ongoing intellectual and artistic dialogue that reaches from high political spheres to local talent—and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in Berlin. From "Jazz" to the defeat of the Nazis, and onto the current flood of young U.S. expats in Berlin, "America" has touched almost every aspect of life in Berlin for nearly 100 years.

Complimenting regular museum and gallery visits, we will have exclusive tours through Tempelhof Airport (the US Air Force central command for 50 years), Teufelsberg (the US NSA spying station, now a high-security ruin), and Haus der Kulturen der Welt (built by the U.S. as a convention center). We’ll visit the prestigious American Academy in Wannsee, a revitalized Amerika Haus in the center of former West Berlin, and spend time at Checkpoint Charlie where Cold War face-offs took place. Our film nights are dedicated to post-war films like Billy Wilder’s 1-2-3 and students are invited to Artist Salons to meet successful expats. In addition, the "48-Hours Neukölln" festival runs on our final weekend, during which squirrelled-away American expats join compatriots from around the world in opening studios and offering a glance into the most extensive, burgeoning and successful community of working-artists in all of Germany (if not Europe). 

As the counterpoint, we will examine the enormous and far-reaching contributions made to the arts in America by German filmmakers, actors, composers, visual artists, dancers, choreographers, and architects who fled the Nazis.

Our two-night excursion in 2014 will be to the mountains and rivers of Saxony-Anhalt, providing students with a time-out for reflection and relaxation.