Studio with a View: A European Graduate School Summer

by Judith Greer Essex, Ph.D.

Institute Co-Director Wes Chester and I returned to European Graduate School in the Swiss Alps this summer to teach and work. Early in the semester I was privileged to teach Community Art to the Conflict Transformation and Peace Building class.  These Master’s degree students were working in Africa, Nepal, and Brazil, among other places.  They were working with disenfranchised people of all kinds, especially women and children.

Wes led the San Diego Students ( along with 65 others) on a successful nature outing. Photo thanks to Carey Kramer

Wes led the San Diego Students ( along with 65 others) on a successful nature outing. Photo thanks to Carey Kramer

Meanwhile, Wes began his Summer leading a nature outing, followed by a podium lecture on nature and the self, and accompanied Elizabeth McKim for a couple of blues poems at her performance. This was good prep for teaching a Language and Poetics course with McKim, where students explored the blues and ballad forms.

The highlight for me was mounting an evening’s dance and music improvisational performance with 26 of the students from all classes.  Under the direction of Wes, the Ensemble Cruda Deluxe played various gamelan-type instruments including some very large gongs, while I helped the Fire Tenders create dance/movement pieces in combinations from solo to full ensemble on themes of creativity, loss, and sexy sauciness.  We brought a huge duffelbag full of costume pieces from the San Diego studio, so the ensemble dressed in red and black.  One of the dancers (Chelsie Bonair) brought face paint, so the faces were also ablaze.

Judith Greer walks the trail to the forest

Judith Greer walks the trail above the school to the forest

The month went by in a flash!  We sent 17 students to the summer school, and it was a great pleasure to meet our students in the larch forest during free times.

Elizabeth McKim is recognized with a gift of serpentine for her 75th year.

Judith and Wes look on as Elizabeth McKim is recognized with a gift of serpentine for her 75th year.

It was a full summer of artistic challenges, and celebrations, capped off with with Margo’s moving return at the end of the summer, for a graduation party not to be missed, and 75th birthday recognitions for both Steven K. Levine and Elizabeth McKim. Summers in Saas Fee are a side benefit of the Master’s Degree program at the Expressive Arts Institute.

Expressive Arts Students in Switzerland

Saas Fee Welcomes San Diegans to the garden of the Hotel Allalin