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A Saas Fee of the Mind: Using Art to Make Real Community in the Virtual Landscape

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A Saas Fee of the Mind: Using Art to Make Real Community in the Virtual Landscape

Judith Greer Essex, Ph.D. Founding Director, Expressive Arts Institute

As summer warms here in Southern California the institute faculty would normally be returning from European Graduate School, after teaching summer school with our colleagues to students from around the globe. Instead we held EGS online for the second time, and though I missed the Alps, I am thrilled by the results of this continuing experiment in “local/global” Community Art.
More than 100 students have came together from all over the world, arriving with many languages and cultures. In Community Art we use the strength of our diversity and our common humanity to become a functioning ensemble, a community with a mission: to carry home the transformative power of intermodal expressive arts therapy to every corner of the world, and to put it into practice in our own home cultures.
The university faced an additional challenges this year, in the loss of our founding rector, Dr. Paolo J. Knill. Paolo was a pioneer in creating a feeling of fellowship in a group of strangers through the aesthetic encounter. One mission of the institute is to carry forward Dr Knill’s incredible work, helping shape the future of arts and community based helping. Using his methods and our own creative passion, we again bridged the digital chasm to connect students through time, space and the arts. The artistic responses from the community were beautiful, inspiring, and connecting. Once again, the arts and common experience, woven through with individual difference created a beautiful community, and made for a poignant goodbye for the 2021 summer school year.

Paolo and me leading community art on the Campus of EGS.

At home, the Expressive Arts Institute has also faced and successfully navigated the challenges of the pandemic through 2020-21. And in this challenge, we also found opportunity. Students for the institute have “commuted by Zoom” throughout the year, making our training possible for perspective coaches and therapists from as far away as Germany. It has been a rewarding and wonderful year.
In September 2021, a new class will enter the institute, as a true Hybrid Program, that will meet with both in person and distance learners.Taking advantage of what we have learned over the previous year we will offer our curriculum in a parallel low residency and in-person model. In addition, the weekends will be shortened to Saturday/Sunday only, with interem 2 hour weekly zoom meetings to complete the hours requirement and bring our students into regular contact. We feel this could be the strongest learning frame yet, while relieving the stress connected with students getting Friday’s off from current jobs.
As the world keeps changing the institute adapts. Are you ready to join a community making change in the world through arts and helping? Why not sign up for one of our free information meetings or for our prerequisite introductory course on our events page? We’d love to see you there.

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