The Institute Celebrates with a 15th Anniversary Fiesta


At 15 Years, it’s time to reflect. Judith and I are certainly proud of the impact the Expressive Arts Institute has made and the scores of lives touched over the past 15 years. Since our inception in 1998, we have had seven graduating classes hailing from 18 states and 9 different countries and we honor the diversity that creates in our cohorts. As part of a rigorous curriculum, our students have collectively served over 42,000 internship hours benefitting over 90+ needy populations at local San Diego institutions. EAI students have taken what they learned and shared their skills at local hospitals, community centers, residential treatment centers, correctional facilities and private & public schools.

But there is nothing of which we are more proud than the community bond that has formed around the institute.  Over the years we have had great artists, wonderful friends and gifted students cross our portals in abundance, and the quality of community  has been second to none in the expressive arts world.


Returning Graduates from the very first Institute Class- (l-r) Taru Ruth Rivera, Niyazi Sue McDevitt, Celestine de la Victoria, Karen Wilkening and Deb Ogburn.

So what do you do to recognize the 15th Anniversary of a great community? You throw a great party, complete with art, food and friends.

Dr. Essex and the Alumni Association Welcome party-goers

Dr. Essex and the Alumni Association Welcome party-goers. (l-r) Galit Shezifi, Francine Hoffman, Judith Greer Essex, Amy Shamansky, Ofra Raz and Anita Carter.

It was a moment for new faces:


Institute Director Judith Greer Essex with two of our newest matriculates, Rebecca Hickman (l) and Christie Brown (c)

And old friends…

Painters Embrace: Longtime Expressive Arts Institute friend and Swift Gallery Artist Ellen Dieter (l) and first class graduate Pamela Underwood light up the party.

Painters Embrace: Longtime Expressive Arts Institute friend and Swift Gallery Artist Ellen Dieter (l) and first class graduate Pamela Underwood ( Pamela Underwood Studios in Poway)  light up the party.

Old friends and familiars meet and greet (and possibly gossip)…

Grads Amy Shamansky and Elizabeth Jacobowitz share a "do -tell" moment...

Grads Amy Shamansky and Elizabeth Jacobowitz (owner Jacaranda Bodywork) share a “do -tell” moment…

And the “generations” of our graduates are bridged within the common community.


Iranian ex-pat Saedeh Rahimi, currently writing her master’s thesis spends some quality time with Tish Sjoberg ( Owner: Expressive Arts at 32nd and Thorn)

Throughout the night, more than 60 students, graduates and “friends of the institute” like Butoh artist Charlene Penner, and dancer and holistic health practitioner Jane Blount, attended a kind of homecoming, and the room was buzzing with lively conversation and long sought embraces…

Meanwhile, the Swift Gallery Walls were filled with a lovely art display that mixes the works of graduates, students and the client/artists they work with. These works hanging side by side in equal status represent the best of our community spirit of inclusion, acceptance and support.


The party’s over, leaving sweet memories, and a promise not to wait so long between reunions. But the art show remains on display through the end of December, with special activities on First Fridays,  and that is definitely a community worth meeting. –


Wes Chester is a Director of the Expressive Arts Institute and Curator of the Martha Pace Swift Gallery.