Berlin, Germany

Summer 2016 Destinations

Summer 2016 destinations will be posted mid-November 2015. Complete course descriptions and details for each program will be posted by Friday, December 18, 2015. Summer study-abroad registration will begin Monday, February 22, 2016.

Past Summer 2015 Destination

Having reclaimed its status as Germany’s capital after reunification, Berlin has become one of the most innovative and cutting-edge centers for contemporary art, design, and exhibition practice. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall, international artists continue to flock to the city because of its relatively low cost of living and high concentration of galleries and alternative spaces.

Berlin Past/Present

InstructorKaren Fiss
SF Campus: May 18
Berlin: June 2–June 18, 2015

Check-in: June 1
Checkout: June 19

Interested students should contact Karen Fiss ( to start the approval process for registration.


Open to all disciplines, this course focuses on exploring the complex layers of Berlin’s history and current art scene through personal narratives and connections, sharing unique itineraries and encounters with international artists, photographers, curators, and collectives based in the city.

For example, we get to know particular neighborhoods in the former east Berlin with artists who grew up there before the fall of the Wall, and then stayed to witness the drastic remaking of the former DDR district in the image of the West.

The reinvention of Berlin as an international hub for contemporary art cannot be understood without serious consideration of the city’s tumultuous and often catastrophic past. The art scene relies on and draws energy from the city’s many ghosts. At the same time, the arts in Berlin are deeply involved in some of the most controversial issues facing the country, including ethnic diversity and immigration and the impact of neoliberalism, globalization, and environmentalism.

We meet with a wide range of people working in the arts in Berlin: curators, artists, filmmakers, designers, gallery and project space directors, and others, and we visit notable historical sites and institutions, including the Boros collection, the Deutsche Kinemathek, Topography of Terror, Museum für Fotografie, the Reichstag, and the former Nazi Olympic Stadium.

We also explore emerging gallery districts and alternative project spaces in Wedding, Neukölln and Kreuzberg and take part in a short-term intensive studio workshop offered by the Berlin art school BBK-Bildungswerk. Additional activities include attending performance events, special film screenings, hunting through flea markets, and a day trip to visit the Baroque palaces of Potsdam.

In May, before leaving for Berlin, students attend a foundational seminar meeting in San Francisco to prepare for the trip. Attendance at this meeting is mandatory.


Karen is extremely knowledgeable about the history of Germany, and she keeps up with all the current issues and cultural conflicts present in Berlin. I felt like I could ask her any question, and she would be able to answer with much information. Karen was kind and she gave us enough free time to be able to explore Berlin as we wished. She also gave us suggestions of what we should take time to visit. Overall, there was a great class dynamic.

Karen’s strengths are her personal experience, her extensive knowledge on seemingly endless subjects, her approachability, and her serious yet fun personality. I’m so grateful to have been able to tour Berlin with her at the helm.

About the Instructor

Karen Fiss is a writer and curator whose work encompasses a range of interdisciplinary fields. Born in New York City to German parents and with dual US-German citizenship, she has spent time working in Berlin and Munich with various grants and residencies.

Her publications address contemporary culture and globalization, as well as the legacy of fascism. Fiss is currently curating an exhibition of contemporary art on “the police state,” and also recently served as film curator for exhibits at the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia in Madrid. Previous to teaching, she worked in the curatorial departments of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.

Learn more about Karen Fiss »


Undergraduates: Completion of sophomore level by summer 2015 and instructor approval.
Graduate students: Instructor approval

In addition all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2014–15 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates, this course satisfies a 200- or 300-level Visual Studies Elective, a Graphic Design Media History 2, a Social Science requirement, or a Diversity Studies Studio.
For graduate students, this course satisfies a gradwide elective.

Program Fee

$4,800 + $50 registration fee

Included in program fee:
3 credits, housing, guest artists, field trips, entrance fees, and travel/health insurance

Not included in program fee:
Airfare to and from Germany, meals

Related Topics
(please read in entirety)

All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs