Liz Erber – Artistic Director and founder of KuNaKu
Photo by Ralf Hiemisch
A bit about Liz and the founding of KuNaKu…
Through much of her life, Liz dreamt of founding one day an art and culture center with guest facilities somewhere in the middle of nature. In 2008 as she left the United States for Germany, founded her family and settled into her artistic life in Berlin, her dream of a cultural center in nature seemed far away. She was however, deeply engaged with classes, performances and the running of K77 Studio in Berlin, as well as the development of her own artistic work. Liz started teaching at the studio in 2008 and ran regular classes in instant composition, contact improvisation, moving and writing, creative dance for children and parents, and contemporary dance until 2020. She was two times artist-in-residence at the studio in 2011, where she developed her work, Choro Corpora, which toured to the USA and was a finalist (no. 5) in Europe’s largest contemporary dance competition, No Ballet. Over the years, Liz developed multiple evening-length works in the studio, such as Tip of the Iceberg, which played at English Theater Berlin in 2013 to a sold-out audience. She also founded several performance series at the studio, such as the K77 IPA (Instant Performance Abend) and the Hungry Artists Café, giving performing artists, from musicians to circus artists to dancers and performing poets, the chance to perform live in front of an audience. In addition, Liz initiated the studios involvement in the Performing Arts Festival Berlin (PAF) and created two times the K77 Factory, with over a dozen international artists performing in and around the K77 complex – on the street, in corridors, in courtyards, on the roofs, etc. For several years, Liz was behind the website and newsletter at K77, and then took over the artistic direction of the studio between 2013-17. She was likewise several years on the board.
Liz’s pieces have appeared at numerous site-specific locations in Brandenburg, and on numerous Berlin stages, including: English Theater Berlin (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. 2017), Uferstudios (2018), Sophiensäle (2014), ada Studio (2010, 2011, 2013), Tanzfabrik (2010,2013) K77 (2009, 2011-17), Lake Studios (2015), as well as in Ludwigshafen, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Seattle and Portland (USA).
You can see excerpts of Liz’s work here: http://www.lizerber.com/p/choreography.html
Then comes Oderberg…
Longing to be in nature, and no longer bound by urban structures, she was determined to find a new home in the Brandenburg countryside. Already in love with the Oderland region and landscape (thanks to much time spent there from 2007 to 2011 at Ponderosa in Stolzenhagen) she was delighted in the Spring of 2018 to find a place to call home in Oderberg. Thanks to culturally active residents of Oderberg, the small city radiated palpable potential and was at the start of a cultural renaissance. Liz felt immediately at home and was quick to build strong ties to members of the community. She also dove into planning projects together with culturally active people and organizations.
In 2018 she received funding, via an arts and environmental foundation and Eurolab e.V., to direct and choreograph Global Water Dances - Oderberg in June of 2019. The premiere of the one hour dance theater performance took place in the park of the local museum (Binnenschifffahrts-museum), and involved numerous local organizations, as well as international artists, both professional and non-professional dancers, children from the local school and after-school program, as well as a group of retirees from the Perspektive Oderberg e.V. organization. On the same weekend opened an art exhibit around water themes, which was organized together with the cultural non-profit, KulturLINIEN e.V. The Vernissage opened with films and a lecture around world water issues and the potential of art to bring awareness and embodiment to these issues.
In the spring of 2019, she also received funding through Tanz Macht Stark!, a program of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, to work weekly over the period of a year with children form the local Hort (the after school program), Refugee House, and Youth Club, as well as over a weekend intensive. Due to Corona measures the program has been interrupted several times and is only due for completion in December 2021.
Then comes KuNaKu…
In 2022 Liz and Manuel purchased the Fliederweg 1 property, with its multiple garages, warehouses, large main house and nature area. At this point it became clear that the dream for an art and cultural center in nature could become a reality. With an interest in permaculture, nature conservation, and establishing living/working environments of openness, diversity, cooperation and appreciation; Liz and Manuel also integrated these elements into KuNaKu– Haus für Kunst, Natur und Kutur gGmbH, a non-profit which they founded in 2020.
Their first event on location, a weekend flea market with a cultural program, took place in September 2020 (before KuNaKu was officially registered as a non-profit). Despite the heavy rainfall, several hundred visitors came through the doors. There was especially broad interest in the historical tours of the land and buildings
At the end of 2020 Liz used cultural funding from Barnim County (Landkreis) to record a series of dance and music concerts from the KuNaKu parlour. (Corona-friendly events since all public spaces were closed at the time.) These can be seen under Media.
In 2021 KuNaKu welcomed its first artists in residence, Dan Farberoff and David Behar Perahia, who developed three different conceptional and performance works here, hosted rehearsals and the funding for a second Global Water Dances, and began work on a community garden at Platz der Einheit, in collaboration with local residents, including adults, teenagers and children.
Lizs strengths are in networking, event organization and writing. Her over 30-years experience in the performing arts, as well as, experience in writing, publishing and translation are proving helpful. She earned her first money, beginning at the age of 14, as a strolling violinist and playing at events. Since 1997 she has worked on an off as an actor in theater productions (she currently plays with a children’s theater in Berlin, Platypus Theater). Since 2000 she has been teaching various forms of dance and since 2003, works regularly as a choreographer.
She received a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Chemistry/pre-medicine from Carleton College and eight years later, a double Bachelor of Arts with majors in Dance and Drama from the University of Washington in Seattle. In between these studies she lived in Brazil, taught English as a second language, studied Theater at the Universidade da Cidade (City University) in Rio de Janeiro and trained capoeira Angola intensively in Salvador da Bahia.
In Seattle she worked from 2000-2010 at the international magazine, Study in the USA, as Assistant to the Editor, and then as Translation Specialist and Coordinator. She volunteered regularly as an English teacher for migrant workers.
The development of KuNaKu via funding, community actions and cultural programming, is now Liz’s main focus (in addition to her two children!). She still enjoys teaching contact improvisation, creative dance, choreographing and organizing activist events/gatherings around the Oder River.
Manuel Hülsmann – Building, Building Management and KuNaKu Founder
Manuel Hülsmann began his training in occupational therapy in 2003 with the dream of one day working in a place where he could assist people in engaging and expressing themselves through handicrafts. Following his certification as an occupational therapist, he gathered experience in a school for children with learning challenges, a rehabilitation clinic and a physio- and occupational therapy practice. At the same time he trained in more specific methods of therapy, such as, neurological rehabilitation and craniosacral therapy. At Charité Berlin he received his Bachelors in Health Sciences and his Masters in Health Profession Education. At the beginning of this teaching career, he worked as teacher in occupational therapy at the Wannsee School and at the Alice Salomon College. Once he became a resident of Oderberg, he became employed by the Regine Hildebrandt Occupational Therapy School in Angermünde, with a focus on neurological rehabilitation, work therapy and wood as a therapeutic medium. With regards to KuNaKu, Manuel is especially helpful with his handiwork and planning/organizational capabilities. Most of the time he is busy with building or organizing building projects on the property. He is also responsible for many of the legal and bureaucratic elements of the organization.
Foto von Marco Kurek; Liz Erber & Manuel Hülsmann, KuNaKu wurde 2020 von den Beiden gegründet.
Marco Kurek – Assistent und Ideenschmied
Lebenskünstler der gern durch die Welt reist und tanzt. Er hat immer gute Ideen und Verbesserungsvorschläge, die er dann direkt in Aktionen umsetzt. Er ist auch ein Netzwerker und baut dadurch gute Kontakte und Freundschaften auf. Er hat sein Diplom in Erziehungs- und Bildungswissenschaften in Hannover abgeschlossen und arbeitet selbständig als Berater für deutsche Bioprodukte. Er ist gern unterwegs und hat dabei stets eine Tasche voller Vivani Schokolade griffbereit, die er freizügig teilt.
Sadie – Team Relaxation and Exercise Management
Born 2008, Sadie is the resident grande Dame of KuNaKu. She sees that the team relaxes, eats and takes walks.