Claudia Erzinger, Executive Director, CCE
I grew up in Switzerland surrounded by nature, and my soul (my being) has always found peace in open spaces and natural things. As a child, I loved to climb trees and follow streams, collecting things and making them into something else—always moving, always using my body and hands, creating. I also felt deeply, from a young age, that I wanted to be of service in the world.
I was in nursing school when I got a sudden understanding that I needed to learn more about life in a different way. I knew there must be more for me to learn than tending to the body on this human level.
I was drawn to traveling in India, Nepal, and Thailand. There, I discovered that other people’s thinking can be completely different than mine. I studied Buddhism and Yoga and learned to meditate.
Those practices continue to influence my teaching. Coming back from India, I knew I wanted to use my nursing skills with people dying or giving birth. I found work at an AIDS hospice, and I have been doing hospice work ever since.
After moving to the California Bay Area at age 27, I dived deeply into meditation practice. In January 2000, I took my first painting class with Barbara Kaufman, the founder of CCE. Meditation and painting have a lot in common, but what I loved immediately about painting was that it asked from me to make everything visible, to be completely honest, and to express from my inner life.
I met Michael Regan, a spiritual guide, in 2010. His deep love and inner exploration through dreams and other forms of inquiry supported and deepened my painting practice even more. The knowing that I am here to serve in love for whatever is needed of me became even more the center of my life.
After many years of painting with Barbara she started to mentor me in teaching this intuitive way of painting. I started my own small painting studio in the East Bay, and I taught this practice at the Sophia Center / Holy Names University in Oakland. Barbara and I taught painting together at many retreats at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center as part of their recurring 7-day retreat “Meditation and the Spirit of Creativity.” When Barbara became ill, in 2017, I spent more and more time teaching at the studio in San Francisco; and when she died in 2018 it felt natural to continue teaching the classes and to step into the executive director role at the nonprofit CCE.
Overlapping my work with Barbara, I’ve done many teacher trainings with Michele Cassou, who brought this way of painting from France to California, over 40 years ago. My continued painting practice and studies with Michele Cassou and Michael Regan deepen my exploration of my painting process, teaching, and life.
I’m excited to be teaching in this intuitive way, open and deeply listening to what wants to be expressed. I love watching the process unfold with each student who comes to my classes and workshops.