Once known exclusively for designing worlds for visual storytelling purposes, London- and Paris-based production designer and art director Erik Rehl ’89 is now creating environments for real people on their journeys through life.
Rehl’s latest endeavor, Mind Environment, an immersive, explorative leadership development program set in a small, secluded village in the Languedoc-Roussillon mountains of Southern France, helps leaders better understand and define their personal and professional purpose in order to live and lead with more self-awareness, focus, and clarity. As Program Host and Outdoor Activity Leader, in between group discussion, meditation, and other experiential learning exercises led by a psychologist and leadership consultant, Rehl guides participants through a series of outdoor activities—each designed with the village’s “needs and rhythms” in mind.
“By exploring their purpose in depth, they have the opportunity to make the world a better place,” he explains, “whether that relates to the local spheres of family and community or the global spheres of government and corporate business.”
Rehl says his own leadership development was already well underway as a student at The Shipley School. As a freshman, he received the Mary Law Starr Prize—in recognition of his leadership, influence, and responsibility as well as his talent in academics, arts, and athletics—at the Upper School’s Closing Awards Ceremony.
“My Shipley education gave me the right tools to learn and keep learning in what has become a rapidly changing landscape, with the pursuit of knowledge ever expanding in depth and breadth,” says Rehl, who was invited back to Shipley in 2014 to mount an exhibition, Art and Design, in Speer Gallery. “Discipline and academic rigor, in conjunction with a strong emphasis on following one’s individual curiosity, were strong motivators for me at Shipley.”
In particular, Russian with Clint Ely and art with Chris Wagner proved highly influential, as Rehl would go on to study theatre and Russian at the Moscow Art Theatre before earning a bachelor’s degree in theatre studies, with a minor in Russian language and literature, from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree in scenography from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
“Both my degrees, integrating explorations of Eastern European theatre traditions with my love of language and art, were a direct descendant of my initial studies at Shipley,” he says.