Meet Eirene Archolekas a 2022 graduate of our Certificate Training Program.
We are excited to feature her as our monthly Alumni Spotlight!
We think you will be inspired by her work as an encaustic painter and expressive arts
Irene Archolekas, or Eirené, is a writer, journalist, editor, and teacher. Born to Greek parents in South Africa, she
is a daughter of the Hellenic Diaspora who has lived and worked across three continents and several European cities, including Athens, Kaiserslautern, and Barcelona. She came to the arts after a personal crisis in her mid 40s and has embarked on a
career as an encaustic painter, photographer, and expressive arts workshop facilitator.
Awash with the cerulean blues and whites of the Cyclades, her encaustic practice synthesizes
natural elements, communicates emotional timbre through varying textures, and moves in the rhythms of the four elements. She has exhibited her work in NYC, Moscow, Rome, and Paris. Eirene runs a small artist studio in Astoria, NYC and runs women's retreats on the Cyclades every summer. She is a member of International Encaustic Artists and is currently working towards her goal of becoming a Registered Expressive Arts Consultant Educator (REACE) through IEATA!
Eirene, what drew you to the field of Expressive Arts, or motivated you to get Expressive Arts training?
I came to Expressive Arts from delving into drama therapy. I realized that as a visual artist and poet/writer, I could not just stick to one modality. The same holds true for clients. Expressive Arts
appealed to me precisely because it embraces more than one healing modality and incorporated embodied practices which are essential to healing deep-seated trauma. The field was international in scope as well; given my exposure to different cultures it aligned with my global approach to healing practices.
Going through the EXA training fortified my belief that this is the way--the communal expression and a sense of shared felt experience that the tribe supports. EXA is so ancient yet can be practiced in a modern setting. Its versatility allows my creative, out-of-the box approach to problems, expression for a variety of
settings, cultures, intentions, and needs.
Encaustic on birchwood panel; illustrative of my use of encaustic to create textures that communicate emotional timbre
As you began to immerse yourself in this work, were there any unexpected gifts or surprises?
The unexpected gift was the reinforcement that I was on the right path to my own healing. Engaging in EXA not only helps those I serve, but surprisingly heals me in a deep way. It is a win-win for all. While it can be painful to process what comes up during the process, it is the only way to authentically dig into
the psyche and find release, catharsis and therefore, long-lasting healing. This was the approach I had been seeking for throughout my long journey to my own healing. To rephrase an old commercial slogan, "I am not only the EXA facilitator and president, I am also a client."
How are you currently implementing expressive arts in your personal and/or professional life?
Since graduating from EAFI, I have led several workshops. I run drop-in community creative workshops, art and nature walking meditations, and have partnered with local organizations and artists to bring cyanotypes and mono-printing demonstrations to urban dwellers in the local NYC parks. I led Camino de Santiago peregrinos on an intention-focusing session that involved a labyrinth walk and
other embodied processes. I have given EXA workshops for faith-based organizations and churches that incorporate my religious tradition in Chicago and in Cuba. The versatility of EXA allows me to constantly evolve my practice to tailor it to the needs and interests of a variety of participants.
Greeting the Sun on the EXA Retreats Cyclades, August 2022.
The first iteration of my weeklong retreat in Greece; we come to the sunrise
with presence, engage in intuitive movement, take a nature walk down to the beach and then do the 5 Rhythms in the waves.
What are your goals in this work, or how do you envision your involvement with EXA unfolding in the future?
I would like to expand the reach of EXA by founding a permanent EXA retreat center in Greece. As an encaustic painter I have been drawn to this fluid medium because of its potential as a healing modality. I
would like to develop a series of therapeutic workshops that use the medium of molten wax as a healing modality.
As a proponent of the healing effects of pilgrimage and walking
journeys, I would like to evolve EXA programs that lead participants on walking journeys based on a healing intention. I have spoken at length about this at a professional conference and have engaged in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and can attest to its vivifying power. Pilgrimage does not have to have a religious foundation for all; it is a healing practice as it engages mind, body, and heart.
I am organizing walking EXA pilgrimages for young men to uncover their masculine identity by going through a "warrior walk about" in the plains of the Trojan War, for women to embrace "cronehood" by walking in the footsteps of the Goddess in Eleusis and Crete.
Another shot of the activities on EXA RETREATS CYCLADES with practitioners engaged in communal dance once they have monologued from the aura of the goddess they have identified with.
How has Expressive Arts enriched or expanded your career
EXA has given me a creative outlet to start my own business (still a work in process). Once I retire from my full-time job, I hope to engage full time in EXA from Greece and Middle East.
What is your current personal practice and how does it enrich your life?
Although it has been harder than ever to keep up a practice, I still manage to create encaustic art works, take nature walks through the parks, and write poetry. I am also working on graphic novels about my teaching career to homebound students. I published a little comic book about "Lessons from my Cat" over the summer.
Engaging in a creative practice helps regulate me, helps externalize whatever is happening beneath the surface that I do not realize. Sometimes given the stress of my current life I freeze and cannot create anything. But I find that
this too is part of the process. I cannot guilt or torture myself for failing to keep up with a practice. I have learned that that creative process is organic; sometimes it must fallow and be left alone. Eventually it resurfaces. Creation is like the breath. You can hold it only so long before you start to die.
What do you wish you could tell the world about Expressive Arts?
Expressive Arts are more crucial post-pandemic than ever. Like exercise, meditation/prayer, and annual medical check-ups, they should be a part of every person's personal practice. EXA is not "fluff" or "extra"; they are essential to well-being, communal functioning, and righteous living. They should be encouraged even mandated in certain situations. Communal EXA practices
should radiate out of the town centers of every neighborhood on earth. The Expressive Arts are an easy cure for the ills in our society.
What are you currently offering, and what are the ways that people can work with you?
I offer online workshops and in-person community workshops in NYC. I am trying to pivot to running a full-time retreat center on the islands of Greece to offer week-long Expressive Arts Retreats. I would invite fellow practitioners to drop-in as guest facilitators. I
am always open to collaboration.
A flyer advertising the weekly community creative drop in sessions.
Anything else you would like to say?
I would like to send hugs oozing with warm gratitude to my mentors and fellow tribe members of EAFI. I thank God that I have been led to this path. I trust in the process, I trust His Way.
Watch for our Alumni Spotlight on the 1st of each month. We feature graduates of our Certificate Training Program - Expressive Arts Facilitators, Therapists, and Educators. We hope this series will inspire you,
help spread the work of our alumni, and demonstrate the scope of practice of the expressive arts field.
For more information about our Certificate
Training Program, Professional Development, and Workshops - both online and in-person, visit us at www.expressiveartsflorida.com
Tamara Teeter Knapp
MA, NCC, MHC Intern, REACE®
MA, LMHC(S), REACE®, REAT®