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Erik Mutén ’77

February 2, 2023 in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Erik was an irrepressible force and a loving provocateur. There was no limit to his enthusiasm for creative ways to experience the joy of living.

Any room Erik entered was filled with his raucous sense of humor. He was rarely a follower but always a seeker, and because he was so often able to say the thing no one else would say, outright and without reservation, he made the world more free.

Whether skiing competitively in his youth, playing baseball with his son, Bjorn, exploring the archipelago of his Viking ancestors on the west coast of Sweden, sailing across the Atlantic at age 22, or tracking lynx with his grandson in the subzero temperatures of northern Maine, Erik embraced life and the power of nature. He was most at home in the natural world, often choosing to live off-grid for years at a time. In all kinds of weather, Erik could be found sitting outside, listening to a stream. His spiritual home was Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where he led groups of adolescents on wilderness retreats, and where he once constructed a 220-foot wooden stairway down a cliff to the rocky shore.

Erik earned his bachelor’s degree in theatre at Reed and wrote his thesis, “I Never Had a Dream in My Life: The Written Accompaniment to a Production of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker,” advised by Prof. Larry Oliver [1972–77]. He continued his education at Southern Methodist University, where he earned a master’s in fine art, and at Virginia State University, where he earned a doctorate in clinical psychology. Erik spent his adult life designing, leading, and participating in transformational experiences. His work was informed by over 35 years of study and practice as a psychologist, theatre director, and organizational consultant.

In the 1990s Erik founded DramaWorks Theater Company, for which he wrote, directed, and acted in performances designed to heal the workplace, working with family businesses internationally. He and his wife, Amelia Perkins, founded Kailo Mentoring Group, where they created workshops to support couples to live with more authenticity, experimentation, and tenderness.

In his last two decades, Erik also worked with peer groups of men committed to deepening their capacity for intimacy, compassion, and self-honesty. With his friend Charles Greene, he cofounded the Big Black Men Project to share stories of hope, disappointment, and resilience. In all of his professional endeavors, he openly shared his own struggles and discoveries, modeling that life is one big experiment to explore fully.

As one former student of his put it, “He was a great man because he was an imperfect man. He was a model man because he was a wounded and vulnerable man. He was a great man because he dared to love this wounded world with its wounded people courageously.”

He is survived by his beloved wife, Amelia Perkins; son, Bjorn Mutén; daughter, Iris Eichenlaub ’99; two grandsons, Jonas and Sylvan Eichenlaub; and sister, Kristina Mutén.       

Think of Erik when you’re in the woods, sitting next to a stream, or watching the flames of a fire. Remember him when you’re dancing with the volume turned up or making something beautiful with your hands.

Appeared in Reed magazine: Fall 2023

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