About us

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Origins of Wassard Elea

In 2000, after many years spent working and travelling in the USA and Europe, Danish couple Professor Lars Aagaard-Mogensen (1944 – 2022) and Dr. Else Mogensen (1943 – 2012) came to Italy and fell in love with a small town called Ascea in the Cilento National Park. Lars was a professor of philosophy, and Else was a philologist specialising in Ancient Greek, so Elea, the home of the pre-Socratic philosophers, was an ideal place to settle given their interests in philosophy, language, art and culture. They bought an apartment there and soon afterwards started Wassard Elea Artist and Scholar Retreat.

In their own words: “Ascea offers us an incredibly inspiring place, nature, culture and quality of life, and we therefore believe that it can offer the same to like-minded people as well. By ‘like-minded’ we mean having a lifelong involvement in the arts and sciences. We think that artists, writers, composers and scholars of all kinds may benefit from the same conditions by being away, for not too short a time, from their usual lives in order to concentrate on subjects of their choice. You could also put it this way: here are the conditions which we, years ago, should have liked to have, so now we open the doors for others.”

Home of the pre-Socratic philosophers (Wikimedia Commons, click for attribution)

Since 2006, Wassard Elea has seen around two hundred visitors, practicing different forms of art and/or engaged in research. Our visitors have ranged from artists who are highly established in their field, to PhD students ‘writing up’. Many have returned more than once, and developed into good friends. Lars and Else were active in promoting art in the local area, both for local artists, musicians, writers and other creatives, via the not-for-profit association Elea Arte Club, and also by arranging exhibitions and performances of visiting artists’ work, in order to make a wider range of art known in the local area. You can read more about past activity on the previous blog, now archived: https://wassardelea.blogspot.com/

Lars and Else enjoying a moment in the sun

Both Lars and Else have now passed away. Their son, René, a composer and researcher, and their daughter-in-law, Leila, an author, are continuing to manage and develop the retreat.

Obituary for Professor Lars Aagard-Mogensen (in Danish).

Lars wrote about Else that “she has cared for house and home, translated five books, written a doctoral dissertation, authored five books, during periods taught Greek, Latin, Greek culture, held numerous presentations and written more than 250 publications, some in several languages; Else has edited newsletter, assisted other researchers, partaken in projects, and additionally worked as a professional translator with supreme competence and punctuality full time for many years…

Obituary for Dr. Else Mogensen (in Italian).

Wassard Elea today

From 2022, René Mogensen (son of Lars and Else) and his wife Leila Rasheed have taken over the management of Wassard Elea. Our aim is to continue to manage and to develop the apartments in a spirit of affordability, sustainability and community. A bit about us:

Leila Rasheed is a widely published British children’s author who has also taught writing for children for many years, including at the University of Warwick. In 2015 she created the Arts Council England funded Megaphone Writer Development Scheme to mentor new children’s writers of colour in England. To date, her mentees have gone on to be agented, published, shortlisted for and even win some of the most important prizes for children’s literature in the UK.
Instagram (mostly pictures of Ascea and the Cilento):

RenĂ© Mogensen is a composer, musician, and researcher who has been teaching at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, UK, since 2012, and now also teaches in the Master of Sonic Arts at Tor Vergata University in Rome. He has toured as a saxophonist and computer musician in various parts of the USA and around Europe. His compostional output spans a large repertoire of music including chamber music, jazz, and mixed music with interactive computer systems. RenĂ©’s PhD dissertation proposed a new approach to analysis of mixed music and creative applications of this approach to analysis. For some years his research focus has been on theory and applications of computational creativity for improvised music and human-machine co-creativity in music. Music by RenĂ© is available on spotify, as well as on most other music streaming services. Academic research by RenĂ© can be found on ResearchGate and Academia as well in various journals and books.

The schedule is somewhat reduced at the moment as we adjust to running Wassard Elea alongside our daily lives and existing work. We are currently upgrading the apartments and this website is a work in progress. Please contact René with all enquiries via the contact us form on this website.

RenĂ© and Leila – disclaimer, we are older than this now!
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