As kids in New York City head back to school to this week, maybe you’re nostalgic for the days when September meant new notebooks and a fresh start. Show your solidarity with the kiddies, or simply herald the start of autumn, by taking a class. Several universities in the city offer continuing education courses, and many studios and centers offer targeted instruction in a particular area, such as modeling or writing, but the six organizations listed below provide diverse methods and means for adults to enhance their skill sets and enlarge their brains. By Jessica Allen.
Since 2002, Make has offered instruction in upholstery, shoemaking, decoupage, soapmaking, embroidery, crocheting, block printing, and other so-called plastic arts. The “Intro to Sewing Machine” gets you up close and personal with a sewing machine, while the popular “Sewing for Baby and Kids” lets you make clothes for the tiny people in your life. You’ll leave the 14-hour, $500 “Fashion Lab” series with a men’s tie, a tote bag, a dress, and an improved understanding of clothing design and construction. Imagine home ec on steroids, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the workshops here.
The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research gives participants the chance to study the liberal arts in small groups. Everyone on the faculty either has a PhD, or is in the process of acquiring one, from such places as Columbia and Cornell, in such subjects as English, philosophy, and math. The Institute offers courses like “‘Zombi’ and the Politics of Representation,” which traces the Haitian origins of the concept of zombies through their contemporary manifestations, and “Telegraphs, Pneumatic Tubes and Teleportation; Or, the Way We Communicate Now,” which looks at literary and artistic representations of communication technologies. It’s like college, only cheaper.
The folks at LifeLabs specialize in “the real stuff of life.” In practice, this means classes in small talk, people reading, posture, conflict resolution, productivity, personal style, and logic, among other topics. “Williamsburg SMELLS” gets you onto the streets of this Brooklyn neighborhood, sniffing your way to a better grasp of olfactory perception. LifeLabs also offers adventures. For example, every Monday students in the True Grit Adventure receive a letter (yes, an actual letter arriving in your actual mailbox), with instructions for completing a secret mission, based on experiential learning theory. Finish all eight missions, and you’ll be braver, smarter, and more fun, or so the course description says.
According to its website, Brooklyn Brainery “is accessible, community-driven, crowdsourced education.” All courses come from the community: anyone can suggest a course, and just about anyone can teach one—all you need is enthusiasm and knowledge. Upcoming classes include “Indie Fashion 101” (everything you need to know to successfully launch an indie fashion label, taught by a fashion designer/entrepreneur), “Parenting: New Theories, Old Wives’ Tales, and Good Advice” (taught by a seen-it-all nanny); and “Tree Identification!” (which will help you dominate your next game of name-that-acorn).
Located at the very edge of Williamsburg, 3rd Ward is an all-purpose, 20,000-square feet creativity emporium. Here you can rent office space, book a photo studio, learn to weld, experience an art exhibit, attend a comedy show, take a class on millinery, explore the relationship between sound and cooking, make jewelry, work on wood, etc., etc. There are also three levels of yearly membership, which come with discounts on classes and workshops. Too much commitment? Every Wednesday, “Drink N’ Draw”provides a model and beer for anyone who shows up with drawing materials and desire.
Want to get your learnin’ on, but can’t figure out what you’d like to learn? Meet CourseHorse. This free site lets you search courses in the New York City area by subject, keyword, age range, and cost (all the organizations listed have been vetted by the CourseHorse team). When we last checked, you could take “Portuguese Pronunciation and Slang” at FluentCity for $35, learn to make baguettes with a team from Roberta’s at The Brooklyn Kitchen for $65, or master the basics of salsa with the Rhythmic Dance Group for $5. You can also sign up for a weekly deal email.